Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Graduate Program: Doctor of Philosophy
in History

The Ph.D. degree in history is offered with concentrations in Medieval History, Early Modern European History, Modern European History, American History, and Latin American History. The department also offers coursework in Middle Eastern History and Asian History.

During the first semester of full-time study, doctoral students choose a faculty advisor, who oversees the student's progress in preparing for comprehensive exams and in developing a dissertation topic.

The Ph.D. is a research degree and requires special commitment and skills. While the degree is not granted for routine adherence to certain regulations, or for the successful completion of a specified number of courses, there are certain basic requirements.

Course Requirements

Students in the Ph.D. program must complete a minimum of 39 credits (13 courses). Thirty-six credits must be completed before the oral comprehensive exam. All students in the Ph.D. program are required to pursue full-time study in the first year. Students must take at least one seminar in each of their first two years and at least three colloquia (the Introduction to Doctoral Studies, one in a major area, and one in a minor area) before the comprehensive exam.

Only history courses at the 300 level or above count towards the doctoral requirements. In the first year, students take three courses per semester; in the second, two courses per semester. In the third year, students take two courses in the fall, complete their comprehensive exam, and then take the Dissertation Seminar in the spring.  By the end of the third year, PhD students should have completed all 39 credits.  After the Dissertation Proposal is signed and filed, students officially enter into doctoral candidacy (informally known as All But Dissertation or ABD).

Top of Page

 

Plan of Study

At the start of each academic year, students meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to go over their plan of study, which is a schedule of courses that will prepare students for the comprehensive examination. For the comprehensive exam students must prepare three areas of concentration or fields, typically two major and one minor. In exceptional circumstances students may pick four areas of concentration, two major and two minor. For each area of concentration, students must identify a faculty member who will serve as an examiner.

In consultation with the examiner for each area students develop a reading list of important books and articles. Most faculty members require students to undertake formal coursework in preparation for the comprehensive exam. With the approval of the advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, students may offer for their minor field a discipline related to history or a historical topic that cuts across traditional geographical or chronological boundaries. If necessary to a student’s program, the department may require advanced-level study in a related discipline, either as a minor field or as supplemental work. This plan of study may be reviewed, evaluated and revised as necessary. However, changes must be approved by the faculty advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. 

Top of Page

 

Fields of Study

American History Modern European
U.S. to 1877 Europe, 1789-1914
U.S. Since 1860 Europe, 1870-1945
Intellectual and Cultural Contemporary Europe
Social, Economic, and Labor Intellectual and Cultural
Urban Social, Economic, and Labor
Race and Ethnicity Diplomatic
Religion Religious
Diplomatic Imperialism
Gender and Women Modern Britain
  Modern France
Latin American Modern Germany
Colonial Latin America Modern Ireland
Modern Latin America  
Central America/Caribbean Asia
  China
Medieval Japan
Social and Economic Middle East
Religious and Cultural India and South Asia
Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman East Asia
Early Medieval France and Flanders  
Byzantine Transnational
  International
Early Modern European Global
Religion Comparative
Intellectual and Cultural Religion
Social and Economic Atlantic World
Gender and Women  
Early Modern France  

Top of Page

Language Requirement

Ph.D. candidates, with the exception of medievalists, must pass exams in two languages before taking the oral comprehensive examination. Students concentrating in US History may substitute competency in a field of particular methodological or theoretical relevance to their program of study for competency in a second foreign language. To do so, students must petition the Graduate Committee and explain the nature of the field and its importance to the plan of study, particularly the dissertation. The student’s faculty advisor is responsible for certifying that the student has satisfactorily acquired the appropriate skills and knowledge. Medievalists must pass three language exams, one of which must be in Latin or Greek.

Top of Page

The Comprehensive Exam

An oral comprehensive examination for PhD students is conducted by an examining board composed of three faculty members, two from the student’s major area and one each from the minor area. (Students preparing four areas will be examined by four faculty members.) A written examination may be substituted for an oral exam at the discretion of the student and the examining board.

Students must take their oral comprehensive exam before the start of the spring semester in their third year of study. As preparation for the comprehensive exam, students select three areas for study and complete the necessary coursework for those areas. They must ask three different faculty members to serve as examiners and in consultation with the faculty prepare a reading list for each area. Students are advised to constitute their orals committee by the end of their second year so that they can prepare for orals during the summer before their third year. Each student is responsible for setting an exam date and time in consultation with the faculty examiners. After doing this, student should contact the Graduate Assistant who will reserve a room and prepare the necessary paperwork.  The exam itself will last two hours, and each professor will have a chance to ask a number of questions regarding their field.  

Top of Page

Dissertation Proposal

In the spring semester of the third year, students enroll in the dissertation seminar in which they draft a dissertation proposal. The proposal is an overview of the dissertation question, research agenda, methodology, likely source base, relevant historiography, and a timeline for research and writing. The proposal will be graded by the faculty member teaching the dissertation seminar. During this semester, students should also assemble a dissertation committee, which typically will consist of their academic advisor, who will serve as chairand at least two other faculty members. With the permission of their advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, students may select committee members from outside the department. The proposal must be approved by the student’s dissertation committee. The proposal and the signed proposal approval form must be submitted to the Graduate Assistant who will add it to the student’s file.

Top of Page

The Dissertation

Upon admission to doctoral candidacy, students research and write their dissertation, which is an original contribution to knowledge based on extensive primary and secondary research. The completed dissertation must be approved by a committee of three readers - the faculty advisor and two other faculty members - and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. It must also be defended at a public oral defense.

Top of Page