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19th and 20th Century American History

Graduate Study in 19th- and 20th-Century U.S. History

About the Program

Rutgers has a long tradition of a strong, diverse program in US history that is ranked highly in national surveys. Our faculty engage the past from early America through the present, with particular strengths in the histories of women and gender, African Americans and race, state and society, and science, technology, environment, and health. Department members are known for their work in social, political, cultural, intellectual, and international history.

Each year we admit a small cohort of Americanists. Our goal is to create incoming classes large enough to foster a sense of intellectual camaraderie but small enough to provide intensive mentoring and financial support. Our students are carefully selected and fully funded, with five-year packages of fellowships and teaching assistant positions from the department. Many also compete successfully for outside funding, winning support for their dissertations from the Organization of American Historians, the Ford Foundation, the MillerCenter at the University of Virginia, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

We have a strong placement record. In recent years, Rutgers PhDs have taken tenure-track positions at research universities such as Tennessee, Texas-Austin, UC-Berkeley, Oregon, Virginia Tech, and Florida State; smaller schools such as Wesleyan, Bryn Mawr, and California State-Fullerton; and local universities and colleges such as Queen's College, William Paterson, the College of New Jersey, and Fairleigh Dickinson. A number have moved to positions overseas or in Canada, and others have found positions in public history, private secondary schools, and university administration. Recent Rutgers PhDs also have secured postdoctoral fellowships at a wide variety of institutions, including BrownUniversity, the University of California at San Diego, Indiana University and the University of Southern California.

Americanists benefit from a wealth of research resources here at Rutgers and in the wider tri-state area. The department has close affiliations with a number of interdisciplinary centers on campus, including the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, the Center for Race and Ethnicity, the Institute for Research on Women, the Center for Cultural Analysis and the Eagleton Institute on Politics, which all bring in Americanist scholars, and offer regular talks, workshop and colloquia on topics relevant to the study of American history and thought.

Our library is a major research facility with a strong collection in colonial American and United States history. Students also have privileged access to other libraries in the region, including borrowing privileges and delivery service from all of the major university libraries in Pennsylvania and direct access to many libraries in New Jersey and New York.

Our students also have a variety of other opportunities to take advantage of the rich community of Americanist scholars at other nearby universities. In addition to having easy access to the many American history lectures, workshops, museum exhibits and other events that take place in the tri state area, students are welcome to take courses at area universities such Princeton, Columbia, and New York University for credit in our program.

Course of Study

Americanists enroll in a range of courses across chronological and thematic boundaries, reading the literature in their fields and beyond, and engaging in directed research projects. The major requires two readings courses in US history, chosen from the following four courses: Readings in American History I on the 16th to 18th centuries, Readings in American History II on the 19th century, Readings in American History III on the 20th century, and Readings in African American History; two colloquia, which offer deep exploration into special themes or topics; and two or more research seminars where students research and write original work.

Those pursuing a major field in US history must also complete a minor field.  Students are free to select the minor field they find most beneficial. Our students often find the minors in African American history; women and gender; science, technology, environment, and health; Atlantic Cultures and the African Diaspora and global and comparative history particularly useful, for their own research as well as for their broader training. These minor fields have contributed to the intellectual versatility of our graduates, which has produced successful results in competitions for fellowships and tenure track positions.

Further Information

Prospective students who are thinking about applying to our program are encouraged to contact the faculty member whose expertise most closely matches their own interests.  Details about program requirements in general and about individual faculty members are available by following links on the History Department’s website. We will also be happy to arrange for prospective students to visit campus to tour our facilities and meet with current students to talk about our program. Inquiries can be directed to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Students interested in the colonial period of American history should consult the description of Graduate Study in Early American History.

The Faculty

The faculty in 19th- and 20th-century American history at Rutgers-New Brunswick is collectively one of the strongest in the nation. The New Brunswick department works closely with graduate faculty colleagues in the history departments at Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden. Particular areas of specialization include:

African-American History

Mia Bay, Marisa Fuentes, Donna Murch, Walter C. Rucker, Deborah White

Cultural and Intellectual History

Mia Bay, Rachel Devlin, David Greenberg, Jackson Lears, James Livingston, Louis Masur, Jamie Pietruska, Beryl Satter (Newark), Virginia Yans

History of U.S. Foreign Relations

Susan Carruthers (Newark), David Foglesong, Toby Jones

Native American History

Camilla Townsend

Social and Political History

John Chambers, Dorothy Sue Cobble, Rachel Devlin, David Greenberg, Norman Markowitz, Richard L. McCormick, Jennifer Mittelstadt, Donna Murch, Johanna Schoen, Andrew Shankman (Camden), Beryl Satter (Newark), Whitney Strub (Newark), Andrew Urban, Virginia Yans, Deborah White

History of Science, Technology, Environment, and Health

James Delbourgo, Janet Golden (Camden), Paul Israel, Neil Maher (Newark), Margaret Marsh (Camden), Stephen Pemberton (Newark), Jamie Pietruska, Johanna Schoen

Women's and Gender History

Mia Bay, Dorothy Sue Cobble, Rachel Devlin, Marisa Fuentes, Jennifer Mittelstadt, Beryl Satter (Newark), Johanna Schoen, Camilla Townsend, Deborah White, Virginia Yans

For a list of faculty who specialize on the colonial period, see the description of Graduate Study in Early American History.

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