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    American History

    School of History, Philosophy and Digital Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

    Study the historical development of the United States, from the first encounter between Europeans and Native Americans in the colonial period through the end of the Cold War.
    Image of three postgraduate history students sitting around table

    Course description

    Contemporary politics shows that there is more need than ever for critical understanding of the formative political, social, economic and intellectual trends in American history. We have a long tradition of research in American history and this MA programme gives you the opportunity to study the historical development of the United States from the first encounter between Europeans and indigenous Americans in the colonial period, through the Vietnam war and the Black Power movement of the 60s and 70s, to the end of the Cold War.

    Our MA programmes are designed to help you carry out specialist research under expert supervision in a friendly and supportive environment. 

    The core module develops your understanding of key historiographical and methodological approaches and your skills in using relevant sources, while the Dissertation provides you the opportunity to further develop your skills and apply your knowledge in an independent research project. This is supported by the Research Presentation module which develops your skills in presenting research to a non-specialist audience.

    Our range of option modules allow you to focus on the particular skills and knowledge that are most important to you. You can choose from a wide range of modules focussing on particular historical themes, supporting specific history research training and public history modules. All of this helps you build a broad range of transferable skills that will be desirable to future employers both inside and outside of academia.


    The taught component of the MA is designed to develop your understanding of key historiographical and methodological approaches. You will take a core module, which examines the essential workings of your chosen area of expertise and develops your skills in using relevant sources.

    Optional modules allow you to undertake the technical training best suited to your research needs and study major historical themes in closer detail.

    The dissertation provides you the opportunity to further develop your skills and apply your historical knowledge to an independent research project.

    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    You will take three core modules.

    You can find out more about staff working on American history topics on our research strengths page. The exact availability of staff to supervise MA dissertations varies from year to year.

    Approaches to the American Past.

    This core module explores key themes in American history from the colonial through to the modern eras, introducing students to important debates in historical scholarship and giving them an awareness not only of the principal historiographical schools but also of the critical interrelationship between historical trends and events and scholarly interpretations of the past. Classes will be organised chronologically and thematically and will be taught through the examination of key historiographical approaches. Case studies covering topics such as Native American history, consumption, gender, class, slavery, immigration and ethnicity, the New Deal, revisionism and the Cold War, and the New Left will help students apply and critique the conceptual literature they are exploring.

    30 credits
    Dissertation in History

    In this module, you will undertake an individual research project, based on an identifiable collection of primary sources and present your findings in a dissertation of 15,000 words. The dissertation represents an original piece of independent research and should be based on a substantial primary source base and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the secondary literature. In certain cases, primary evidence may also consist of modern historiography. Through the dissertation you will demonstrate your practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret historical knowledge. You will work under the supervision of an expert member of staff who will provide guidance and regular tutorial support.

    60 credits
    Research Presentation for Historians

    This core module is designed to equip you with the skills and experience that you need to present and communicate a defined historical research project to an academic audience. The subject of the presentation will be your dissertation topic, so this module also contributes towards the successful completion of your dissertation.

    In this module, you will identify the specific research questions driving your dissertation and learn how to discuss the sources and approaches you are using to answer them. You will develop your ability to present your research data and findings in an accessible form to an audience, and you will enhance your ability to use presentational aids such as slideshows, data projection, and visual aids.

    The module also aims to improve your skill and confidence in speaking to an audience and responding to questions; this gives you the opportunity to develop the presentational skills demanded by employers as well as by a career in academic research. You will also learn how to make reasoned and critical judgements of others' presentations.

    You'll give your final presentation at a 'postgraduate conference' style assessment day to an audience of academic staff and fellow postgraduates. Presentations are assessed equally on content and communication with audience review making up a third of your mark and the academic panel's review making up the other two thirds.

    15 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    • 1 year full-time
    • 2 years part-time


    You’ll be taught through seminars, workshops and individual tutorials. Teaching and assessment methods may vary for non-history modules.

    Staff research strengths


    You'll be assessed through a combination of written papers, classroom activities, oral presentations and a dissertation.

    Your career

    An MA in history will further develop the range of transferable skills at your disposal. You will have the freedom to tailor your research and focus on the skills that are most important to you. We offer modules that are specifically designed to provide you with skills in public history - modules such as Presenting the Past and the work placement, give you real hand-on experience.

    These kinds of skills are why our graduates are successful in both further study and a wide range of careers - from lecturing and working in the museum and tourist industry to business management, marketing, law and working in the media.

    We offer tailored support for students planning to progress to PhD study following their MA degree.


    School of History, Philosophy and Digital Humanities

    In the School of History, Philosophy and Digital Humanities, we interrogate some of the most significant and pressing aspects of human life, offering new perspectives and tackling globally significant issues.

    As a postgraduate history student at Sheffield you’ll be taught by historians who are engaged in cutting-edge research in a huge variety of fields which range from 1000 BCE right up to the twenty-first century and encompasses traditional historians and expert archaeologists. This diversity feeds into a vibrant and varied curriculum which allows students to pursue their interests across both space and time, from the ancient Middle East to modern day Europe, and from fifteenth-century human sacrifice to twentieth-century genocide.

    You'll join a thriving and supportive postgraduate community which organises a wide variety of social and research events to help you feel fully immersed in our community and allow you to share your ideas, challenge your thinking and broaden your understanding.

    Our students get to make the most of the University's facilities across campus. Explore some of the teaching, library and social spaces you'll be able to visit as an arts and humanities student.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in history or another humanities or social sciences subject.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.