History (Ph.D.)


The Ph.D. is intended to prepare students for professional careers in historical research.  In this department, all Ph.D. students specialize in U.S. history / colonial America.  Students with a particularly strong secondary field outside of U.S. history may write dissertations that involve comparative studies of U.S. history / colonial America.

Before writing any dissertation, Ph.D. students must demonstrate competence in reading a foreign language, then pass a set of written and oral comprehensive examinations.

Degree Requirements

A doctoral student's program, which must be approved by the graduate committee of the department,  shall include each of the following requirements: two research seminars HIST 981 Doctoral Research Seminar in American History (taken twice), in which students will write a research paper in early U.S. History and a research paper in modern U.S. History; two reading seminars, HIST 939 Readings in Early American History and HIST 940 Readings in Modern American History; a course in historical methods; correction of any deficiencies in the student's previous program; proficiency in one foreign language; HIST 970 Graduate Seminar in Teaching History(applies to all doctoral candidates awarded teaching assistantships); HIST 971 Professionalization for Historians; preparation through reading and coursework in the entirety of U.S. history, with emphasis upon either early or modern U.S.; preparation through reading and coursework of two subfields outside of U.S. history, one of which may be a cognate field outside of history entirely; qualifying exams; dissertation proposal; and dissertation and successful defense.  

Candidacy is reached after successful completion of the following:

  1. required coursework listed above and courses to prepare fields or correct any deficiencies in the student's previous preparation;
  2. demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language;
  3. pass written and oral qualifying exams.

Note: In the definition of fields above, United States and U.S. are understood to mean the United States and its colonial antecedents.

Please consult the History Department's Graduate Student Handbook for additional details.

Apprenticeship and Degree Regulations

The department considers that graduate work in history, and particularly doctoral work, is professional training. The department recognizes the dual concerns of the historian's life: teaching and research. When feasible, all doctoral students are expected to undertake teaching in the department during a part of their residence. Participation in proseminar and in teaching constitutes an apprenticeship in conjunction with formal study. Doctoral students may choose to pursue the Cognate in College Teaching offered through the Graduate School. All graduate students are reviewed annually by the faculty of the department. A student accumulating two course failures is automatically barred from continuing in any degree program in history, but the department reserves the right to exclude others whose overall performance does not give reasonable assurance of a successful program completion. Students are allowed no more than three attempts to meet any language requirement.

  • Students will be able to demonstrate broad knowledge of historical events and periods and their significance
  • Students will be able to explain and critique the historical schools of thought that have shaped scholarly understanding of their fields of study
  • Students will be able to deploy skills of critical analysis: 1) Formulating persuasive arguments; 2) Evaluating evidence and critiquing claims in the literature; 3) Interpreting a variety of primary sources.
  • Students will be able to design and conduct major research projects, deploying these essential skills: )1 Reviewing the state of the field to identify a new topic and locate their work within larger scholarly conversations; 2) Identifying and accessing a sufficient base of primary sources; 3) Producing a high-quality research paper, well-written and meeting professional standards, suitable as the basis for conference presentation or academic publication; 4) Designing and writing a dissertation based on extensive research that makes an original contribution to knowledge
  • The skills listed above can lead to positions outside academia, such as in museums, archives, and government service. They also apply to students who seek faculty positions. For the latter group, students will additionally develop teaching skills, such as course design, classroom management, lecturing, leading discussions, and crafting assignments and evaluation methods
  • Students will be able to engage in professional dissemination of their work by presenting their research at conferences or submitting manuscripts to academic journals.