What’s it like to do a PhD in American History?
During the PhD you will be expected to actively engage in a range of primary sources and contextualise your conclusions in the wider secondary literature. Some popular research topics in American history include:
- American literature
- Civil rights
- Criminal justice
- Global perspectives on America
- Indigenous culture
- The Civil War
- The Cold War
Students may also wish to focus on a specific state, indigenous society, or presidential period.
Most American History doctoral programmes require applicants to propose their own research project. This will form the basis for your PhD. By the end, you should have produced a thesis of around 75,000 words. This will then be assessed and critiqued in an oral viva exam.
Though less common, there are opportunities to apply for advertise PhD projects in American History. Often funded by a historical site or archive you will be asked to research a specific period and source base.
During the PhD you will spend most of your time analysing historical documents and discussing your progress with your supervisor. There will also be plenty of opportunities to share your research more widely in the academic community through conferences and publication opportunities. You may also have the opportunity to lead seminars for undergraduate students.
Depending on the availability of your sources you may be required to travel to America to access their historical archives. This will usually be in the form of at least one extended research trip during your studies.