Universiteit Leiden

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North American Studies (MA)

About the programme

The multidisciplinary one-year master’s programme in North American Studies provides students with comprehensive knowledge of North American history, literature, film, and culture and their connection to contemporary social, political, literary and cultural developments in an international perspective.

As a North American Studies student you will learn to critically analyse American historical, literary and cultural texts and films within their contexts, and conduct independent multidisciplinary research.

The master's programme in North American Studies consists of one core course, three elective research seminars, and an MA thesis.  You also have the option of replacing one elective course with an internship at an organisation or institution in the Netherlands or abroad.

The Leiden programme offers an international classroom setting: it draws international and internationally oriented students from a range of academic backgrounds and has an international teaching staff.

Exchange programme

You may also choose to participate in an exchange programme at one of the  universities in the U.S. or Canada with which Leiden University has an exchange program at the postgraduate (MA) level, for example, Rutgers University or the University of Calgary. Note, however, that the deadline for application for study abroad is December 1 for the following academic year. Participation in an exchange program therefore will normally involve extending your studies for at least one semester. The International Office of the Faculty of Humanities will help you make the right decision for your time studying abroad.

Read the blogs of former student, now an alumnus, Floris Heidsma about his experiences studying as an exchange student at the University of Calgary. 

The core course Major Issues in American Studies explores the major issues and scholarly and theoretical debates in the field of American history, politics and culture. At the end of this course, you will write a historiographical essay on a few key scholarly works related to the topic of your master’s thesis.

The elective courses provide an in-depth analysis of a particular subject covered by the core course. You will carry out research within these seminars, using, for example, primary source materials (e.g., historical documents, literary works or films), digital and conventional archives, published documents and/or critical and theoretical sources. Subjects regularly taught include:

  • The Great Migrations in African American history;
  • Post-9/11 Literature, Film and Memory Culture;
  • Human rights and U.S. History;
  • The Rise and Decline of American Empire;
  • Graphic Narratives and Autobiography;
  • Immigrant and minority literature and film;
  • Environmental history and Climate fictions.

An MA thesis concludes the programme. You will be guided through the process of writing your MA thesis in a thesis seminar and in frequent individual meetings with your thesis supervisor.

For a detailed programme, please check the Prospectus.

Please note that this prospectus applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Fulbright Visiting Professor

Frequently the programme is enriched by the presence of a Fulbright Visiting Professor. Several distinguished U.S. scholars have offered courses at Leiden in the past few years during their Fulbright tenure: Prof. Kenneth Marcus (2013) taught the history of American music, Prof, Scott Bennett (2014) gave a course on U.S. Peace Movements, and Prof. Judith Lee (2016) taught American Humor and Empire.

Sara Polak

University Lecturer

Sara Polak

"North American Studies in Leiden is characterized by a multidisciplinary and integrated approach, in which we really try to combine historical approaches with literature, culture and politics of primarily the United States. Most of the courses in one way or another focus on the question of American exceptionalism, which we critically reflect upon. Slavery and emancipation movements, as well as international relations and human rights, migration, ethnicity, cultural identity, and environmental justice are themes that are important in the programme."

Archibald de Coster


Archibald de Coster

"After obtaining my bachelor's degree in history in Brussels, I decided to take on a new challenge by applying for the Master's programme in North American Studies at Leiden University. I was, and still am, amazed by the variety and detail of the courses that are available in the Leiden programme."

"As I did have a BA-degree, but not enough background in American history, the admission committee advised me to enrol in the one-semester pre-master programme (30EC) before starting the master. The pre-master programme was the perfect start, as I acquired the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to study the fascinating and rich history of the United States.

As a Brussels native, the weekly two- hour drive was more than worth it. In addition to the captivating lectures, the teaching staff and student administration are accessible and friendly; most important, all the academics are passionate about their subjects and are able to transfer their passion to the students. I was not used to this; it was really a game-changer and it’s a crucial element that helps make this programme so great.

Aided by Leiden University's international reputation in fields like history and international relations, I successfully applied for an internship at the political section of the Belgian Embassy in Washington D.C. During my internship, the knowledge I had gained through studying at Leiden was highly valued by my supervisors there. More importantly, Leiden and the internship allowed me to learn more about myself and my personal progress. I will always look back with fond, enlightening and happy memories about my time at Leiden University."

Sophie Oostelbos

Graduated in MA North American Studies

Sophie Oostelbos

"Even though I’m not currently active in the field of American Studies, I still use skills that I acquired during my studies. One of these is cultural awareness. By studying a culture different from my own I learned that there are many different ways to interpret situations and that people act according to their cultural background. This is useful in my current job at the Technical University Delft because I interact with people from many different cultures. The programme also taught me how to critically analyse all different sorts of written materials."

Internship at the Dutch consulate-general in New York

"During my studies, I did an internship at the Dutch Consulate-General in New York. I had always known about the internship possibilities there, because my father worked there for 4 years when I was a teenager. One of the requirements is that you are at least 21 years old, so it wasn’t until my Master’s phase that I was able to apply. The Consulate hires 4-5 Dutch students twice a year. Vacancies are listed on the website nederlandwereldwijd.nl (specifically here)."

Dutch Culture USA

"I worked at the Cultural Department of the Consulate. The Cultural Department supports Dutch culture and artists in all of the US (not just New York). Together with another intern I was responsible for all the Social Media channels of the Consulate that were linked to the Consulate’s own website. We wrote blogs daily, posted on Social Media daily, sent out a monthly newsletter and visited many Dutch cultural events (expositions, plays, concerts, etc.). On top of this I did research on the effectiveness of the Consulate’s Social Media usage. This was part of Leiden University’s mandatory internship research assignment."


"After my graduation  I worked for two years as a Leiden Delft Erasmus trainee at the TU Delft | Global Initiative, the platform, portal and booster of science and technology for global sustainable development at TU Delft. Through this initiative scientists from TU Delft use their expertise to find concrete solutions for worldwide problems. My role was that of Project Coordinator Funding and Events. I helped scientists find appropriate funding for their research, and I organised (monthly) events for our global community at TU Delft. After my two-year traineeship, I got a job as graduate school intake officer at the TU Delft."

Admission and Application

Do you want to find out if you are eligible for this Master's Programme?

Check the entry requirements

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