Thursday, August 07, 2008

Question from Olivia - Teaching or studying Tudor history

I've been interested in the tudors since 6th grade, and now i've become extreamly interested in it to a point i want to teach it/ become a historian on the subject. any advice? thank you


Anonymous said...

This question has come up a lot, so much so that I am planning to add a page about it to my own website. For now, it would help to know what country you are in (US, UK, Canada, other?) and what stage you are at in your education.

Without knowing the answers to those questions, I will say that it is relatively easy to become a teacher of history in US secondary schools (high schools). You need a BA in History with teachers' certification. But you would have to teach general history, probably European or Western Civilization. US secondary schools do not usually offer specialized courses focusing on one small region or timeframe. Tudor English history would take up only a few days per semester or year of teaching.

Universities DO often offer courses focused specifically on Tudor or Tudor-Stuart English history, but I'm afraid job opportunities in that field are few in number and shrinking. Tudor history (and English/British history more generally) are not popular among academics these days. To give you some idea just how unpopular, I can tell you that there have been fewer than a half dozen job openings in Tudor or Tudor-Stuart history in the US over the past 3 years. And each of those openings had 100 or more applicants, literally. The job almost always goes to a graduate of a Top Ten or Ivy League school's PhD program (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, University of California at Berkeley, Univ of Wisconsin at Madison, etc). Those PhD programs are VERY difficult to get accepted to, with only a handful of applicants accepted per year. You need perfect grades (3.95 GPA or higher), outstanding letters of recommendation from well-known undergraduate professors at a well-known university (preferably also an Ivy League or Top Ten), lots of honors on your transcript (awards, honor society memberships, etc), and lots of extra-curricular activities on your record. I do not mean to be discouraging, but the field is extremely competitive, and only a handful reach their goal. It CAN be done, but it takes real commitment and a big dose of talent.

I'm happy to answer any specific questions you may have. Lara has my email address and can pass it along to you.

Anonymous said...

phd historian: you have a website? i would love to see it!

Anonymous said...

Cheers to you Olivia! I want to pursue the same career track! good luck in all of your endeavors

Lara said...

His site is at

Such a clever name!

kb said...

phd historian knows the US market better than I do. there are more openings for early-modern historians at the university level in the UK - but again despite the popularity of the period academics don't necessarily see Tudor/Stuart studies as a 'growth' area.

That said, there are MANY ways to be a teacher of something you love. Don't restrict yourself to absolutely having to become a phd and land a university job. You could write, consult, speak, or even do further independent research.

The most important thing is to keep learning about what you love and keep talking and writing about it. If you do that, your path will eventually be clear.

Tudor Stuart historians are generally called early-modernists. This is the label applied to the period after the middle ages and before the age of industrialization a.k.a. the modern era.

There are lots of areas ripe for research, several of which have been highlighted by questions on this wonderful site Lara provides for us.

A colleague of mine is a foodie. He just loves food. And he got it into his head that British cuisine had a bad reputation for no reason. He completed his phd last year in early-modern food. He studied the food of the 16th century Willoughby family. At the same time he was a UNIX computer administrator. He now is invited to lecture for all sorts of groups about the history of British food.

Another colleague was curious about how we decide what is manly. She studied images, songs and literature about perceptions of masculinity - what makes us think of men as masculine or not. She concentrated on the 17th century. She's now working on a research project with 3 other historians on perceptions of masculinity across 4 centuries.

I work on Elizabeth's non-royal cousins. We are all early-moderninsts. When early modern starts and stops is flexible. Some people say 1500-the French revolution. Or 1450-1750. Or 1520-1810ish. But whatever the definition the Tudors are always included.

Please ask more questions. Most of us really like 'talking' about this stuff.

Anonymous said...

KB provided a very nice supplement to my answer. And she is very correct: Jobs at the university level are far more numerous in the UK than in the US. Unfortunately, access to those jobs is limited for graduates of US programs because of UK immigration restrictions. Believe me, I've tried for many, many years! Came close once (at Hampton Court), but the offer was eventually withdrawn specifically because we could not get around the visa issues.

KB makes a good point when she points out that university-based teaching is not all there is. Writing is one path, as is work based in museums or other historical groups. I am itching to work with or for a local historical society or county archive in the UK.

I have to wonder, KB, if your colleague might be working with Alexandra Sheppard? She is "big" in masculinity studies these days. I did a little work in that area, but eventually decided to pursue it in a totally different time and place ... I now study (albeit very part-time) constructions of masculinity among homosexual men in the US in the pre-Stonewall era. Totally unconnected to Tudor history, I know, but it provides a nice diversion when I need one.

kb said...

phd historian -

She's worked more with Liz Foyster. And in the past has worked informally with Alex. They've read each other's worked and provided feedback. My friend, Jennifer Jordan, has been at Exeter, UK this past year on a funded research project.

RE: UK Visa issues. There's a new scheme if you are a graduate of a UK program that makes it very slightly easier for foreigners to take a university post in the UK. Details are on the British Consul site

Olivia - Now that phd historian and I have charted out your future ;) please let us know which country you are in?

Olivia said...

wow i completely forgot i posted this!!!! it was a whole year ago i can't beleive it! wow i'm sorry i forgot about this post, its probably too late and you all forgot too, but i live in the US :) thanks for everything guys