African History Graduate Programs

Jan 04, 2019

Typically available at the doctoral level, graduate programs in African history prepare students for careers in research and teaching. These programs explore political and cultural aspects of Africa's history and the impact of African countries on global historical events. Programs often incorporate other academic disciplines and offer students opportunities to conduct field research in Africa.

African History Graduate Program Information

Doctoral students in this field can expect to take a range of courses on particular time periods and regions relevant to African history along with classes in historical theories and research methods. In addition to completing courses like those outlined below, students may need to fulfill a language requirement and complete oral and written comprehensive exams and a dissertation.


Preliminary classes in African history graduate programs address foundational topics in the field. Courses on historiography cover major theories and schools of thought that guide historical inquiry. Students investigate how scholarly thinking in the field of history has evolved over time and theoretical frameworks they can use to guide their own research. Specific topics may include the application of theory to oral history and the influence of other disciplines on historical research.

Major Events in African History

Graduate curricula in African history usually include classes focused on particular events or time periods that shaped African history. For instance, programs may offer a class focused on the rise and development of agriculture in Africa. Alternatively, they may focus on an event like the Atlantic slave trade and its global impact on individuals, culture, and politics.

Readings in African History

Graduate students in African history often devote significant attention to major works in the field. These classes expose students to widely recognized historical scholars and their contributions to our understanding of African history. Students explore themes common to African history and may focus on a particular era, like pre-modern or modern times.

Historical Research Methods

To prepare students for research careers, doctoral programs in African history include a strong emphasis on professional research methods. Students learn how to identify and select sources, review literature, and design research projects. Additionally, methods classes focus on the interpretation of historical data and effective methods of communicating research findings. These classes may be structured as seminars or colloquia and can teach students how to fund research in Africa.

Special Topics in African History

Due to the specialized nature of the field, graduate programs in African history usually include several courses on special topics. These classes each cover a particular aspect of African history, and the specific topic can change each time the course is offered. Special topics classes usually incorporate relevant readings, lectures, and discussions.

African History Graduate Program Admissions

Applicants to graduate programs in African history should submit transcripts reflecting prior earned degrees. Students entering with a bachelor's degree generally need to complete the requirements for a master's degree prior to beginning doctoral study. Most programs do not require a specific major but expect students to have a firm academic background in history. Prospective students also need to submit GRE scores and letters of recommendation. Additional common admission requirements include a statement of purpose, an academic writing sample, and a resume.

Graduate programs in African history generally lead to a Ph.D. and prepare students for academic careers as historians. Through coursework and research, students gain an understanding of relevant historical theories and research methods along with particular eras and issues within African history.

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