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American Studies (History)

Study programme

The Master in American Studies is a one-year programme covering the history, politics, and culture of the United States. Our courses balance breadth, focus, and flexibility, and we aim to unlock an Americanist's interdisciplinary sensibility. We encourage students to follow their interests and, just as important, to hone new ones.

Programme overview

Scholarship in American Studies has a rich theoretical and methodological tradition. You will master key themes and concepts, from classic texts to current scholarship. This includes the origins of American political culture, the histories of race and empire, discourses of gender and identity, the American Century and the trope of imperial decline. 

You will also encounter a broad range of primary sources. American Studies casts a very broad net: literature, mass media, film, photography, music, alongside traditional documents of political history. That net is cast well beyond the United States, too, gathering international perspectives on America and American perspectives on the broader world.

Finally, American Studies is research- and writing-intensive. To write a thesis is to become part of a community of scholars. Your thesis in American Studies is an original work of scholarship on a topic of your own choosing, bringing the knowledge and skills honed in courses together with your own interests. 

Programme structure

The programme comprises 60 ECTS credits:

  • 42 credits for core courses, electives and (optionally) an internship
  • 18 credits for a Master's thesis.
  • Core courses

    The first semester of the programme comprises two core seminars.

    Major Issues in American History

    This is the core course in American Studies scholarship and methodology. We will delve into classic and current issues of American history, including the topics of revolution, foreign policy, slavery, and immigration, and the problem of 'American exceptionalism'. We will also see how compelling interdisciplinary scholarship works, cultivating command over the categories of gender, race and class, and over the relationship between history, literary studies and the social sciences.

    America Inside Out: International Perspectives on the United States

    This seminar explores key sources in American cultural history alongside international perspectives of the United States. The United States has long kindled the imagination or the ire of foreign artists, novelists, sociologists, revolutionaries, and cultural critics. 'America' has long been defined as much from without as from within.

  • Electives

    In the spring, seminars are more specialised and often have a topical theme. The programme offers two spring electives: Distrust and Democracy: An American Study, and America First and Foreign Policy: Think Tanks and the Global Role of the United States in the Era of Trump.

    Students can also tailor their programme to their own interests with courses offered by other Master's programmes. Subject to approval by the Examinations Board, you may also select electives from other Master’s programmes at the UvA or at other universities in the Netherlands.

  • Internship

    Students, if they wish, can supplement their American Studies curriculum with an internship related to their studies and interests. Our students have had internships at (among other places):

    • the John Adams Institute in Amsterdam
    • the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C.
    • the Dutch Consulate in New York
    • the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies
    • the Netherlands Defense Academy
    • as well as media companies in the Netherlands and the US.
  • Thesis

    In American Studies, students write a thesis of their own design, in close consultation with faculty. A thesis preparation course helps students hone topics and discover sources; you will learn to navigate a scholarly debate but also to articulate why that debate is important. The thesis, an original work of scholarship, is the culmination of your work at university.

Detailed course information

For detailed course information, see:

Credit transfer

Students who show exceptional promise during a regular or professional Master's programme are encouraged to continue their studies in a research Master's programme. Once students are admitted to the research Master's programme, they can transfer credits earned during their previous course of study towards their Research Master's degree. The Examinations Board determines which courses qualify for transfer.

Accreditation and degree

The Master's programme American Studies forms part of the broad label History. The quality of this programme has been positively assessed (accredited) by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). This means that upon successful completion of the programme students will receive a legally recognised Master's degree in History and the title Master of Arts (MA).