PhD in History

stack of dissertations

It is in the doctoral program that our students truly become historians in their own right. Through deep reading, thoughtful conversation, and original research, we guide our students into the historical profession. 

The Department of History offers the PhD in fields that align with our four areas of research focus: Early Modern Societies, Race, Empire, and Nation, The Twentieth Century World, and Medicine, Disability and Science

Funding

With rare exceptions, the Department offers a minimum 4 years of support to all full-time PhD students, usually through Teaching Assistantships, plus a full tuition scholarship.

Teaching Assistants are required to teach, usually as assistants to History Department Professors in American History Surveys or in History General Education courses. Teaching assistants typically attend lectures and lead two recitation sections per semester.

Typical PhD Funding Package

Typical PhD Funding Packages include a full tuition scholarship and stipend, along with health insurance coverage. For current stipend amounts, please contact Amie Schirching, Graduate Staff Assistant.

Dissertation Fellowships: Advanced PhD students are eligible for an additional year of support approximately the equivalent of the T.A. Stipend without teaching obligations to conduct dissertation research outside the Western New York region. This funding represents a possible 5th year of support for students who make satisfactory progress in the program.

PhD students often have the opportunity to teach their own undergraduate courses as the instructor of record. In this way, our very best students frequently receive 6 or possibly 7 years of total support.

Please contact us for more information about department-specific grants and fellowships. The Graduate school also maintains a list of scholarships and grants for additional funding opportunities such as the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program for diversity or the UB Presidential Fellowship for outstanding incoming graduate students.

Program Requirements

Coursework

Historical Inquiry (History 501) is required of all PhD students and must be taken during the fall semester of the first year of doctoral study. The course offers an introduction to the theory and philosophy of history and is intended to acquaint students with various problems in historical analysis and understanding.

Core Courses: All doctoral students must take at least two of the following core seminars:

  • History 502 and 503 (United States History I and II)
  • History 504 and 505 (European History I and II)
  • History 507 (East Asian History)
  • History 559 (Colonial Latin America)
  • History 560 ( Caribbean History)

Research Seminars: Students must take at least two 600-level research seminars.

Distribution requirement: All PhD students must take at least one course outside of the student’s major field that covers an area outside the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Language Requirement

All doctoral students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of at least one language other than English. In some fields, two languages are required. Students are expected to take their major language exams before their third semester. All language examinations must be passed before a student can take his or her Qualifying Examinations.

Qualifying Examinations

Before being admitted to candidacy, all doctoral students must successfully complete a series of written examinations in three fields: a major field, a field of specialization within the major field, and a minor field. These examinations are usually taken during the third year of study.

  • The major field is the broadest level at which a student will carry out research and teach. 
  • The field of specialization reflects the prospective area of dissertation research; it is, as the title suggests, more focused and specialized than the major field. 
  • The minor field is meant to complement the major field, typically by adding theoretical or methodological competencies, or by supplementing the major field with knowledge of another geographical area or discipline. It may be selected from among the major fields the department offers (for instance, a student whose major field is Early Modern Europe might prepare a minor field in Modern Europe or the Atlantic World); from another department (for instance, English Literature or Art History); or from among the methodological specializations available in the department such as world history, the history of medicine, women’s history, or urban history. The minor field should not substantially overlap with the major field or be an additional area of specialization within it. 

Following the written portion of these examinations, students must pass an oral examination, where the student with elaborate on their written responses and answer additional questions from their examination committee. 

Students’ examination fields are to be approved in advance by their major advisers and by the Director of Graduate Studies, typically by the end of the student’s third semester in the program.

Dissertation Prospectus

All doctoral students who satisfactorily complete their examinations must prepare and defend a dissertation prospectus that describes their proposed project, including a detailed research plan. The prospectus must also place the project within an historiographical framework. 

Dissertation

The culmination of the PhD is the preparation and defense of the dissertation, a substantial work of original research. Students typically spend several years performing primary research and writing their original contribution to the field of history. The completed dissertation must be read and approved by the student’s committee and successfully defended. The dissertation defense consists of an oral examination conducted by the student’s dissertation committee.

For specific information regarding academic planning, doctoral students should consult the PhD Handbook and their advisors. 

Applying to the PhD in History