Academic Course Catalogs

Drop Shadow

Master of Arts in History

MAHMichael J. Gonzalez, Graduate Program Director, Associate Professor, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Thomas Barton, Assistant Professor, PhD, Yale University
Iris H. W. Engstrand, Professor, PhD, University of Southern California
R. Colin Fisher, Assistant Professor, PhD, University of California, Irvine
James O. Gump, Professor, PhD, University of Nebraska
Clara Oberle, Assistant Professor, PhD, Princeton University
Molly McClain, Associate Professor, PhD, Yale University
Kenneth P. Serbin, Associate Professor and Chair, PhD, University of California, San Diego
Kathryn Statler, Associate Professor, PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara
Yi Sun, Associate Professor, PhD, Washington State University

The Department of History at the University of San Diego offers graduate-level preparation for careers in teaching, public history and historic preservation. The faculty consists of full-time professors who offer a broad range of specialties, research and experience. Students who complete our program have found work as newspaper editors, community college professors, high school and grammar school teachers, documentarians, museum curators, librarians, public policy analysts, and historic preservationists. Others have gone on to PhD programs in history, political science, or international relations.

This 30-unit MA program is open and recommended to qualified students who wish to study public history or traditional academic history, especially teaching, and who wish to broaden their educational background.

The graduate program offers opportunities to intern at one of the many museums and historical societies in San Diego, including Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center, Helix Water District, San Diego Museum of Man, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego Hall of Champions, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and the San Diego Historical Society with its related Serra Museum, Villa Montezuma and Marston House. Students also may choose to work for preservation organizations or in the offices of local architects.

Program Description

The Master of Arts Program in History offers a 30-unit curriculum in which one class equals three units. Twenty-four units involve course work. The remaining six units concern the thesis. The student must submit a thesis of at least 100 pages that shows proficiency in interpreting primary documents and employing independent thought. The thesis topic is to be approved by a faculty committee of at least two USD history department members. Full-time students typically need two years to complete the program. Part-time study is also welcomed and accommodated by a schedule that offers most graduate classes one evening per week. The goals of the program are to help students improve their understanding of history and enhance their career options.

Before registering, students are required to schedule an advising appointment with the graduate program director in history. In consultation with the director, students will work out a program of study.

Requirements for the Degree

Thirty units of coursework to be approved by faculty advisor include:

HIST 500 Core Seminar (taken during the first semester) (3 units)
EDUC 502 Teaching Seminar (3)
HIST 502 Public History Seminar (3)
HIST 595 Thesis (6)

History 595 can be satisfied in several ways: The student can take History 595 as a three-unit seminar. The seminar will teach students how to research, organize, and write a thesis. Or, the student can register for HIST 595 “Thesis” and work alone, but under the supervision of the thesis advisor, until the 6-unit requirement is met and the thesis is completed. Or the student may take History 595 as a seminar AND work alone under the supervision of the thesis advisor. Once a student has finished all coursework, he or she must continue to register for one-half (0.5) unit of thesis each semester (excluding summer and Intersession) until the thesis is completed and accepted. Even if the student has taken six units of History 595 (Thesis), and finished all other coursework, he or she still must still register for thesis units to remain in good standing and avoid the risk of being disqualified by the university registrar. A pamphlet entitled Instructions for the Preparation and Submission of the Master’s Thesis is available for sale in the university bookstore.

With some exceptions, the remaining 15 units of coursework must come from classes numbered in the 500s. Of these fifteen units, up to six units of electives can be taken from the graduate programs in international relations, art history, theology and religious studies, education, business administration, peace and justice, and law. Under certain circumstances, and with special graduate level adjustments, the elective classes may be taken at the undergraduate, upper-division level.
Only one course with a grade of “C+”, “C”, or “C-” may count towards the degree.

No courses with a grade of “D” or “F” will count toward the degree although the grade will be calculated in the GPA.

Courses and Seminars


Required for all MA candidates in history. The class will examine different historical methodologies and introduce students to the rigors of graduate school.


This course, offered by the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, or SOLES, will discuss teaching methods, evaluate course content, instruct students in the use audio-visual materials, and make use of oral presentations to simulate classroom lectures. Essential for those preparing to become teachers or continuing the pursuit of graduate degrees in history.


Examines aspects of public history that include a variety of spheres such as the application and definition of public history; theory and management of historical collections; registration and cataloguing of historical collections; philosophy and techniques of exhibiting historical artifacts; historical editing — books and scholarly journals; media or documentary productions; writing corporate histories; historical research in general and maintaining a website. Field trips to various local museums are included.


This seminar focuses on ancient Greek or Roman history, with an emphasis on power and politics, gender, art and architecture, and/or economic and social change. Special topics may offer the chance to study the Trojan War, ancient Athens, Greek religion and culture, ancient Rome and the Mediterranean, the army, barbarians, Julius Caesar, Romanization, and/or the rise of Christianity. Extensive use will be made of contemporary sources to obtain first-hand insights into the values and concerns of ancient men and women. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


This seminar focuses on Medieval European history, with an emphasis on power and politics, gender, art and architecture, and/or economic and social change. Special topics may offer the chance to study knights and peasants; the Crusades, heresy, plague, Marco Polo’s travels to China and/or the rise of European empires. Extensive use will be made of contemporary sources to obtain first-hand insights into the values and concerns of medieval men and women. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


This seminar focuses on Europe, 1450-1700, with an emphasis on power and politics, gender, art and architecture, and/or economic and social change. Special topics may offer the chance to study the politics of the Italian city states; the writings of leading humanists, poets, philosophers, and political theorists; Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture; and/or political events such as the English civil war. The class also may focus on groundbreaking research in the histories of women, sexuality, popular culture, peasant life and magic. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


This seminar will examine the wars fought in and around Vietnam since the 1940s, with particular attention focused on the period of direct American involvement. These events will be considered in relation to Vietnam’s history, American politics and society, and to the nature of war itself. Finally, we will consider the legacy of the war and its meaning in American and Vietnamese memory today.


This seminar focuses on various topics in the history of the Modern Middle East. Topics may include the growth and decline of the Ottoman Empire; Arab and Jewish nationalisms; the paths to independence; or the Iranian revolution. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


This seminar focuses on various topics in the history of Latin America, such as the role of religion and the Catholic Church; 20th-century revolutions and social upheaval; and the history of particular groups, including Amerindians, women, and rural and urban workers. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


An in-depth look at special themes and issues in the history of Asia, including such topics as Women in East Asia, Imperialism in Asia, and Asia’s relations with the United States. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


A critical study of issues confronting Africans in the 20th century. Alternating courses may include Problems in Africa since Independence and the South African Dilemma. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


This class will introduce students to the field of U.S. environmental history. On the one hand, we will examine how nature (soil, natural disasters, disease, water, climate, etc.) influenced the course of American history. On the other, we will address the ways Americans have used technology to transform the non-human world, the implications these transformations have had on power relations within American societies, and the cultural meanings that Americans have given to nature.


Topics may include the Progressive Era, World War I, Great Depression, New Deal, World War II, United States-Latin American Relations, or other topics in the political, economic, social, and cultural history of the United States from 1865 to the present. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


In this seminar we will explore the politics of American public commemoration. We will look at how dominant institutions (the National Park Service, history museums, and tourist venues) have remembered (and forgotten) the American past. We will also explore vernacular historical expressions and the ways in which minority groups have fought to shape American public memory. The class will use San Diego as a laboratory.


This class surveys the history of the American West. Topics include: pre-Columbian Indians, the competition between European empires over the American West; American expansion and conquest; the fur, mining, ranching, and farming “frontiers”; the railroad and populism; WWII and the growth of the urban west; the historical experience of workers, women, and Mexican-, Asian-, Native-, and African-Americans; environmental issues such as conservation, preservation, the dust bowl, and water politics; and representations of the West in popular culture. Students may repeat the seminar for credit when the topic changes.


This class explores the history of the Mexican and Mexican origin people in the United States. The class begins with the European settlement of the Americas and ends with the immigration of Mexicans to the United States in the 20th and 21st century.


Covers California’s past from its earliest settlements to modern times. The course begins with California’s geographical setting, aboriginal culture, and contact with the European world. A survey of Spanish backgrounds includes missions and missionaries, ranchos, pueblos, and foreign visitors. Changes under the government of Mexico led to California’s conquest by the United States. During the second half, the class will address the Gold Rush; problems of statehood; constitutional developments; land, labor, and Indian policies; transportation and immigration; agriculture and industry; California during wartime; water projects; political issues; cultural accomplishments; racial diversity; and recent trends. Meets the requirements of California history standards for various teaching credentials.

HIST 595 THESIS (0.5-6)

May be taken as a three-unit class. In other instances, History 595 may be repeated when student is writing and researching the thesis. When not taken as a seminar, students taking History 595 will receive an incomplete. The grade for History 595 will not be recorded until the thesis is completed and submitted.


See Department Advisers responsible for assignments of internships.


Consult program director for guidelines.

Undergraduate Courses

Under certain circumstances and with special graduate level adjustments, maximum of 6 elective units may be taken at the undergraduate, upper-division level. Each class is worth three units.

HIST 310 Ancient Near East
HIST 311 Greek Civilization
HIST 312 Roman Civilization
HIST 321 The Fall of the Roman Empire, 250-1050
HIST 322 Castles and Crusades: Medieval Europe, 1050-1450
HIST 323 Medieval Women
HIST 331 Renaissance and Reformation
HIST 333 Europe 1600-1800
HIST 334 European Art and Architecture in Context
HIST 340 World War I
HIST 341 World War II
HIST 345 Topics in Military History
HIST 346 Topics in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
HIST 347 Topics in Modern Europe
HIST 348 Modern France
HIST 350 History of the British Isles
HIST 351 Modern Britain
HIST 352 The British Empire
HIST 353 Spain to 1820
HIST 354 Modern Spain
HIST 355 Imperial Russia
HIST 356 Russia since 1917
HIST 357 Topics in Russian and East European History
HIST 358 Topics in Modern World History
HIST 359 Modern Middle East
HIST 360 Colonial Latin America
HIST 361 Modern Latin America
HIST 362 Topics in Latin American History
HIST 363 History of Brazil
HIST 364 Topics in Asian History
HIST 365 History of China
HIST 366 History of Japan
HIST 367 Women in East Asia
HIST 368 History of Africa
HIST 369 Issues in Modern Africa
HIST 370 American Environmental History
HIST 371 Topics in Early American History
HIST 373 U.S.-East Asia Relations
HIST 373 Armed Conflict in American Society
HIST 374 Civil War and Reconstruction
HIST 375 Topics in Modern American History
HIST 376 United States Foreign Relations to 1914
HIST 377 United States Foreign Relations since 1914
HIST 378 Topics in United States Intellectual and Social History
HIST 379 Topics in United States Mass Media History
HIST 380 History of the American West
HIST 381 American Indian History
HIST 382 The Spanish Borderlands
HIST 383 Chicano History
HIST 384 History of Mexico
HIST 386 The Pacific Ocean in History
HIST 387 History of Baja California
HIST 389 History of California
HIST 390 Art and Architecture in California

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