Boston College's History Department attracts talented graduate students from around the nation and around the world. We offer M.A. and Ph.D. degrees with training in a number of regional and thematic specialties. For the master’s degree in teaching (M.A.T.) program administered by the Lynch School of Education see M.A. Programs on the next page.
Doctor of Philosophy in History
The Ph.D. degree is offered with concentrations in United States, medieval, early modern European, modern European (including British/Irish/British Empire), and Asian history. The department also offers course work in African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American history, as well as a number of global and comparative fields, including imperial history, the history of the Atlantic world, religious history, and international 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 and Residency Requirements: Students entering directly into the Ph.D. program are required to complete 39 credits, 36 of which are taken prior to comprehensive exams. All students in the Ph.D. program are required to pursue two semesters of full-time study during the first year and must, in the course of their studies, complete at least two seminars and at least two colloquia (one in the major and one in a minor area).
Plan of Study: By the conclusion of the first semester, and after full consultation with their professors and the Director of Graduate Studies, students file a plan of study leading to the comprehensive examination. This plan of study consists of three areas of concentration. Usually faculty require that students take at least some formal coursework in each field and expect students to develop and master a reading list of important books and articles. With the approval of the advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies students may select a discipline related to History or a topic within that cuts across traditional geographical or chronological boundaries. When considered necessary to a student’s program, the department may require advanced-level work in a related discipline, either as a minor field or as supplemental work. This plan of study may be reviewed, evaluated and revised whenever necessary. However, changes must be approved by the faculty advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
Language Requirement: Ph.D. candidates, with the exception of medievalists, must pass two language exams. Students concentrating in United States 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 for the substitution and explain the nature of the field and its importance to the plan of study, particularly the dissertation. The student’s faculty advisor certifies that the student has acquired the appropriate skills and knowledge. Medievalists must pass three language exams, one of which must be Latin or Greek.
The Comprehensive Exam: The student’s oral comprehensive examination will be conducted by an examining board composed of three faculty members. A written examination may be substituted for an oral exam at the joint discretion of the student and the student’s committee.
The Dissertation: Students must have a dissertation topic before taking and passing comprehensive exams. The last six credits earned for the degree, taken after the comprehensive exams, will be focused explicitly on the dissertation. These should include the Dissertation Seminar. Dissertation proposals, written in the Dissertation Seminar, must be approved by the student’s dissertation committee, consisting of three faculty, one of them designated as advisor. Proposals must be completed by the end of the semester following the passing of comprehensive exams and filed with the department. 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.
Master of Arts Programs
The M.A. degree in History is offered with concentrations in early modern European, Latin American, medieval, modern European (encompassing British, Irish, and continental European), international and global history, and United States history. The department also offers coursework in African, Middle Eastern, and Asian history. The Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program for secondary school History teachers is administered by the Lynch School of Education. It requires admission to both the Lynch School of Education and to the Department of History. For further information on the M.A.T., please refer to the LSOE section on Master’s Programs in Secondary Teaching or call the Lynch School of Education, Graduate Admissions Office, at (617) 552-4214.
Requirements: The M.A. degree in History requires 30 graduate credits, a distribution requirement for each particular program, and an oral comprehensive examination. Students are not allowed to complete the M.A. program by attending only summer sessions, but are required to take a total of at least four courses (12 credits) during the regular academic year.
Plan of Study: All candidates for the M.A. in History are encouraged to pursue an individual course of study developed in conjunction with their faculty advisor and selected by the student during the first year in the program. In making their selection of courses and seminars, students are urged to widen their chronological and cultural horizons while deepening and specifying one special area of concentration.
Students must choose a major and minor field. As many as seven courses (21 credits) can be taken in the major field. Major fields for the M.A. include early modern European, Latin American, medieval, modern European (encompassing British, Irish, and continental European), and United States history.
The minor field is made up of a minimum of three courses (nine credits), at least one of which must be a graduate level course. Minor fields can be chosen from the same list of major fields or can be more conceptual or historiographical. Such fields, for example, could include a field in economic, social, or labor history; or could concern race or gender. We now offer a minor field in archival management or cultural heritage/public history, in cooperation with the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science (see our website for further information). Minor fields must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.
Students whose prior academic preparation warrants an exception to the above requirements may, with the consent of their faculty advisor, request permission to substitute a different proportion or variety of courses and areas than those generally required. The opportunity for study in a major or minor area is open to the extent that the department offers sufficient courses in the student’s area of interest.
Students may study in departments outside History, and, with the permission of the Graduate Committee, a candidate whose advisor so recommends may earn as many as six credits in Classics, Economics, English, Political Science, Sociology, or other related disciplines. Graduate credits earned in a related discipline will be included in the distribution requirements for the appropriate area.
In addition to the general requirements for the M.A. degree, students in the History program are required to complete a seminar in their major area.
Language Requirement: Master’s candidates must pass a foreign language reading examination, ordinarily in French, German, or Spanish. Another foreign language, when relevant to the research of the student, may be substituted with permission of the Graduate Committee.
Exam and Thesis: Students must take an oral comprehensive examination administered by the student’s advisor and one additional faculty member from the minor area. Students planning to pursue a career in teaching may choose an alternative, teaching-focused comprehensive exam. This would require the student to present and defend a portfolio before their faculty advisor and a professor from the minor field. The portfolio would include, but not be limited to, a substantial research paper in the major field; two original syllabi designed for courses, one in the major and one in the minor field; and historiographical essays on both the major and minor fields.
Students may complete the Master’s degree with or without a thesis. Those wishing to write a thesis should complete all of the other requirements for the degree and then request permission. The thesis counts for six credits and must be approved by the candidate’s faculty advisor.
Applications to the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs
The deadline for applications to the Ph.D. programs in history is January 2 and the deadline for applications to the M.A. program is February 1. Ph.D. and M.A. applicants must submit GRE general scores (the GRE in History is not required), official undergraduate and graduate transcripts, at least three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose emphasizing intellectual interests, a writing sample (a paper written for a recent course or one written expressly for the application), and all the application forms.
The History Department has a highly competitive Ph.D. program, but one which guarantees five years of funding to all incoming Ph.D. students contingent upon satisfactory academic performance and progress towards the degree, as well as satisfactory performance in teaching as evaluated by the faculty of the Department of History.
Students interested in the Doctoral or Master’s programs should write to:
Director of Graduate Studies
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467