Monday and Tuesday, March 4-5, 2024, IU History will host a recruitment event for select, US-based doctoral applicants. Inbound travel will take place March 3 and return travel March 6. Travel, lodging, and most meals will be provided (more details to come). During their time in Bloomington, recruits will meet with faculty and current graduate students, tour various institutes, libraries, and collections, and learn about the teaching and research opportunities that will nurture them as scholars, opportunities which set IU apart from other doctoral programs.
Earning a Ph.D. in History
We are dedicated to training first-rate historians for careers in and out of the classroom.
Graduate students have access to all the benefits of one of the largest history departments and one of the largest research libraries in the country. With more than fifty faculty members, the Department of History provides a rich range of choices for graduate study. Yet the graduate program is not impersonal: the faculty take pride in providing small classes and supportive advising for students.
A doctoral degree in history provides opportunities for employment in academic research and college teaching. Some graduates also take positions working in public history, for museums, historical organizations, and government agencies.
Successful applicants who do not hold a master’s degree (in history or a closely related discipline) from another institution will be admitted at the MA level and must complete the requirements for the MA degree (see “Master of Arts Degree Requirements” below). Students who successfully complete the MA degree and field review automatically proceed to the Ph.D. program. Applicants who intend to pursue a doctoral degree should apply to Ph.D. program regardless of whether they hold an MA degree.
- Degree Requirements
Time Limits, Expectations, and Advising
- Time Limits and Expectations: There are two notable timelines when pursuing a Ph.D. in History. First is the time you spend completing coursework, languages, and qualifying exams. All of these tasks must be completed within seven years. Once a student has successfully completed the qualifying exam procedures they are formally nominated to "candidacy" by the department. A student is then in the next stage known in the profession as A.B.D., or "all but dissertation." During this time the student will research and write a dissertation. Another seven years of time is permitted for this A.B.D. stage. However, it is reasonable for students to complete the first stage of study in three to four years with and additional two to four years for the A.B.D. stage. Variables influencing these timelines are determined by fields of study and language requirements.
- Advisings: A new graduate student in the Indiana University Department of History is assigned a faculty advisor who works in the general field of the student's interest. As the student refines and focuses that interest, she or he is encouraged to seek out the most appropriate faculty members with whom to work. Students are free to change advisors at any time after the first semester, subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. Effective and continuous advising provides the basis for satisfactory development of education and career plans. Students should meet with their advisors at least once each semester to review thoroughly both their current programs and future plans. Each student is required to schedule a formal "progress meeting" with her or his advisor during the spring semester of every year in which s/he is enrolled in the graduate program. Each you the advisor will complete a brief report that summarizes the student's academic progress to date. The Director of Graduate Studies is also available to clarify degree requirements and to discuss long and short-term goals.
Credit Hours and Course Requirements
- Ph.D. History Majors: The minimum course requirements for the Ph.D. degree are six colloquia (courses H600-H699) distributed in two or more fields, two seminars (courses H700-H799) taught by different instructors, one of which must be in the major field, H601 (“Introduction to the Professional Study of History,” during the first semester at IU), and courses to complete the outside minor. For those students transferring MA credits, a maximum of 2 colloquia and 1 seminar may by transferred from another institution, the remainder of the history course work must be completed at IUB. Students may take dissertation credits (H899) to fulfill the 90 credit hours required by the University Graduate School to complete the Ph.D. Students enrolled in the dual concentration program in Cultural History must complete H680 and H780 in addition to the requirements listed above.
- The Outside Minor: The University Graduate School requires all Ph.D. students to complete a minor field outside the student's major department. The relevant department or program determines the requirements necessary to complete the minor, including the number and type of courses.
- Ph.D. Outside Minor in History: Students in other departments may minor in History by completing, with a grade-point average no lower than B (3.0), at least 12 hours of course work in history in courses numbered 500 or above, including one colloquium. No more than 6 hours of work transferred from another university may be applied toward this requirement, and such credit must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department. To arrange for a history minor, students should consult the Director of Graduate Studies in History.
- Languages of Scholarship: Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language with most fields of study requiring two languages, and a few specialized areas requiring even more. Certification of reading knowledge in one of the following foreign languages is most common: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Ancient Greek, Italian, Latin, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. However, another foreign language may be substituted with the approval of the University Graduate School. A language requirement may be replaced by a tool skill (if the field allows), but only in fields that normally require at least two foreign languages. The student should consult with his/her adviser about appropriate languages. Entering students should obtain certification of reading knowledge or begin appropriate language study in the first term of enrollment. International students may be eligible to use English as a second language to fulfill the graduate language requirement.
- The above requirements should be met by the time the student has completed the qualifying exam and dissertation proposal defense.
- Graduate students who enter with an M.A. from another institution will be reviewed a year after beginning graduate work at IU. The student will at the end of her/his first year at IU present two papers, one from a seminar, and at least one of them written at IU, to the field committee or advisory committee. The field or advisory committee will review the student’s papers and overall record, meet with the student to clarify any necessary issues and recommend whether the student should be invited to continue in the Ph.D. program. (The department anticipates that the answer will be “yes” in almost all cases.)
The Qualifying Examination
- Assessment of a student’s learning takes place in a set of examinations at the end of formal course work and before full-fledged work on the dissertation begins. The examination consists of an oral examination in the major field and inside minor fields and defense of the dissertation prospectus. The outside minor field has the option of participating in the exam or waiving their right to examine. Students will take their Ph.D. examinations no later than the sixth semester of graduate work (fourth semester after entering IU for those who have entered with an M.A. from another institution).
- To take the exam, a candidate must complete all graduate courses and other Ph.D. requirements, including the outside minor, by the end of the term during which she or he plans to take the examination. It is a rule of the Graduate School that graduate courses must be completed within the seven years prior to the qualifying examination (see Graduate School Bulletin). Satisfactory performance on the examination entitles the student to proceed to the prospectus defense.
- After passing the qualifying exam and prospectus and completing all courses, language, or tool skill requirements, including the requirements for the outside minor field, the student is formally nominated to "candidacy" by the department. This is the stage known in the profession as A.B.D., or "all but dissertation."
- The culmination of the Ph.D. program is the writing of the dissertation, which is required of all doctoral students.
- The dissertation must be an original contribution to knowledge and of high scholarly merit. The dissertation is written under the supervision of a research director and a research committee. The student must have received acceptance of his or her dissertation and must submit a copy to the University Graduate School within seven years after passing the qualifying examination.
- Fields of Study
Two historical fields—a major and minor—from the following list form the core of the doctoral degree. Alternatively, students may elect to pursue the dual concentration in Cultural History and one of the geographic major fields listed below; students enrolled in this program do not complete an inside minor.
We have a field-by-field list of resources available at the IUB campus, but they are also listed here for the sake of convenience.
Geographic major + minor fields
- African History
- Ancient History
- Asian History
- British History
- Early Modern European History
- East European History
- Latin American History
- Medieval History
- Middle Eastern History
- Modern European History
- Russian History
- United States History
- World History
Thematic Major + Minor Fields
- African Diaspora History
- Cultural History (available for double-major)
- History of Gender + Sexuality
- Jewish History
Thematic minor fields
- Family History
- History of Medicine
- History of Philanthropy
- Historical Teaching and Practice
- Ph.D. qualifying exam and prospectus defense
These guidelines will apply to all fields. They do allow for a degree of flexibility and do not include any reference to the content of the exam. Each field also describes what they expect of major and inside minor field examinees for the oral exam as well as specific guidelines for the prospectus. The GAC agrees that these statements should contain no references to numbers of books. Generally speaking the new exam format envisions a process of negotiation and discussion between examiners and examinee to craft an appropriate exam.
Field-by-field exam requirements are available in the Student Portal
The exam committee will consist of two or three major field examiners, one or two inside minor field examiners, and one outside minor field examiner. The major and inside minor field members will represent fields from the History Department list; the outside minor examiner will represent a department or program other than History. The outside field representative may, at his or her discretion, waive participation. All examiners must be IU faculty members. The same committee presides over the oral exam and the prospectus defense.
The oral exam will run for no more than three hours. The major field examiners will have no more than two hours for their part of the exam. The inside and outside minor fields, combined, will have no more than one hour. All convened examiners should participate in the whole of the exam. In conference prior to the exam the examiners should determine the order of the exam and how best to organize the time. The examination will be tape recorded. The examination committee will provide the graduate secretary with written comments describing the student’s performance on the oral examination.
Defense of the Dissertation Prospectus
For the dissertation prospectus the graduate school requires a substantial piece of writing taking the form of a grant proposal. It should explain the potential significance of the proposed dissertation project and place it in historiographical context. It should include a bibliography. Individual fields will provide specific guidelines. The examinee should consult with, at least, his or her primary adviser regarding preparation of the prospectus. The defense should take place between one week and six months following the oral examination at a time when all examiners can participate. No later than one week prior to the defense, the prospectus should be submitted to the graduate secretary and to the examination committee members. The graduate secretary will make available paper copies of the prospectus for whomever is interested. The graduate secretary will make an announcement of the defense to history faculty and graduate students and will make arrangements for a room large enough to accommodate whoever would like to come. The examination committee will provide the graduate secretary with written comments describing the student’s performance on the prospectus defense.
Failed Exams and Defenses
As stated in the University Graduate School Bulletin, students have two chances to pass each part of the qualifying exam. No prospectus defense will be held until the oral exam has been passed. Should the student, having passed the oral exam, fail to produce a prospectus within the allotted time he or she may have to retake the entire exam. Should the student, having passed the oral exam, fail the prospectus defense, he or she will have four more months to successfully defend the prospectus. Should the student fail that second time, the DGS will use his/her discretion in determining whether to terminate the student’s program at that point or make further arrangements. See the “Termination of Enrolment in the Doctoral Program” section of the University Graduate School Bulletin for the department’s overall policy on this issue.
- Teaching College History
(Formerly Preparing Future Faculty)
The History Department prepares students for employment as professional historians. Training students for careers in teaching is an important focus of the graduate program in history. The majority of our students plan to teach at a university or liberal arts college. We offer support in the form of pedagogy courses as well as workshops designed to assist students in preparation to teach. For more than two decades the Indiana University History Department has been at the forefront of the movement to prepare graduate students to become college teachers. Graduate students in our program have the opportunity to explore the rapidly expanding scholarship on teaching and learning history through three graduate courses: Teaching College History, Teaching World History and Teaching U.S. History. These courses expose students to pedagogical theories and issues in the field. Students are given assistance with course preparation, lecturing, and exam creation. Each student will prepare a syllabus, exams, and other course materials for a course in his or her field. Graduate students may also choose to pursue a minor in Historical Teaching and Practice.
Faculty from our department are making important contributions to the development of this field. They have delivered papers on learning history at national and international conferences, have contributed articles to this growing literature and are participating in the creation of an international society for the teaching and learning of history. The department has received a large grant in a competition sponsored by the I.U. Dean of Faculties Office that will allow it to undertake two projects: a web site that will coordinate the efforts of historians throughout the world to develop a more systematic understanding of how learning can be increased in college classrooms and an inventory of the kind of skills required of the undergraduates in our upper-level courses that will serve as the basis for new attempts to model these skills more effectively in our lower level classes.
Graduate students in our department have access to what may be the most systematic program for exploring the scholarship of teaching and learning history in the nation. Former students report that what they have learned in these classes has been a key element in their successful job searches and that they have begun their careers as college teachers with a solid foundation of knowledge about what works in the history classroom.
Graduate students in history at Indiana University have a variety of other opportunities for more practical experience and instruction in college teaching. Graduate students in our department receive practical training in teaching through their close work with faculty as Associate Instructors and Course Assistants. Associate Instructors lead discussion sections attached to large undergraduate courses and grade student work. Course Assistants grade student work in large undergraduate courses. The department also hires students to develop and teach summer courses for undergraduates, and sometimes students have the opportunity to teach their own courses during the regular academic year. Indiana University's Future Faculty Teaching Fellowships provide students with the chance to teach at other IU campuses and receive mentoring from the full-time faculty at these campuses. The Department also regularly helps students find part-time teaching experiences at other nearby institutions. Indiana University's Campus Instructional Consulting office offers a busy schedule of workshops on teaching discussion sections and lecture classes, grading, etc.