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Erik Gellman


The study of United States History at UNC–CH has long been one of the school’s most distinguished programs. The program has a long tradition of excellence, with library resources and institutional support to match. With a faculty of more than twenty specialists, the program in American History is strong in virtually all periods. Our broad strength in social and cultural history is complemented by specialization in African American, Native American history, military and international history, constitutional history, economic and business history, and gender and women’s history.

The history of the U.S. South is a particular interest at UNC–CH, not only in terms of course offerings, but also because of special resources on or near campus, including the Southern Oral History Program, the Center for the Study of the American South, and the invaluable materials in the Southern Historical, Southern Folklife, and North Carolina Collections. The department is also a noted center of study in the history of African Americans. Not only are a significant number of faculty currently engaged in research on the topic, but also the Southern Oral History Program is engaged in on-going work in the area.

Undergraduate Program

The major concentration in U.S. History covers all aspects of history in North America. Courses in this concentration focus on the colonization of North America, the emergence of the United States in the eighteenth century and key developments and issues in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In addition, several courses examine the experiences of indigenous American peoples and African Americans and their complex relationships with people of European descent. Students have a wide choice of courses ranging from general surveys to more specialized courses such as “Native Americans in the East,” the “History of American Business,” and “Sexuality in America.”

Graduate Program

Traditionally we admit between five and ten students a year, and we are committed to seeing all of them get PhDs. Our students get ample teaching experience, and they often have the opportunity to assume full responsibility for a course before entering the job market (where our recent graduates have been quite successful). Graduate students in American History are expected to demonstrate competency in three chronological areas—colonial, nineteenth century, and modern America—as well as one topical/thematic area. Examples include African-American history, Native American history, women’s history, and American cultural history. Aside from the research seminars required of all PhD students, students focusing on the United States must take a two-semester sequence of seminars devoted to American historiography. We encourage cross-disciplinary approaches, and consequently our graduate students often exploit relevant course offerings in literature, art history, anthropology, and other academic departments.

Graduate students in US History also benefit from the proximity of North Carolina State and Duke Universities. Many UNC–Chapel Hill students work with U.S. History faculty and take courses at these schools, include faculty from Duke and NC State on their committees, and participate in gatherings of area scholars interested in American History.

For information on the U.S. History field graduate comprehensive exams, consult the Graduate Student Handbook.

For a current list of graduate students working in the Field of United States History, please go to the Graduate Students page and click “United States History” in the Interests/Concentrations tab.