Partner Department: History

Program Length: 6 semesters

Boston University offers students the opportunity to combine the study of law with coursework in history. The dual degree program facilitates inquiry at the two fields’ intersection in legal history.

Successful candidates receive both the Juris Doctor (JD) degree and a Master of Arts (MA) degree. The dual degree program ordinarily can be completed in six semesters, rather than the eight semesters required to obtain each degree independently, because some courses can be credited toward both degrees.

The dual degree can significantly benefit a student, regardless of his or her career path. For students who intend to practice law, the program provides a broader array of coursework that enhances their analytical and writing skills, which are essential to legal practice. Similarly, the program can benefit students who pursue academic careers in law and/or history (particularly legal history). Possession of both degrees can improve students’ chances of securing academic appointments in law schools and, for those who pursue the PhD in history, in history departments.

Program Requirements

Required Law School Courses (4)

At least 2 School of Law classes in legal history during their second and/or third years of law school.

Required Department of History Courses (6)

Students are required to take:

  1. HI800 (European Historiography)
  2. HI850 (American Historiography)
  3. HI870 (African Historiography)
  4. HI801 (The Historian’s Craft)

Additional Requirements

To complete the eight courses required for the MA in History, students must take two additional courses chosen with the advisor’s approval from graduate courses in history, LAW courses in legal history, or other graduate courses approved by the student’s advisor. If the two additional courses are approved LAW courses, the student receives credit for those courses both at GRS and at the School of Law.

Major Research Paper Requirement

The core requirement of the joint JD/MA in History program is the major research paper. Students must write a research paper that is a work of original scholarship and research and that substantially engages both legal and historical subjects, methods, texts, and/or analysis. This paper must:

  1. satisfy the School of Law’s Upperclass Writing Requirement;
  2. be jointly supervised by a faculty member in the School of Law and in the Department of History;
  3. be approved, in its final form, by a faculty member in the School of Law and in the Department of History (the research paper supervisor may also approve the paper on behalf of his or her school or department).

The research paper project begins with a detailed proposal for study, submitted to a member of the Joint Advisory Board. Students are strongly encouraged to submit proposals before the final year of law study, or, at the latest, by the beginning of that year. No proposal may be submitted after the end of the second week of the student’s final semester. Ordinarily, the joint major research paper will be a minimum of 30 pages (excluding notes).

A student who writes the research paper in the context of a course or directed study in the Department of History may not also receive law school course credit for the paper. Similarly, a student who submits the paper in partial or full satisfaction of a law school course or independent study may not also receive GRS course credit for the paper.

Admissions Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted separately to the School of Law and to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GRS). For School of Law application procedures, please consult the School of Law web site.   For the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, please consult the Department of History web site for information on applying to GRS.

To be admitted to the dual JD/MA program in History, students should have a substantial background in history (e.g., undergraduate major or minor).

Students ordinarily apply to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences before or during their first year of law school to begin the MA program in their second year of law school.  Students may apply to the two programs simultaneously or sequentially.  A JD student must apply to GRS no later than his or her third semester in law school.

For MA admissions provide the following:

  • Graduate School application for the JD/MA in History
  • Official LSAT or GRE scores (the Graduate School will coordinate submission of scores from the School of Law; the applicant need take no action for this to occur)
  • Scholarly writing sample.
  • Three letters of recommendation.  If applying to the MA in History after beginning law school, at least one new letter of recommendation should be submitted which addresses the student’s scholarly skills and achievement in history (for the remaining two letters, the student may use copies of law school recommendations and should contact the Graduate School to have their recommendations forwarded from the School of Law).
  • Personal statement.  It is in the student’s best interest to explain in the personal statement or in a separate statement their reasons for pursuing a dual degree (If applying during your first year in law school, you should provide a new statement indicating specific interest in the dual program and in history).
  • Unofficial transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools attended.

Contact Information

Gerry Muir, Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Boston University School of Law

Gerry Leonard, Professor
Boston University School of Law

Kristin Collins, Professor
Boston University School of Law

Department of History