The History of History Degrees

The history of history degrees is a severely underdeveloped area of study. I’m not aware of anyone exploring this area of history with any serious dedication. After failing to find a clear answer to the question “When was the first BA in History awarded?”, I turned to Google Ngram Viewer (GNV) to see what it would pull up. Below are the results I got for BA, MA, and PhD in History. The results for the first run were obtained on 22 Dec. 2020.

I found out that Oxford’s first Professor of History was Degory Wheare in 1622.[6] This gave me the idea to conduct another round of Ngram Viewer searches but this time searching for the terms Bachelor of History, Master of History, and Professor of History. The results for the second run were obtained on 12 Jan. 2021.

“Initially, only advanced degrees (Master’s, Doctoral) were awarded, but Baccalaureate degrees followed in the second half of the ninteenth century.”
Dr. J. Stephan Edwards (2012)[6]

Concise Results

The concise results give the year or century in which the term was first introduced according to the GNV results.

BA in History: 20th century

MA in History: 1898

PhD in History: 20th century

Bachelor of History: 20th century

Master of History: Possibly 19th or 20th century

Professor of History: 17th century

Google Ngram Viewer (First Run)

BA in History

The earliest mention of “BA in History” according to Google Ngram Viewer dates to 1901. Then around the 1950 mark the amount of mentions skyrocketed.[1]

MA in History

The earliest mention of “MA in History” according to Google Ngram Viewer dates to 1609 but in reality that publication dates to 1909.[2], [3] The next earliest mention after the false 1609 dating is from 1898. From there the mentions become more and more frequent.[2]

PhD in History

The earliest mention of “PhD in History” according to Google Ngram Viewer dates to 1902. The example was published in 1906 but it contained a report from Roger Bigelow Merriman who claimed to have obtained his PhD in History in 1902.[5, p.82] Then, just as with the BA and MA, the mentions became increasingly more frequent.[4]

Google Ngram Viewer (Second Run)

Bachelor of History

This search originally said there was only one result. With the case-insensitive on, Bachelor of History had some results but with it off there were no results. All the results dated to the 20th century.[9]

Master of History

Although the Viewer shows activity in the 17th century, the earliest book mentions are from the 18th century. Also none of these appeared to me to be “Master of History” in the sense of “MA in History”, rather just someone who was a master of history (someone extremely familiar with History).[8]

Professor of History

The earliest certain mentions in these results are from a single late 17th century work. The earlier results were misdated books that in reality belong to later centuries.[7, pp.753, 811, 898]

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References:

[1] – Google Ngram Viewer “BA in History”. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=BA+in+History&year_start=1500&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=0&case_insensitive=true. Accessed 22 Dec. 2020.

[2] – Google Ngram Viewer “MA in History”. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=MA+in+History&year_start=1500&year_end=2019&case_insensitive=on&corpus=26&smoothing=0&direct_url=t4%3B%2CMA%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3BMA%20in%20history%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BMA%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bma%20in%20history%3B%2Cc0#t4%3B%2CMA%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3BMA%20in%20history%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BMA%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bma%20in%20history%3B%2Cc0. Accessed 22 Dec. 2020.

[3] – https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Theosophist.html?id=JEEcAQAAIAAJ. Accessed 22 Dec. 2020.

[4] – Google Ngram Viewer “PhD in History”. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=PhD+in+History&year_start=1500&year_end=2019&case_insensitive=on&corpus=26&smoothing=0&direct_url=t4%3B%2CPhD%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3BPhD%20in%20history%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BPhD%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0#t4%3B%2CPhD%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3BPhD%20in%20history%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BPhD%20in%20History%3B%2Cc0. Accessed 22 Dec. 2020.

[5] – Harvard College. “Secretary’s Report: no III” (1906). https://www.google.com/books/edition/Secretary_s_Report/ZycoAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22phd+in+history%22&pg=PA82&printsec=frontcover. Accessed 22 Dec. 2020.

[6] – John Stephan Edwards, What is a ‘Historian’? (17 Aug. 2012). https://somegreymatter.com/historian.htm?fbclid=IwAR3ib-watDHDRAOARp00agWanAOYA48-2R9imauJvLCKigRbj14RFDHRAEk. Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.

[7] – Anthonya Wood. “Athenae Oxonienses. An Exact History of All the Writers and Bishops, who Have Had Their Education in the … University of Oxford from the Year 1500 to the End of the Year 1690. (etc.)” (1691). https://www.google.com/books/edition/Athenae_Oxonienses_An_Exact_History_of_A/CxlPAAAAcAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22professor+of+history%22&pg=RA1-PA753&printsec=frontcover. Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.

[8] – Google Ngram Viewer “Master of History”. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=master+of+history&year_start=1500&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=0&case_insensitive=true. Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.

[9] – Google Ngram Viewer “Bachelor of History”. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=bachelor+of+history&year_start=1500&year_end=2019&corpus=26&smoothing=0&case_insensitive=true. Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.

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