Doctoral Program

The objective of the Doctor of Philosophy degree in History is primarily, though not exclusively, the training of academic scholars for college, university, and government service. Through a mixture of seminars, independent study, field examinations, language requirements, and a doctoral dissertation closely supervised by an advisor and faculty advisory committee, students develop the highest level of skills and command of information required for research scholarship and advanced teaching.

In order to develop teaching skills beyond the level of seminar presentations and oral examinations, Ph.D. students normally work as supervised teaching assistants and/or lecturers for at least one semester. Each fall, a TA training workshop is held prior to the beginning of the term, which is mandatory for all new teaching assistants and strongly encouraged for continuing TAs. In addition, workshops are held throughout each semester; these are led by talented instructors and provide a forum for exchanging ideas about classroom techniques and issues.

By the time a student completes a Ph.D., he or she will normally have submitted articles for publication, presented papers at scholarly meetings, written grant applications, and engaged actively in teaching.

The Ph.D. in history is awarded in four areas: Medieval Europe, Early Modern and Modern Europe, the United States, and Latin America. A dissertation topic must be chosen within one of these areas. Supporting work is offered in African, African Diaspora, Ancient, East Asian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern history and in the History of Science. The student’s program should ordinarily include work in other departments.

Advisory Committee

Upon admission to the program, the student is assigned a major advisor to chair an advisory committee. At least two associate advisors, chosen by the student, also serve on the committee. The student’s advisory committee should be formed in consultation with the major advisor in the second semester after entering the graduate program.

In consultation with this committee, the student plans a program that meets individual needs and satisfies the requirements of the Graduate School and the Department of History. The major advisor who counsels the student through the general examination process ordinarily, but not necessarily, becomes the dissertation advisor.

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study for the Ph.D. degree must be signed by all members of the Advisory Committee and submitted to the Graduate School (copy to the Graduate History Office) in the last semester of course work for the degree.   The Graduate School requires 15 credits of the mandatory research course GRAD 6950.  These credits can be fulfilled within two to three semesters of continuous registration with a full Teaching Assistantship.  The Plan of Study must indicate which courses have been taken and are to be taken in fulfillment of requirements, how the language requirement has been or will be fulfilled, and what the dissertation topic will be. Any changes–in courses submitted, language requirement plans–must be submitted to the Graduate School on a “Request for Changes in Plan of Graduate Study” form. All forms are available in the History Graduate Office or on the Graduate School website.

Residence Requirement

The doctoral student must complete a minimum of one year of full-time study in residence beyond the master’s degree, which consists of two consecutive semesters of a full-time graduate program at the Storrs campus. A graduate assistant, whose academic program normally proceeds at half the rate of the full-time student, ordinarily fulfills this residence requirement with two years of such service. (Note: This requirement does not mean the student must live on or near campus for their year of full-time study.)

Course Work

Doctoral students who enter with a BA must complete a minimum of 36 credits. These students can be set up with an extra degree track, which will allow them to receive the Master’s degree while in the PhD program.

Doctoral students who have received a MA from the History Department at the University of Connecticut must complete a minimum of 12 credits.

Doctoral students who enter the program holding a MA from another College or University are required to complete a minimum of 24 credits.

All doctoral students must include at least 15 credits of GRAD 6950 (Dissertation Research) in the Plan of Study.

History 5101 and History 5102 are required for all graduate students and should be taken as early as possible in the student’s career, preferably the first and second semesters.

First year doctoral students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.3, and receive at least a grade of B on the 5102 research paper, with all four courses completed no later than July 15 following the first year. If a student fails to meet these standards, the student will be transferred into the MA program. Students who had been funded in the doctoral program will be offered one year of terminal funding in which to complete the requirements for the MA degree, including the MA exam.

Although course work is necessary preparation for the general examinations, students are examined on the mastery of fields of knowledge rather than on courses. The number and choice of courses taken depend on such factors as the student’s background, choice of fields, the nature of related work, and language skills, and must be developed in consultation with the advisory committee.

Graduate courses offered by other UConn departments may be counted among the credits that students accumulate toward the Ph.D. degree (for a maximum of 6 credits). (Such course work is especially encouraged at the Ph.D. level.) Good reasons for this strategy include: to develop specialized research skills, to prepare for an interdisciplinary teaching or research job, or to obtain greater breadth of knowledge. The History department encourages each student, in consultation with the advisor, to include one or more courses in related disciplines in their Plan of Study. Within or beyond the 24 required credits, students may want to include a “skills field,” a pair of linked courses in fields such as: anthropological or archaeological studies, literary theory, archival management, public-opinion polling techniques, political or international-relations theory, women’s studies, ethnic studies, or statistics.

Most doctoral course work is taken at the 5000 level, although a maximum of six credits may be taken for credit at the 3000 level. Students may wish to audit lecture courses at the 2000 or 1000 level. Graduate students may not take more than a total of three 3000-level and 3000+ (that is, 300-level courses taken for 5000-level credit) courses. Independent reading courses (History 5199) are designed to fill gaps in field preparation and are not substitutes for formal courses; they should not be taken until twelve credits of course work have been taken. Arrangements for taking independent reading courses are made with the major advisor.


Time Limitation

All work must be completed within a period of eight (8) years of the beginning of the student’s matriculation in the Ph.D. program. Failure to complete the work within the periods specified or failure to maintain Continuous Registration (See “Continuous Registration.”) will require reevaluation of the student’s entire program and may result in a notice of termination.

A one-time extension of the student’s terminal date of no longer than two (2) years is considered only when there is substantial evidence that the student has made regular and consistent progress toward completion of degree requirements. A detailed recommendation to extend the terminal date must be signed by the major advisor and submitted in a timely manner to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Foreign Language Requirements

The foreign language requirement for the doctorate varies according to the student’s major area of interest, but normally one or two languages are required. The goal is to attain reading proficiency so that languages can be used as research tools.

At the very start of the doctoral student’s first semester, the student and his or her advisor should determine a schedule and plan for satisfying this requirement; the student is expected to demonstrate reading proficiency in at least one foreign language early in the Ph.D. work. The full requirement must be met before the last of the four field examinations has been taken.

Students may satisfy the foreign language requirement through several methods:

(1) Departmental examination: These examinations are typically given in the third week of each semester. Students intending to take a department examination must notify the Graduate Program Assistant by the end of the first week of classes. The examination consists of a written translation from the foreign language into English. A dictionary may be used. To pass the examination, the student must demonstrate that he or she can comprehend the language sufficiently to use it as a research tool. The examination in each language will be administered and evaluated by two faculty members. If the student fails an examination, the examination may be retaken, but only after the student has met with appropriate faculty to define a study program to achieve reading proficiency.

(2) Formal course work: With the approval of his or her advisory committee, the student may satisfy competence in a foreign language by satisfactorily completing certain language courses as specified in the graduate catalog.

(3) Examination by a University language department: a foreign language department at the University administers this examination. Students should consult with the Graduate Director about the availability of this option.

(4) Graduate School Foreign Language Tests: This examination is administered by the Bureau of Educational Research in the School of Education. There is a fee charged for each test. Students should consult with the Graduate Office about the availability of the option.

The specific language(s) in which each student is to establish competency are to be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor. The language requirements for each area of doctoral work are:

Medieval: 2 languages

Modern Continental Europe: 2 languages

United States and Modern Britain: 1 language, with additional competency if required by the student’s research area and faculty advisor

Latin America: 1 language, with additional competency if required by the student’s research area and faculty advisor.

The General Examinations

The Ph.D. general examinations are intended to assess the development of doctoral students into professional historians who are familiar with the knowledge, literature, interpretations, and theories of their fields, and who demonstrate the substantive knowledge and analytic skills necessary for teaching at the college level and for conducting original research and scholarly analysis. Three fields will be examined jointly in an oral examination. The fourth field consists of the dissertation prospectus.

Doctoral students in their final year of coursework are to fill out the Exam Declaration Form, specifying fields and the members of the examining committee, by April 1. This form must be signed by all members of the examining committee. The department Graduate Advisory Committee will review each form. Full-time students should complete the oral examination covering the first three fields no later than February 15 of the year following the completion of regular course work. (Part-time students should consult the Graduate Director concerning appropriate deadlines).

Fields of Study for the General Examination

The general examination consists of four fields, with the fourth being the successful completion of the dissertation prospectus. Though the department grants the doctorate in the four areas of Medieval Europe, Early Modern and Modern Europe, Latin America, and the United States, the student may not satisfy the requirements of all the fields by focusing on a single geographic area or time period. At least one field, usually the Topical Field, must be substantively comparative in its structure and composition, taking the student well beyond the bounds of the chosen Regional Field.

Three fields will be examined in a single two-hour examination. Each student, in cooperation with the student’s advisor, advisory committee, and examination committee members, will design a Regional Field, a Topical Field, and a Concentrated Field. Well in advance of the examination and in conjunction with the appropriate exam committee members, the student should define the specific fields and develop a reading list of 40-45 books or their equivalent for each one.

Regional Fields: (See faculty listing by regional field.)

United States
Medieval Europe
Early Modern Europe
Modern Europe
Latin America and Caribbean (colonial and national)

Topical Fields: (See faculty listing by topical field.)

Specific comparative topical fields will be defined by the student and committee, and will fall within the department’s broad designated areas of thematic focus:

Colonialism, Imperialism, and Migrations
Gender and Sexuality
Human Rights
Ideas, Ideologies, and Imagination
International Relations, Transnationalism, and Globalization
Law, Society, and Culture
Race, Ethnicity, and Identities
Space, Place, and Environment
State, Politics, and Political Culture

Concentrated Fields:

The Concentrated Field may be fulfilled in either of two ways, as the student and committee decide. The student may choose to define an additional topical field. Alternatively, the student may explore an area of focus within the chosen Regional Field for a longer time period or in greater depth. (As examples, a student might define a Concentrated Field as Mexico, 1519-present, British North America in the Atlantic World to 1820, or Japan in the Industrial World.)

Oral Exam Preparation, Procedures, and Assessment:

Students may not take the examination until all previous courses have been successfully completed, and all language requirements fulfilled. In recognition of the importance of students being in regular contact with their examiners while preparing for the exam, students should register for directed readings courses with committee members during any remaining semesters of exam preparation. This contact may include meetings, communication by e-mail, submission of written work, or other assignments as determined by the examiners. Students should take very seriously the comments and advice they receive from their examiners. One week prior to the scheduled exam, the student must submit the official Examination Schedule Form, which confirms the date, time, and place of the exam and must be signed by all members of the examining committee, who are thereby stating that the student is ready to attempt the examination.

The student must be examined by a minimum of five members of the graduate faculty, with two examiners per field (examiners may examine more than one field, as appropriate). The student’s advisor and advisory committee members must be members of the examination committee. Each field will be examined for approximately 30 minutes, with the remaining 30 minutes reserved for questions and discussion of broader scope.

The exam will be evaluated as a whole, and be designated as a pass with distinction, a pass, or a failure. If after the oral examination the student is judged by the committee to have failed in only one field, final judgment will be reserved, and the student must take an additional one-hour oral exam in that field by May 15 of the same academic year. If the student is judged to have failed the field a second time, or if the student fails more than one field initially, the student will not be continued in the program. If a student departing the program under these circumstances has not already earned the MA, it may be conferred as a terminal degree.

Dissertation Prospectus:

The Prospectus and Your Plan of Study

The History Department expects that doctoral students will prepare a dissertation prospectus during the year after they complete their coursework.  Students should plan on submitting the completed prospectus for approval to the three core dissertation committee members by the end of the spring semester.  If the dissertation committee requires extensive revisions, that deadline for approval may be extended to August 15th. The department’s Graduate Advisory Committee must also approve the prospectus before it can be formally submitted to the Graduate School.  Because the Graduate School considers the prospectus to be the fourth Ph.D. examination field, students will not advance to candidacy for the degree until the prospectus has been approved by the members of the core dissertation committee and the Graduate Advisory Committee.

Components of the Prospectus

The prospectus is a statement describing your plan for researching and writing a dissertation. It is also the foundation for any statement you might write for internal or external dissertation grant or fellowship applications.  You should aim for 8-10 pages of text, double-spaced, plus a bibliography.

Every prospectus should include the following:

1) A concise and informative working title.  Be sure your title conveys the basics to your reader: subject, time, and place.  Your title is likely to change as you research and write the dissertation. The one you use in your prospectus should clearly communicate your current vision of the proposed study and its focus.

2) The research problem and its significance.  This part of the prospectus should present the historical problem you aim to explore, the questions you expect to pose, and an explanation of the originality and value of this work to your subfield and to the field of history more generally.  If appropriate, you should also explain the potential value of your research to areas of scholarship beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries (e.g., Human Rights, Latin American Studies, the humanities).

3) The historiographical context.  This section should explain in broad terms how your proposed study relates to the secondary literature directly related to your project.  What have historians or other scholars already done in your research field?  Have any of them addressed the particular problem you wish to explore?  What are the general strengths and weaknesses of the most important studies relevant to the work you propose to undertake? This section should not take the form of an extensive literature review. Instead, it should situate your proposed study in a concise critical overview of the scholarship you currently see as most pertinent to your proposed research.  It should explain how you imagine your study will develop, rethink, or move beyond existing trends, approaches, or interpretations. You should explain, in other words, how you see your dissertation as an original contribution to the relevant scholarly literature.

4) Scholarly approach.  This section should outline your ideas of the methodological and theoretical frameworks that shape your vision of the dissertation.  Be specific about the sources and authors that have most helped to shape the components of your scholarly approach.  Although it may be the case that not every dissertation will engage in methodological or theoretical matters to the same degree, every prospectus must include a clear account of the research methods and conceptual foundation of the proposed study.

What are the core features of your approach to research and interpretation?

Method.  Are there particular research methods you plan to use, for example, quantitative methods, sampling a run of printed or archival materials, creating a database? Are there particular skills you will need to learn to complete your research? Students in medieval or early modern history, to take just one example, might need to study paleography to decipher the handwritten documents of their period.  Students doing comparative studies should indicate their level of reading competency in the relevant foreign languages.

Theory. Are there specific theoretical or conceptual orientations upon which you plan to draw?  For example, will your work be shaped by particular theoretical approaches to gender, class, or race? Will you be drawing upon or developing further existing conceptions of how individual or group identities form or operate? Will your study employ formal models of political or economic activity you have found in the scholarly literature? Is your idea for your dissertation built upon existing general ideas about state formation, frameworks for understanding nation-building or transnational migrations?  Does your work depend upon the insights of queer theory? Does your scholarly approach represent an innovation in your area of study?  These sample questions are designed to help you think rigorously about the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of your own scholarly approach.  You should devise and address comparable questions appropriate to your field of study.

5) Sources.  This part of your prospectus should present the primary sources you aim to use and a clear explanation of their pertinence as evidence for your study.  What types or collections of print and/or manuscript sources do you plan to employ? Will you be reading police records, newspapers, maps, diaries, collections of personal papers, fictional writing, prints, films, or other kinds of primary source material? In what libraries, archives, or repositories are these materials located? Are there particular archival series you can have identified that will be especially important to your research? Are you confident that you can gain access to them?   Be sure to explain how research in these particular sources will contribute to the production of an original study of your subject.  Have others used them before?  Will you be reading them from a new perspective? Do you anticipate any difficulties in finding or interpreting these sources?  If so, what is your preliminary plan for addressing the potential problems?

6) Schedule and chapter outline.  Present here a concrete schedule for conducting the research in the libraries, archives, and repositories that hold your sources. How much travel might your research entail?  When do you plan to undertake your research trips? How long do you expect to spend in each place?  What part of your research might you be able to do locally or through interlibrary loan? The second part of this section should present an outline of chapters as you envision them now, with a one or two-sentence description of each chapter’s subject.  You do not, at this point, need to know what each chapter will argue.

7) Bibliography.  This section should present a list of primary and secondary sources that is as substantial and as detailed as possible.  Your list of primary sources should demonstrate clearly your understanding of the print and manuscript sources essential to your study.  Provide as much information about archival materials you hope to use as is feasible at this point. For example, even if you have not yet had the opportunity to visit overseas or distant archives, you should still be able to find the names and identifying codes for the series of documents you hope to use.  The list of secondary sources should also be as comprehensive as is possible at this stage.  Students pursuing Ph.D.s in non-Anglophone areas of study are expected to demonstrate an awareness of the scholarship produced in their country or region of interest including relevant foreign language articles and monographs.  Unpublished English or foreign-language dissertations directly related to your subject may also merit a place on your bibliography.


A dissertation that makes a significant contribution to the candidate’s field of specialization is a primary requirement for the doctorate. When presented to the advisory committee, the dissertation must meet the highest standards of form as well as substance and demonstrate an ability to conduct and report independent scholarly investigation. Students are advised to consult the Graduate School’s website on requirements for dissertation format and submission.

Final Oral Examination

This final oral examination (dissertation defense) of approximately one to one-and-a half hours deals mainly with the dissertation. Students must present final copies of the dissertation to members of the advisory committee and two additional examiners no later than one week before the defense. All faculty members and graduate students are invited to attend the dissertation defense.