8000 Batten Arts and Letters Building

Austin Jersild, Chair

Master of Arts - History

Brett Bebber, Graduate Program Director
Email Address:

The Department of History offers courses of study leading to the Master of Arts with a major in history.


Applicants must meet all University requirements and regulations for admission. Applications must include a short essay of 500 words or less addressing academic interests and goals and two letters of recommendation attesting to academic achievement and potential. A writing sample of 10 or more pages, preferably showing an applicant's work with primary sources, is also required.  

An undergraduate major or minor in history is desirable but is not required for admission. Generally, 24 semester credit hours in history and closely related cognates are required for regular admission.  Applicants with 18 semester credit hours may be considered for admission on a provisional basis. These credit hours should include survey and upper-level courses. The Graduate Program Director may prescribe certain undergraduate courses to be completed before recommending admission to the program. Under certain circumstances, students can be admitted to graduate courses while simultaneously completing an undergraduate prerequisite.

The requirement for admission to full standing (regular status) is 24 semester credit hours with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.00 in history and a general GPA of 3.00. Provisional admission requires a minimum of 18 credits (as described above) with a GPA of 3.00 in history and a GPA of 2.70. Students with averages below these minimums can attempt to improve their standing in undergraduate courses approved by the Graduate Program Director. However, they cannot be admitted to graduate courses until they have achieved acceptable averages in history. Applicants who are denied admission to the M.A. program in history are not permitted to enroll in history graduate courses as non-degree students.

Prospective applicants with questions about their admission credentials and preparedness should contact the Graduate Program Director in the Department of History. Those certain of their qualifications should apply through the Office of Admissions.

Admissions forms should reach Old Dominion University well in advance of the intended term of entry, but no later than November 1 for spring admission and April 1 for summer or fall. All required forms and documents must be sent directly to the Admissions Office, which creates a central file for each applicant. Those seeking a graduate assistantship should file the Application for Institutional Graduate Financial Assistance (available from the Office of Graduate Admissions) and send a letter of application for fellowship consideration to the graduate program director.

Graduate Financial Aid

Old Dominion University offers financial assistance to qualified graduate students. Types of aid include research and teaching assistantships, fellowships, grants, scholarships, and part-time employment. Nearly all forms of aid require that the student be engaged in full-time graduate study or nine semester credit hours.

Fellowships, assistantships, tuition grants, and small research grants may be available. Departmental funds may affect fellowship and assistantship amounts. The establishment of student need and academic promise also affect some grant amounts. The application deadline is February 15. International students must pass the SPEAK test (or an equivalent) of spoken English to become eligible for teaching assistantships.

Degree Requirements

Two courses of study are available. One is a 30-credit program capped by written comprehensive examinations in two general fields and an oral examination. The other is a 30-credit program, comprising 24 hours of course work, a thesis for which students earn six credits (HIST 698-HIST 699) on a pass/fail basis, and an oral examination. Either alternative leads to an M.A. in history.

All candidates for the M.A. in history must meet the general graduate degree requirements established for the University. In addition, all students must complete HIST 600 during their first year in the program. No more than nine of the required 30 hours may be earned in 500-level courses. Students are permitted a maximum of six credits in other departments offering graduate courses if the work is germane to their historical studies; prior approval of the graduate program director is required. Students who have received two grades of C+ or below will be indefinitely suspended from the program. Those students whose grade point average falls below 3.00 will be subject to the University’s probation/suspension policy.


Examination Option

Students pursuing the examination option must take course work as follows:

HIST 600Historical Theory and Practice3
Electives *
American History6
Non-American History6
Other Electives12
HIST 675M.A. Exam Preparation and Research3
Total Hours30

Students choose two fields of concentration for the Examination Option, which will conform to the expertise of two of the three committee members who constitute the student’s exam committee. The fields can be tailored to the geographical areas, topical interests, or other fields of study in consultation with the exam committee.

Students pursuing the examination option must complete HIST 675 during their last year in the program. Written comprehensive field examinations may be taken in conjunction with HIST 675. The two field exams are taken during a department designated time each Fall and Spring semester.  Within a two-week period following the successful completion of written exams, the student will take a two-hour oral examination. Exams are individualized by the student’s examining committee but competence in the entire field is essential. Examinations are completed no later than 30 days before the end of a semester, and thus are normally scheduled in April and November. A field exam is judged in its entirety and is rated Pass or Fail by the examining committee; the same is true of the oral examination. Students who fail an exam can be re-examined in the next scheduled round of exams. Only one re-examination is permitted.

Thesis Option

Students pursuing the thesis option must take course work as follows:

HIST 600Historical Theory and Practice3
Electives *
American History6
Non-American History6
Other Electives9
HIST 698Thesis3
HIST 699Thesis3-9
Total Hours30-36

The thesis option will be recommended for those students who have maintained a high GPA and have the support of a faculty thesis advisor. The master’s thesis is written under the direction of the thesis advisor selected by the candidate in consultation with the Graduate Program Director. The thesis is reviewed and the candidate examined by a faculty committee chaired by the thesis advisor. The thesis defense—normally a two-hour oral examination—focuses on the thesis, the historical context, and related aspects of the student’s concentration. Final approval of the thesis is the responsibility of the thesis advisor, the graduate program director, and ultimately of the dean of the College of Arts and Letters, who certify the candidate for graduation.

Graduate Certificate in Maritime History

The Department of History offers a Graduate Certificate in Maritime History.  The certificate program is open to current MA candidates or students already possessing an MA in History.  Current MA candidates should apply to the Graduate Program Director for permission to pursue the course of study for the certificate.  Students already possessing an MA in History should contact the graduate program director in the Department of History to be advised on admissions and applications procedures.

The Graduate Certificate in Maritime History offers perspectives of the history of maritime developments throughout the centuries. Topics covered include oceanic and naval history, history of the use of marine resources, maritime environmental history, and other topics like the history of maritime trade and technology and the trans-atlantic slave trade. The Graduate Certificate in Maritime History is designed for those who want to supplement their studies with a maritime focus.  It offers students an introduction to maritime history and its global dynamic.

HIST 647Studies in Maritime History *3
HIST 696Tutorial in Maritime History **3
Electives ***6
Total Hours12

For current MA candidates, the certificate will be awarded at the time of graduation on certification of the completion of requirements by the graduate program director in accordance with the policies of the University Registrar.  For those already holding the MA in History, who are completing the certificate beyond the degree, the certificate will be awarded on completion of the 12 hours of required coursework as certified by the graduate program director in accordance with the policies and procedures of the University Registrar.  

Students pursuing the Graduate Certificate are subject to all GPA and other requirements and policies of the department, college and university applicable to students pursuing a degree in the MA in History program.


HIST 539. Politics and Society in East Asia Since 1945. 3 Credits.

This course explores the political and social developments in Japan, China, and Korea since the end of World War II.

HIST 555. African-American Historiography. 3 Credits.

This course is an examination of the ways historians have addressed specific issues in African-American history.

HIST 570. Struggle for Democracy and Development in Latin America. 3 Credits.

This course analyzes, from a historical perspective, two core problems in Latin America's modern (since c. 1880) history: political authoritarianism and economic underdevelopment. The temporal and spatial dimensions of change are highlighted in discussions of patron-client political systems, military autonomy and impunity, social movements and revolution, export-oriented economic growth, industrialization, and the roles of national, ethnic and gender identities.

HIST 595. Topics in History. 1-3 Credits.

The course is an advanced study of selected topics designed for small groups of qualified students to work on subjects of mutual interest which may not be offered regularly. These courses appear in the course schedule, and will be more fully described in information distributed to academic advisors.

HIST 598. Tutorial Work in Special Topics in History. 3 Credits.

Independent reading and study on a topic to be selected under the direction of an instructor. Conferences and papers as appropriate.

HIST 600. Historical Theory and Practice. 3 Credits.

Analysis of the development of historical theories, principles and methods and their application to historical research and writing. Required of all graduate students in history.

HIST 602. Readings in Early American History. 3 Credits.

This course offers an introduction to the principal writings and interpretations of American history from the period of European colonization of America to the beginning of the American Revolution. Readings and discussions focus on the development of American cultures and identities and on the formation of American social, political, and economic life.

HIST 603. The American Revolution and Historical Memory. 3 Credits.

This course introduces the principal interpretations of the American Revolution era from the mid-18th century to the 1787 ratification of the federal constitution. Readings and discussions focus on themes including Britain's relations with the colonies, the independence movement, women, African Americans, Native Americans as well as historical memory of the Revolution.

HIST 607. A People's Contest: Civil War and Reconstruction. 3 Credits.

An advanced course designed to familiarize students with the principal historiographical problems besetting the field of studies of the American Civil War and Reconstruction.

HIST 609. Melting Pot? Readings in Immigration History. 3 Credits.

This course examines the history of immigration to the U.S., focusing particularly on the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It critiques the "melting pot" metaphor through key themes, including transnationalism; the influences of class, race, gender, and nationality; working class and race relations; formal and informal economies; and popular and consumer culture.

HIST 610. Edible History: Food and Drink in the U.S. and Global History. 3 Credits.

This course explores the history of food and drink in the U.S. and the world as a way to examine the cultural, social, and political meanings about and consequences of producing and consuming food. This course will explore an array of topics including food as an essential element of identities and power relations, commodity chains, eating trends, and global security.

HIST 611. The Military in America. 3 Credits.

This course is designed to familiarize students with the principal historiographical problems besetting the field of U.S. military history from the pre-Revolutionary period to the present day.

HIST 617. The Long Civil Rights Movement. 3 Credits.

This course examines the historiography of the Long Civil Rights Movement, the struggle for civil rights stretching from the nineteenth century to the present day and encompassing multiple movements that sought to achieve the basic rights of citizenship for a number of different groups.

HIST 619. United States Labor and Working Class History. 3 Credits.

This course provides a historiographical survey of U.S. labor and working class history, focusing on the period after the Civil War. Work as a reflection of everyday life, class formation and class consciousness and the development of unions and other labor organizations are examined through a variety of different methodologies and in the contexts of citizenship and civil rights.

HIST 621. The Atlantic World and Early America. 3 Credits.

This course explores the Atlantic World as a place, a process, and a new field of historical inquiry. It examines the global processes of imperial, economic, and demographic expansion that drew British North America into transnational networks that spanned the Atlantic Ocean and brought European, African, and American inhabitants together.

HIST 622. The Atlantic Slave Trade. 3 Credits.

The course explores the trans-Atlantic slave trade from its beginnings in the 15th century to its suppression in the 19th century. It examines the historical literature on Africa, the Atlantic slave trade and the New World to provide students with a general orientation to the broad context of the Atlantic slave trade.

HIST 627. Cuba and Its Revolution. 3 Credits.

This course examines diverse interpretations of the origins of the 1959 Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro, its national and international repercussions, and relevant global contexts. Cuba's colonial status as a sugar plantation society based on African slave labor, the Cuban independence movement, the U.S. war with Spain, U.S.-Cuban relations, and the Cuban Revolution and its Cold War context are considered.

HIST 628. History of the U.S. Mexico Borderlands. 3 Credits.

This course examines the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Key themes include the slow, uneven and often unsuccessful integration of the region into centralizing states in Mexico and the United States; the changing nature of migration and commerce across the international boundary; and the importance of violence and social conflict in shaping the region.

HIST 630. Democracy and Development in Modern Latin America. 3 Credits.

From a world-historical perspective and moving from a broad focus on continental change to national contexts, this seminar analyzes two core problems in Latin America's history: political tensions (conceptualized as authoritarianism versus democracy) and economic change (underdevelopment versus development).

HIST 631. The Rise of the Hispanic World: Spain and Its Empire. 3 Credits.

The interaction of Spain and its overseas territories is the overarching theme of this seminar, which traces the rise of today's Hispanic world from its emergence in the Iberian peninsula in the 15th century, through the 19th century, when the Spanish Monarchy lost its American and Asian realms. Comparisons with other contemporary world empires will be considered.

HIST 632. Political Order and Social Change in Mexico Since 1910. 3 Credits.

This course traces the roots of current disorder in Mexico by analyzing the 1910 revolution, subsequent authoritarian rule, and the democratization process in the context of social forces that enabled the revolution and then brought it to a close in 2000. Themes include state formation, rule of law, democratization, economic development, U.S.-Mexico relations, and violence.

HIST 635. Modern British History. 3 Credits.

This course focuses on the social and cultural history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain. It explores broad themes of social conflict, class divisions, race and racism, and gender dynamics presented in recent historiography . Topics include politics, culture, leisure, entertainment, arts, economy, and the impact of the Empire on Britain.

HIST 636. The British Empire. 3 Credits.

This course explores British imperialism and colonialism in the early modern and modern periods, from the Caribbean to Australia with emphasis on the "second British empire" of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Key themes will include: webs of power and communication, labor, gender, race, and colony/metropole relations.

HIST 640. Studies in East Asian History. 3 Credits.


HIST 641. Individual & Society in Ancient Greece. 3 Credits.

This seminar delves into literary and archaeological sources to examine the development of ancient Greece in the archaic, classical and Hellenistic periods. It traces the development of Greece's vibrant culture, the struggles between Athens and Sparta, and the subsequent alliances forced by Phillip II and Alexander the Great.

HIST 642. Ancient Rome: Text and Artifact. 3 Credits.

Using historical texts and archaeological remains as sources, this course considers Ancient Rome from the city's mythological foundation stories to its decline in late Antiquity. It will study Roman history and historiography exploring topics including the economy, the military, women's roles, religion, art and architecture in the Republic and the Principate.

HIST 643. Religion, Culture, and Empire in Greco-Roman Palestine. 3 Credits.

This seminar focuses on the development of Greco-Roman Palestine, from its encounter with Hellenism to its conquest by Rome, and ultimately to its transformation into the Christian Holy Land under the patronage of Constantine and Helen.

HIST 646. Studies in Russian History. 3 Credits.

Research in Soviet archives in the past decade has enriched and enlarged the study of Stalin's era (1924-1953). This reading seminar samples new literature on traditional topics, such as Stalin's rise to power, methods of rule, and foreign policies, as well as scholarship in newly emerging fields. These areas include social history, gender and the family, cinema and popular culture, nationalities, patron-client relations, and the history of science.

HIST 647. Studies in Maritime History. 3 Credits.

The seminar explores recent maritime historiography and demonstrates how maritime history presents unique understandings of human history and also works within or redefines broader historical constructs. Students will analyze sources related to specific topics of maritime history.

HIST 648. France and the Sea. 3 Credits.

This course examines the complex ways in which the French viewed the Atlantic Ocean and other bodies of water and the opportunities water travel provided them from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Emphasis is placed on the Atlantic as a zone of interaction and on the French global trading networks and the development of overseas empires.

HIST 655. Early Modern Europe: Religion, Reform, and Violence. 3 Credits.

This course examines the religious, political and civil strife as well as the ramifications of social change in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. Emphasis will be on religiosity and how early modern peoples understood and experienced religious life and how the "reformations" altered gender relations, sexual dynamics, everyday life, and intellectual thought in Western Europe.

HIST 657. Old Regime and French Revolution. 3 Credits.

This course introduces students to the interpretive methodologies of questions of "Enlightenment" and the French Revolution that drive much of the historiography in European intellectual history today.

HIST 658. Studies in European History from 1815-1914. 3 Credits.


HIST 662. North Atlantic Resources. 3 Credits.

This class examines how coastal societies around the North Atlantic have developed their use of fish stocks and other marine resources since the late medieval period and analyzes how and why over-fishing of nearly all major species took place and how international agreements sought to address the issue of sustainable, biological oceanic resources.

HIST 668. Internships in History. 3 Credits.

Students work to gain field experience with professionals in such areas as museum management, archives administration, historical editing, historical preservation, electronic records management, archaeology, or oral history. Students are supervised by graduate faculty members who assign academic reading and written work to contextualize and enhance the field experience. Individually arranged. Minimum of 120 hours.

HIST 670. Fin-De-Siecle Europe. 3 Credits.

This course examines the intersections of politics and economy with culture and society in Europe from 1880 to 1914 with an emphasis on continental trends. It explores political ideologies relating to nationhood, race, ethnicity, class, and gender and their articulation in the arts, cultural production, technological innovation, and intellectual development at the turn of the century.

HIST 674. Holocaust History and Memory. 3 Credits.

This course examines the complex history of the Holocaust, beginning with the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s. It will explore issues of resistance and collaboration as well as ambivalence. It will also examine aspects of postwar Holocaust denial and the memory of the Holocaust as well as its representation in the historiography to the present.

HIST 675. M.A. Exam Preparation and Research. 3 Credits.

This advanced seminar integrates the skills needed to pass the M.A. exam in history. Exercises include designing examination reading lists, learning the historiography of the exam fields, preparing for orals, and writing and evaluating a practice exam. This course is not open to students pursuing the thesis option. Prerequisite: permission of the graduate program director.

HIST 676. Examination Preparation Transition. 1 Credit.

This course prepares students transitioning from the thesis option to the examination option for the comprehensive examinations. Prerequisites: HIST 698 and HIST 699.

HIST 683. History of the Global 1960s. 3 Credits.

Through the work of historians around the world, this course examines the nature of events in the 1960s. It explores global commonalities and local particularities, focusing on the simultaneous and interrelated phenomena of anti-colonial struggle, youth activism, and culture of dissent. It also looks at the countervailing pressures and groups that emerged in opposition.

HIST 695. Topics in History. 1-3 Credits.

The course is an advanced study of selected topics designed for small groups of qualified students to work on subjects of mutual interest which may not be offered regularly.

HIST 696. Tutorial in Maritime History. 3 Credits.

Individually arranged with appropriate professor and with permission of the graduate program director. Prerequisite: HIST 647.

HIST 697. Tutorials in History. 1-3 Credits.

Individually arranged with appropriate professor and with the permission of the graduate program director.

HIST 698. Thesis. 3 Credits.

3 credits.

HIST 699. Thesis. 3-9 Credits.

3-9 credits.

HIST 718. Mao’s China. 3 Credits.

This reading seminar will focus on the changes of the Chinese society since the beginning of the 20th century. It will examine the pivotal historical events that led to the Chinese revolution, which put Mao's Communist regime in power and has changed Chinese society ever since. While studying the history chronologically, students will identify issues and factors that affect the Chinese political system and society, and examine the legacies of Mao's revolution from social and individual perspectives. The course will also focus on political formation and transformation of the government, social structure and upheavals, economic reforms, and foreign policies. (cross listed with IS 718 and IS 818).

HIST 795. Selected Topics in International Studies. 1-3 Credits.

The advanced historical study of selected topics in international studies.

HIST 998. Master's Graduate Credit. 1 Credit.

This course is a pass/fail course for master's students in their final semester. It may be taken to fulfill the registration requirement necessary for graduation. All master's students are required to be registered for at least one graduate credit hour in the semester of their graduation.

HIST 999. Doctoral Graduate Credit. 1 Credit.

This course is a pass/fail course doctoral students may take to maintain active status after successfully passing the candidacy examination. All doctoral students are required to be registered for at least one graduate credit hour every semester until their graduation.