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Department of Federated Department of History

The Master of Arts in History

Degree Requirements

Students must complete 30 hours of course work, which includes a major field (at least 18 credits) and a minor field (at least 6 credits). In addition, M.A. students must complete either a thesis (6 credits) or a Master's Essay (3 credits).


Major Fields

The M.A. program in history offers a choice of three major fields in areas that are particularly well supported by the research and teaching interests of the history faculty:

To ensure a program of reasonable depth and coherence, each student takes at least 18 credits of course work in one of these major fields, chosen in consultation with the Graduate History Director or designated advisor. In a typical year, at least three or four courses are offered in each category, and there are additional opportunities to take independent reading and research courses, and courses at Rutgers-New Brunswick, in all three areas. A number of courses may fulfill requirements in more than one field.


Minor Fields

Each M.A. candidate takes at least 6 credits of course work in an approved minor field, often selected from among the two major fields in which a student does not have a primary concentration (e.g., a student with a major field in American History may elect a minor field in World History or in History of Technology, Environment and Medicine/Health). A minor can also be in an interdisciplinary area or in a field outside history, if the Graduate History Director judges it to be appropriate for a particular student's academic program. In every case, the minor field should add an element of breadth or diversity to a student's program of study.


Comprehensive Examination

Students entering the program after July 1, 2004 will no longer have to complete the comprehensive examination. Students who matriculated before that date have the option of taking the comprehensive exam or writing either the Master's Thesis or the Master's Essay.


Foreign Language Expectation

Although students are strongly encouraged to achieve reading proficiency in at least one foreign language, there is no formal language requirement for either the M.A. or the M.A.T. M.A. students who take the thesis option may find that reading knowledge of a foreign language is necessary for their research; students who anticipate that this may be the case should consult with their research advisors. In addition, those students who hope to pursue the Ph.D. are advised that most Ph.D. programs require reading proficiency in at least one foreign language prior to degree candidacy.

Master's Thesis

Students pursuing the Thesis Option earn 6 credits for the thesis, which should be a sustained work of scholarship written under the supervision of a qualified faculty advisor. The thesis will normally be on a topic within a student's major field. It must be based on primary source research. Students should plan on a thesis of about 75 pages, divided into chapters. The quality of the work is more important than the length, however.

Master's Essay

Students who do not elect to write a thesis must write a 3 credit Master's Essay. The Master's Essay is a substantial piece of written work, the capstone of the M.A./M.A.T. program for those students who elect not to write a 6-credit Master's Thesis. The essay is undertaken in consultation with an advisor, and may take one of several forms:

  1. An interpretive historical essay based on research in primary sources, in form much like the M.A. thesis, but shorter.
  2. A short work of narrative history, emphasizing form as well as content of the writing, also based on research in primary sources. (prerequisite: 26:510:504 Reading and Writing Narrative History, or 26:510:505 History in Fiction and Fact, or 26:510:506 The Poetics of History)
  3. A historiographical essay, reviewing the literature on a particular problem in, or aspect of, history.
  4. A design for a new curriculum, either a course or a significant portion of a course, with the focus on content more than on pedagogy.
  5. A design for an exhibition in a historical museum or another appropriate work in public history. (prerequisite: 26:510:565 Public History)

The expected length is 25-30 pages, although the quality of the work is much more important than the length. Students will not receive credit for grades lower than B. Before beginning work on the Master’s Essay, the student will be required to file his or her proposal with the department.

The Major Fields

American History

This field comprises the history of the United States of America from its foundations to the present day. The department is particularly noted for its strengths in social, cultural, and diplomatic history; history of women and the family; legal history; African-American history; and technology, environment, and medicine/health. We also offer training in the writing of history and in public history, with internships available at local historical organizations such as the New Jersey Historical Society and the Newark Museum.

Representative American history courses offered in recent years include:

  • Media and the American Experience of War
  • American History 1900 -1945
  • A Suburban Nation: The Politics and Culture of Metropolitan Growth in the Modern U.S.
  • Reading and Writing Narrative History
  • Public History
  • African-American History
  • Problems and Readings in American Diplomatic History: Empire Gender, Society, and Politics in the Gilded Age
  • The Political Culture of the Founding Generation

World History

This field comprises the history of Europe and the non-Western world and is particularly concerned with global interaction and comparative history across national and chronological boundaries. The department publishes the journal Horn of Africa and Eighteenth-Century Scotland. A close working relationship exists with the Center for Global Change and Governance at Rutgers-Newark, which sponsors a colloquium and offers opportunities for research in the field of international studies.

The department offers a wide range of European and global coverage, including courses on Africa, China, Latin America, Russia, and Eastern Europe; comparative colonial history; and British and European intellectual, cultural, and diplomatic history.

Representative world history courses offered in recent years include:

  • Comparative Colonial History
  • African History
  • Latin American History
  • The Enlightenment: Social and Cultural Perspectives
  • Europe since 1850
  • The Culture of the Book, 1450-1800
  • History and Theory: An Introduction to Historical Method

The History of Technology, Environment and Medicine/Health

The History of Technology, Environment and Medicine/Health is unique in its integration of three relatively new historical sub-disciplines. Their rapid growth in recent years reflects greater awareness among professional historians and the general public of the significance of broader issues concerning technology, the environment, medicine, and health in contemporary life. As these issues loom larger in the consciousness of society, so does the need to learn more about their historical origins, causes, and patterns of development. The major field in the History of Technology, Environment and Medicine/Health has been specially constructed to meet this growing need.

The department has a distinguished concentration of faculty in these areas, based at NJIT, with particular strengths in environmental history; urban environments; the social and cultural history of medicine, health and technology; the history of print culture and communications; the cultural history of media; and the history of law, technology and culture.

The M.A. concentration in the History of Technology, Environment, and Medicine/Health at Rutgers, Newark-NJIT is also affiliated with an interdisciplinary Ph.D. major field in the History of Technology, Environment, and Health (HTEH), based in the Rutgers, New Brunswick Department of History. With the approval of the concentration coordinator, qualified students in the Newark M.A. program may take doctoral-level HTEH courses offered at Rutgers, New Brunswick.

The major field in the History of Technology, Environment and Medicine/Health is designed for students with undergraduate backgrounds in science, medicine, health, technology, and environmental studies as well as history. It is also a good choice for high school history and social studies teachers who wish to enrich their teaching with new materials and perspectives drawn from this increasingly important field of study. A concentration in the History of Technology, Environment, and Medicine/Health will prepare students for academic careers and for work in public history, in policy research jobs in the public and private sectors, and for employment in archives or museums.

Representative courses include:

  • History of Technology, Environment, and Medicine: Theory and Method
  • Environmental History of North America
  • The Urban Environment
  • Global Environmental History
  • Culture and Science in the History of American Medicine
  • Social History of American Medicine since 1800
  • Technology, Culture and History
  • Technology, Environment and Medicine in World History, 1500-1900
  • Social History of Communication