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 studies, 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. Students are encouraged to present papers at scholarly conferences, apply for fellowships and grants, submit articles for publication, and engage actively in teaching.

To help develop teaching skills, Ph.D. students normally work as supervised teaching assistants and later on as instructors of their own courses.  Each fall, a TA training workshop is held prior to the beginning of the term, which is mandatory for all new teaching assistants. In addition, workshops are held throughout each semester; these provide a forum for exchanging ideas about classroom techniques and issues.

Degrees are offered in Early American, Modern US, US & the World, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and medieval, early modern, and modern Europe.  Upon admission to the program, the student is assigned a major advisor, who typically advises the student from the beginning of coursework through completion of the dissertation.

Course Work

Students entering the Ph.D. program with a BA must fulfill 36 credits of coursework followed by 15 credits of research, usually GRAD 6950 (Dissertation Research) but alternatively GRAD 6960. To earn a master’s degree “along the way” students in the Ph.D. program need to have completed 30 credits of coursework, pass the masters exam, and have an approved PhD Plan of Study.  Students usually take the master’s exam in the spring semester in the second year, but will still need to complete 30 credits of coursework before the master’s degree can be awarded. Students should be in touch with the History Department’s Graduate Program Assistant to make sure they are submitting appropriate paperwork to have this degree conferred.

Students entering the Ph.D. program with a non-UConn MA must fulfill 24 credits of course work followed by 15 credits of GRAD 6950 or GRAD 6960. Students entering with a UConn MA must fulfill 15 credits of course work, followed by 15 credits of GRAD 6950 or GRAD 6960. See listing of recently taught Graduate courses for reference.

All students are required to take HIST 5101 and 5102, usually in the spring and fall semesters of their first year, and to be eligible to teach their own courses, HIST 5103, usually in their last semester of coursework.

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.

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). 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. Independent reading courses (HIST 5199) are designed to fill gaps in field preparation and are not substitutes for formal courses. Students arrange an independent study in consultation with the instructor and their major advisor. Graduate students may count up to 6 credits of graduate-level UConn History courses taken as a non-degree student towards the Ph.D.

Many students opt to complete an interdisciplinary graduate certificate.

Language Requirements

Reading proficiency in languages other than English equips doctoral students for their scholarly lives in multiple ways. For students preparing to conduct research in non-U.S. fields or in U.S. or British fields where second-language competency is relevant, strong language skills are essential for research in original sources. In all fields, including those where English may be the primary research language, reading proficiency in at least one additional language equips doctoral students with the skills to address a broader range of secondary literature relevant to their main fields of study, to respond to international calls for papers or conference announcements, and, more generally, to participate in the increasingly global communities of historical scholarship.

Medieval: 2 languages in addition to English

Modern Continental Europe: 2 languages in addition to English

All other fields [Modern Britain, US, Latin America, Asia, etc.]: 1 language in addition to English, with additional competency if required by the student’s research area and faculty advisor

At the start of the first semester, students and their advisors should determine a schedule and plan for satisfying this requirement. All language requirements must be met before the student’s general examination.

Students may satisfy the language requirement by (1) departmental examination or providing documentation showing (2) the student is a native speaker of a language other than English, (3) the student fulfilled a language requirement for a graduate degree at another university, or (4) the student completed a BA or MA degree majoring in a non-English language field. (5) In rare and unusual circumstances, students who believe that they are able to demonstrate reading proficiency through some other method should petition the Graduate Affairs Committee, providing supporting documentation to the Graduate Director. The faculty examiner for the departmental examination (option #1) may not be a member of the student’s advisory committee.

Students should discuss their particular situation with the History Department’s Graduate Program Assistant, who will help set up a departmental exam with the appropriate faculty member (#1), submit the documentation to the graduate director for final approval (#2-4), or forward a petition and documentation to the Graduate Affairs Committee (#5).

Plan of Study

In the last semester of coursework, the Plan of Study for the Ph.D. degree must be signed by all members of the student’s Advisory Committee and submitted to the History Department’s Graduate Program Assistant, who will forward it to the Graduate School. The Plan of Study must indicate which courses have been taken and are to be taken in fulfillment of requirements and how the language requirement has been or will be fulfilled. Any changes–in courses,  language requirement plans, or in the composition of the advisory committee–must be submitted to the Graduate School on a “Request for Changes in Plan of Graduate Study” form. All forms are available on the Graduate School website.

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. Students  should take the oral examination covering the first three fields within 3-6 months after completing coursework.

Fields of Study for the General Examination:

Three fields will be examined in a single two-hour examination. Each student, in cooperation with the student’s advisor, and examination committee members, will design a Regional Field, a Topical Field, and a Concentrated Field. 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. 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 field. The student will be examined by a minimum of five members of the graduate faculty, with two examiners per field (examiners may cover more than one field, as appropriate). Each field will be examined for approximately 30 minutes, with the remaining 30 minutes reserved for questions and discussion of broader scope.

Examples of Regional Fields:

United States (early American and modern US)
Medieval Europe
Early Modern Europe
Modern Europe
Latin America and Caribbean (colonial and national)

Examples of Topical Fields:

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

Examples of 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 a second topical field or the student may explore an area of focus within the chosen Regional Field for a longer time period or in greater depth, such 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. While preparing for the oral exam, students should meet regularly with their examiners and in their last semester of coursework register for a directed readings course with their advisor or another member of the examination committee.  Students should take very seriously the comments and advice they receive from their examiners. Students should set a date with their examiners at least one month before they take the exam and notify the History Department Graduate Program Assistant.

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 in 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 Plan of Study

Within three months after the oral examination, students should submit their dissertation prospectus for approval to the three core dissertation committee members (the student’s “advisory committee”). Students usually revise the prospectus several times before it meets with their committee’s approval. Once the student’s advisory committee approves the prospectus, the department’s Graduate Affairs Committee reviews it and may require further revision before final approval. The department’s Graduate Program Assistant will then formally submit the prospectus to the Graduate School.

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 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.

All work must be completed within a period of eight years from the beginning of the student’s matriculation in the Ph.D. program. A one-time extension of the student’s terminal date of no longer than two  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.

Dissertation Defense

The final oral examination (dissertation defense) of approximately one to one-and-a half hours deals mainly with the dissertation and takes place after all members of the student’s graduate advisory committee have agreed that the dissertation is ready to be defended. All members of the student’s advisory committee must attend the defense. A total of at least five faculty members must “participate” in the defense, but only the student’s advisory committee composes the examiners whose consent is necessary for approval of the dissertation.

Two weeks before the defense is to be held, a public announcement must appear in the University’s online Events Calendar. At that time, the student should also send a copy of the dissertation to each member of their advisory committee and additional faculty participating in the defense. The student should also make sure that news of the defense is posted in the building and sent out on departmental listservs and that a hard copy of the dissertation is made publicly available by placing it in the department mail room. All faculty members, graduate students, and the general public are invited to attend the dissertation defense.

After the defense and once the dissertation is finalized, the student will submit their dissertation to the graduate school through the “Submittable” webform and then complete the “Approval” webform to gather signatures from their advisory committee to signify to the graduate school that they have passed their defense and their dissertation was approved.

For more detailed information on the dissertation, including formatting guidelines, and steps to graduate, see the registrar’s website.