For More Information

For further information about the graduate program, contact the graduate program head:

Professor Govind Sreenivasan
(781) 736-2277

M.A. in Comparative History

IMPORTANT NOTE (May 2009):  The History Department is in the process of reorganizing its graduate programs to best reflect the intellectual direction of historical scholarship today and build on our historic strengths.  Applications for the new program will be due on January 15, 2010.  Please stay tuned for a detailed announcement about the requirements of our new MA and PhD programs in History in September 2009.

The M.A. program in comparative history has two main goals. One is to train students to do comparative historical research — not only to study individual countries in depth, but also to explore thematic issues in a broader transnational context. That comparative perspective makes it possible to determine what is common, what is unique and thereby to draw conclusions about general patterns and dynamics. Although principally focused on Europe, the program encourages students to include other regions and thereby broaden the global scope of their studies.

A second, major objective is to develop research and writing skills — which are invaluable regardless of a student’s further plans and career aspirations. To meet these goals, the M.A. program in comparative history offers several dedicated graduate courses and lays strong emphasis on the first-year research paper (with constructive guidance from the entire faculty, not only the main adviser).

Why Earn an M.A. in Comparative History?

Apart from intellectual curiosity and gratification, there are some practical reasons to seek the M.A. degree:
  • Enhanced credentials for doctoral program: The M.A. will significantly enhance your qualifications if you plan to pursue a full-time doctoral program; this can be especially useful if you seek to enter graduate school in a field outside your undergraduate major or if you earned the bachelor’s from a less prestigious institution.
  • Material benefits: Having the M.A. significantly enhances your qualifications and pay in most public and private organizations.
  • Test the water: The one-year M. A. can help you decide whether the academic path is right for you — before you invest a great deal of time and resources in a multiyear doctoral program.
  • Transferable skills: The emphasis on research and writing will give you skills that are critical for every career path.

Why Brandeis?

It is certainly possible to earn an M.A. at many fine institutions, but there are compelling reasons why you should consider studying at Brandeis:

  • First-class training: The American History program is a highly selective program that trains students in the broad field of American history, problems in historiography and critical thinking, research and writing skills.
  • Dedicated mentoring: Brandeis is a small research university with an emphasis on small classes and genuine mentorship; each student has the opportunity to work closely with a distinguished scholar.
  • Scholarships: To enable qualified students to attend Brandeis, the graduate school has a need-based scholarship fund that allows a partial reduction in the cost of tuition and fees.
  • Intellectual diversity: Brandeis has an array of graduate programs that complement and overlap with the graduate program in American history, including politics, Near Eastern and Judaic studies, sociology, and English and American literature. Faculty in the African and Afro-American studies and American studies departments play key roles in the program. The program also complements the comparative history program in the Brandeis history department; this graduate program provides traditional disciplinary training with a comparative perspective that is fundamental to a broader understanding of the issues, patterns and dynamics of change. 
  • Career support: The Office of Career Services helps to identify opportunities, design an effective resume and prepare for interviews.
  • Library resources: Library resources include our own Goldfarb Library, a collection of exceptional strength in American history. In addition, the Boston Library Consortium  allows graduate students to use books in major libraries throughout the area. Graduate students have full access to many nearby manuscript repositories. Brandeis is within easy commuting distance of some of the very best public and private libraries in the United States, including the Boston Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Boston Public Library and the American Antiquarian Society.
  • Boston: Brandeis students partake of the rich intellectual and cultural environment of the Boston area — from a plethora of events at area universities to the array of museums and other institutions in metropolitan Boston. The Boston Area Graduate History Network is a recently formed consortium of graduate history programs. It facilitates cross-registration in courses offered by different institutions, and publicizes seminars, talks and other events of interest to students of history.

The M.A. Curriculum

This one-year, full-time program has the following requirements

  • Foreign language: Each student must pass an examination in one foreign language (test of reading knowledge, with use of a dictionary.
  • Graduate seminars: Although the seminar offerings vary from year to year, students normally enroll in several graduate seminars (Historical Methods, Early Modern Europe, Modern Europe, Comparative History, Global History, Historiography).
  • First-year research paper: This M.A. thesis, based on original research in primary resources, is the product of year-long course, with ample opportunity to consult with the entire faculty, not only the thesis supervisors.

This schedule leaves some time to enroll in other advanced courses in history or other departments. 

Recent Placements

Students who have earned the M.A. in comparative history have pursued several different career paths:

  • Matriculation in a doctoral program
  • Education (secondary-school teaching, with higher rank and salary)
  • Government service (state and local level)
  • Private sector (research and writing)
  • Museums, archives


Applications are accepted on a rolling admissions basis; while late admissions are welcome, priority will naturally be given to those who apply first; those who apply later may find that the admissions quota is full.

The application is now electronic, although hard-copy applications will be accepted. To apply, visit the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Web site.