North American Studies

The strengths of Leiden University’s Master’s programme in North American Studies lie particularly in African-American history and literature, U.S. political history and foreign policy, immigrant and ethnic studies in the U.S., and (public) memory and memorialization (for example of 9/11). Although some attention is paid to Canada and Mexico in a number of courses, the main focus in this program is on the United States.

Reasons to choose North American Studies at Leiden University

  • Explore major issues in the history, literature and culture of US, as well as undertaking in-depth studies of specific historical and literary topics.
  • Study at a leading international centre of research in American Studies,
  • Apply the integrated approach to North American Studies and discover connections between historical events and cultural and literary developments.

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Master’s students who graduate in American Studies will be able to:

  • critically analyse American historical and literary texts, and place them in a cultural and historical context;
  • conduct independent multidisciplinary research in the field of American Studies (including Canada), thereby showing the ability to comprehend and apply relevant theoretical insights and methodological approaches;
  • apply knowledge of North American history, literature and culture, to contemporary social, political, literary and cultural developments.

Check out the programme of North American Studies.

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Master details

  • Degree Master of Arts in North American Studies
  • Mode of study full-time
  • Duration 1 year
  • Start date September, February
  • Language of instruction English
  • Location Leiden
  • Croho/isat code 60845

Prof. Adam Fairclough

Adam Fairclough

“We study America’s history in light of its commitment to core values.”

“During its first hundred years as a nation, the United States expanded from the Atlantic to the Pacific, attracted millions of European immigrants, and developed the world’s most productive economy. In the twentieth century it became a global superpower with a vast, informal empire and far-reaching cultural influence.

This course studies America’s history in light of its commitment to core values such as republicanism, individual freedom, and private enterprise. At the same time it examines how these core values have been challenged by war, Cold War, and internal conflicts over race, class, and religion.

Leiden offers excellent facilities for research in American history, including presidential papers, the digitized archive of the New York Times, and on-line access to every Congressional committee hearing between 1823 and 1980. Some students enhance their research by spending an additional semester at a university in the United States.

In 2012-2013 students in the M.A. programme in North American Studies, wrote theses on subjects such as the history of filibustering in the U.S. Congress, the representation of African American history in American museums and memorial sites, Pearl Jam’s troubled relationship with the American South, the politics of food practices in (post-)civil rights era Southern literature, and hip-hop music and the Rodney King uprisings. During the past five years Leiden students have twice won the Theodore Roosevelt Association History Award for the best M.A. thesis in American History written in the Netherlands.”

A word from student Rian

Rian van Spaandonk

“Putting America into context”

“I’ve always been interested in American literature and film. What’s good about this master’s is that you look at the US from an interdisciplinary perspective: you study history, literature, culture and politics. You study not just the country itself, but also the network around it. You learn to put the US into a world context.’

The master’s is small-scale and intensive. Apart from a compulsory course on important themes in American history and culture, there’s a broad range of specialist subjects to choose from, including such topics as 9/11, transatlantic relations and migration literature. Extra events such as the national American Studies Day make it even more interesting.

My master’s thesis is about the concert industry in the US. The political consequences of the attacks of 11 September 2001 have also had an effect on the music industry, resulting in implicit (self-)censorship. I’m examining this development in the context of the music and tour schedules of different rock bands.

There’s so much you can do with American Studies. I’m most interested in the prospect of a teaching job, but I also see other students combining the programme with journalism, or going into the diplomatic field. If you are interested in America and want to develop this interest further, this is the master’s for you.”

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