The Department offers the MA in American history, early modern and modern European history, and medieval European history, and in Religion and Society in the Late Medieval and Early Modern World, and joint degrees with Library and Information Sciences, Secondary Education, and the Law School.
The MA in History
The MA in History has four components: coursework; a research requirement; language requirement; and comprehensive examinations.
All MA degrees in History require a minimum of 30 credit-hours of course work (10 courses). Normally, this can be completed in three or four regular semesters of full-time work. The 10 courses would include History 601, 2 seminars and 7 colloquia or readings courses in the field of study (that is, Medieval Europe, Early Modern Europe, Modern Europe, or US). Medievalists also take History 609/610 as part of their 7 colloquia. University regulations specify that a maximum of 2 courses (6 credit hours) can be transferred from another institution toward the MA at CUA. In order to transfer classes, students must meet with the Director of Graduate Studies and provide syllabi for the courses that might be transferred. Formal approval for the transfer of credits is granted by the Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Please note that language classes do not typically count toward History credit for the degree.
MA Thesis Option
Students have the option of writing a MA thesis in lieu of the two required seminar papers. Students who wish to write one should consult pertinent faculty early in their graduate career; approval to pursue the thesis option will depend upon the student’s ability to identify a feasible project and the availability of faculty to supervise it. Students who receive approval (granted by the Director of Graduate Studies) should register for MA thesis direction in two consecutive semesters (for a total of 6 credit hours), and the thesis must be completed within that period. Do note the thesis option is not available to students in the joint program with LIS, as such students produce only one research paper.
As a requirement for the MA, students must submit evidence of proficiency in one foreign language (a computer language is not an acceptable alternative), except that graduate students in Medieval European History must meet the requirement in two languages, of which one must be Latin. This can be accomplished:
- by passing a reading-comprehension examination administered by the CUA Counseling Center. For information about fees and scheduling, please contact Morgan McDonald at email@example.com.
- by taking and passing a 500-level course in a language (the latter are offered regularly by the Modern Languages Department in the major European languages, and are geared toward reading comprehension; courses which afford basic grammar and comprehension of a language do not earn credit hours toward the degree in History, though more advanced courses offered by these Departments do count toward the History degree)
- taking a departmental language exam, offered every semester. These exams are translation exams; students will be given approximately two pages of academic prose in the original language in question. They have one hour to translate the passage and are allowed the use of one paper dictionary. Exams will typically be available in French, German, and Spanish. For an Italian translation exam, students should contact the Department of Modern Languages. Sample language exams can be requested from the Director of Graduate Studies. Should students fail the translation exam, they may retake it (with new material) once. After a second failure, students will need to take a formal language course to fulfill their language requirement.
- or, in exceptional circumstances, by showing evidence of prior courses in a language which met the corresponding language requirement for a graduate degree in History at another university (this must be certified by the other university in question and is at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences)
- on the MA level, medievalists must complete Latin study through the level of intermediate Latin. In order to assess your Latin level, students should contact the Department of Greek and Latin to inquire about Latin placement: see http://greeklatin.cua.edu/language/index.cfm for more details. On the PhD level, students must complete Latin 561, a course in medieval Latin, for which they do receive course credit. MA students who choose to take Latin 561 will also receive History credit for the class.
An MA candidate must complete a written comprehensive examination consisting of two four-hour examinations on the field of study, taken on consecutive days.
Each section organizes their comprehensive examinations differently, as follows:
Medieval Europe: In medieval history, MA candidates sit for two four-hour exams on consecutive days. The first day is devoted to the early Middle Ages and the pre-modern Islamic world. The second day the student will be examined on the later Middle Ages and late medieval England. There are set reading lists for each section of the exam, which can be found in the appendices to this handbook.
Early Modern and Modern Europe: In early modern and modern European history, MA candidates sit for two four-hour exams on consecutive days. Through advising and course selection during the course of study for the degree, each student opts to concentrate more upon early modern (circa 1500–1750) or late modern (circa 1750–present) history. The MA reading lists (which can be found in the appendices to this handbook) are arranged into Part 1 (early modern) and Part 2 (late modern) lists. Each student is responsible for all the readings in each part. For students specializing in early modern history, the comps are arranged as follows: on the first day, the student answers three questions in early modern; on the second day, the student answers three questions, one in early modern and two in late modern. For students specializing in late modern history, the comps are arranged as follows: on the first day, the student answers two questions in early modern and one in late modern; on the second day, student answers three questions in late modern.
US: In US history, MA candidates sit for two four-hour exams on consecutive days. On the first day, students are examined on US history to 1877; on the second day, on US history from 1877 to the present. The exams are based on the reading lists found at the end of this Handbook. For each day’s exam, students are given a list of 4-5 questions and required to answer 3. The examiners for Day 1 are currently Profs. Fisher and West; for Day 2, Profs. Kimmage and West.
Evaluation of comprehensive exams is done consistently across all sections. MA comps will be assessed for the student’s content knowledge and use of evidence, command of the historiography, argumentative and analytical skills, and for the writing and organization of the exam. The full grading rubrics used to evaluate comprehensive examinations are available in the appendices to this Handbook.
These examinations normally are taken either during the semester in which the student completes the 30 credit-hours required for the degree (and the language requirement) or at the first available testing opportunity thereafter (that is, the next semester, or the summer following the semester during which the course requirements were completed). In order to take comps, students must register for either History 698A (Master’s Comps with classes) or History 698B (Master’s Comps without classes), as appropriate.
Examinations are based on standard reading lists prepared and regularly updated by the faculty of each Section. Students will be given the MA lists for each Section when they begin their MA studies. Most importantly, students should regard comprehensive examinations as a process rather than an event: that is to say, each student must take responsibility for meeting a number of times with each professor involved with the examination, to consult about reading, content, and preparation. Current lists can be found in the appendices to this Handbook.
Comps can be marked as satisfactory (pass), unsatisfactory (fail), or as pass with distinction, an honor awarded only to truly exceptional exams. The grade will be determined by committee consensus. When readers have submitted grades of “Pass” to the Department, the School of Arts and Sciences will be notified that the student has successfully completed this requirement. If a student is judged by the examiners to have failed any portion of the MA comprehensive examination, he/she has the right to retake the examination (with the same readers but with different questions) once, and this would ordinarily be in the following semester; a student who fails one part of the MA comprehensive need re-take only that one part.
Students are not allowed to sit for comprehensive examinations until all other degree requirements are met (or are in process), including the language requirement and the research papers (which must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies before sitting for exams).
Religion and Society in the Late Medieval and Early Modern World
This field within the M.A. degree program is especially designed for individuals wishing to study the historical dimensions of religion and religious experience in the period from the 14th through the 18th century (1300–1800) in Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
This program combines a scholarly focus with a broad range of approaches and concerns. Although it addresses theology, doctrine and religious institutions, its main focus is to place religion in its social context and historical perspective. Topics treated in the range of courses offered include religious belief and popular practices; lay piety and religious enthusiasm; religious reform and evangelization; ritual and mysticism; secularization and tolerance; and the relationship between religion, on the one hand, and science and politics on the other.
The faculty of the Department of History is particularly strong in both aspects of this program, with a number of professors who study religion and whose chronological focus is the late medieval and early modern period. The program also draws upon the participation of members of Catholic University’s distinguished School of Theology & Religious Studies.
The requirements for this field follow the general outline of those for the other fields offered for the MA in History. Students are expected to complete a minimum of 30 credit-hours of coursework (10 courses), including History 601 (Historical Methodology), and either two research seminars or an MA thesis, dependent on the approval of the thesis supervisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. The language requirements are the same as for the MA in History.
The comprehensive exams follow the same structure as the MA in History, but are organized as follows:
The exam includes three fields. Two of these must be late medieval religion and society, and the Protestant and Catholic Reformations (denoted in the reading lists at the end of this Handbook as sections I and II). Of those two fields, we ask that you designate one as your “major” field, where your interests primarily lie and the other as a minor field. The third field for the exam, also considered a minor field, is open for the student to choose between Renaissance and Early Modern Europe or The Catholic Church in Colonial Latin America (denoted in the reading lists at the end of this Handbook as sections III and IV). The exam is graded according to the rubrics set out above for the MA in History. The first day of the exam is devoted to the major field, the second to the two minor fields.
Joint History/Library and Information Science (MA/MSLIS)
The joint degree requires 30 credit hours in Library and Information Science and an additional 21 credit hours in History. Insofar as History is concerned, most other requirements apply as for the basic MA (7 courses, of which one must be History 601, one research seminar, one language requirement and comprehensive exams as defined above; note students in the joint program do only one research seminar, which is the major difference compared to the MA in History). Those interested in applying for the joint degree program are invited to communicate directly with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the program and its requirements further. A single application, which must be approved for admission by both departments, is required. Joint degrees are conferred simultaneously after all requirements for both degrees have been met.
Joint History/Secondary Education (MA/MA)
The joint degree requires 24 credit hours in Secondary Education Core Classes, 12 credit hours of supervised, full-time student teaching, and 21 credit hours in History. Insofar as History is concerned, all the other requirements of the basic MA apply, with the exception that students in the joint program take only one research seminar rather than two. Those interested are invited to communicate directly with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the program further. A single application to the joint program is required. Joint degrees are conferred simultaneously after all requirements for both degrees have been met.
Joint History/Law (MA/JD)
Admission to the Columbus School of Law at CUA is a prerequisite for admission to the MA/JD joint degree program. A student would ordinarily apply to the joint degree program at the end of his/her first year of law school. Nine law credits can be applied toward the minimum of 30 credits required for the MA in History. Students fulfill all other requirements for the Master’s degree: proficiency in a modern language (and Latin for medieval history), minimum G.P.A of 3.0, satisfactory performance on the comprehensive exam, two research seminars or an MA thesis. Joint degrees are conferred simultaneously after all requirements for both degrees have been met. For further information regarding this option, contact the Director of Graduate Studies.