History Ph.D.


The Ph.D. program in history at UC Santa Cruz emphasizes an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach to historical studies. We offer a rigorous program of instruction and independent work that trains students in the techniques of original historical research and equips them to teach university-level courses in history. We only admit those highly motivated students who are most qualified to pursue advanced studies in history. We also only admit those applicants who can best benefit from the specific strengths of our faculty.

Just as the work of most professional historians centers around research and teaching, training in these areas constitutes the two essential poles of the graduate program in history.

Each student will be required to choose one of three areas of concentration (U.S., Europe, East Asia) and each student also prepares a second teaching field different from their primary field.

Detailed information for prospective graduate students, including procedures for applications and admission to graduate studies, examinations and requirements is available from the Division of Graduate Studies.


The deadline for applications to the History program in Dec. 10 of each year. Admission information and application material are available online.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

Until they pass the qualifying examination and are formally advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, students must be in residence at UCSC and are expected to complete a minimum of 10 credits each quarter to maintain normal academic progress. Completion of a minimum of 10 courses of 5 credits each and three proseminars of 2 credits each (HIS 280A, HIS 280B, and HIS 280C) is required for advancement to candidacy. Courses taken are graduate seminars, independent study courses, and most upper-division undergraduate courses.

Course Requirements

HIS200Methods and Theories of History


HIS201Directed Research Colloquium


HIS202Practicing World History


HIS 200: year 1, fall quarter

HIS 201: year 2, winter quarter

HIS 202: year 1


One research seminar during the first four quarters:

HIS204AHistory of Gender Research Seminar


HIS204CColonialism, Nationalism and Race Research Seminar


HIS204ETransnationalism, Borderlands, and History


Three Promseminars of 2 credits each including:
HIS280AHistory Graduate Proseminar: Teaching Pedagogy


HIS280BHistory Graduate Proseminar: Research Presentations and Grant Writing


HIS280CHistory Graduate Proseminar: Job Market


HIS 280A: year 1

HIS 280B: year 1

HIS 280C: year 2

Second teaching field:

Each Ph.D student also prepares a second teaching field different from the primary field and may choose among East Asian, European, gender and sexuality, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), U.S., and world history.

Outside courses:

Two graduate courses outside the History Department are required and may be from two different departments.

Reading seminars in the area of concentration:

Graduate students in East Asian history specialize in either modern Chinese or modern Japanese history, but all students in the East Asian program will be prepared to teach both. The core curriculum for East Asian history consists of three China reading seminars (HIS 230A, HIS 230B, HIS 230C) and three Japan reading seminars (HIS 242, HIS 243, HIS 244) taught in sequence over three years, covering such topics as foundational historiographies, gender, social movements, and transnational circulation of people, commodities, and ideas. Over the course of the three years to the qualifying examination, China students will be expected to take all three China seminars and at least two of the three Japan seminars. Japan students will be expected to take all three Japan seminars and at least two of the three China seminars. Additional coursework in research methods as well as occasional independent studies will also be available, and students are encouraged to take classes that have a wide range of faculty in other departments across the campus.

HIS210AReadings in U.S. History


HIS210BReadings in U.S. History


HIS251AReadings in Modern European History: Environment and Technology


HIS251BReadings in Modern European History: Empire


East Asia:
HIS230AReadings in Late Imperial China


HIS230BEngendering China


HIS230CReadings in 20th-Century China


HIS242Readings in Modern Japan


HIS243Transnational Japan


HIS244Gender and Japanese History


Foreign Language Requirements

Foreign language preparation may be required for admission, depending on field of concentration.

Students with a primary teaching field in U.S. history are expected to demonstrate a reading competency in at least one foreign language prior to taking the Ph.D. qualifying examination. Students in East Asia and European teaching fields must demonstrate a reading competency in at least two foreign languages prior to taking the Ph.D. qualifying examination; competency in one of the languages must be demonstrated by the end of the sixth quarter of enrollment. Usually, competency will be demonstrated by passing a reading examination administered by a member of the history faculty. Students who believe that they have already demonstrated competency through previous coursework or through their performance on a standardized test should petition the graduate director to waive this language requirement.

Teaching Requirement

Research and Teaching

In preparing graduate students for research and teaching at the university level, the department offers training in three geographically and chronologically defined fields: U.S. history, European history since 1500, and East Asian history since 1600. U.S., European, and East Asian history are defined as primary teaching fields; each graduate student is required to choose one. Students of U.S. history may incorporate Latin American history in their coursework. Every year the faculty in each field offer introductory readings seminars and classes on more specific topics  Each Ph.D student also prepares a second teaching field different from the primary field and may choose among East Asian, European, gender and sexuality, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), U.S., and world history.

Pre-Qualifying Requirements


Students must successfully complete all required courses.

The M.A. Essay

Students are required to produce a substantial research essay grounded in original research in primary historical documents. A successful essay will reflect a general understanding of the field of inquiry along with a critical grasp of the scholarship that currently defines the field; deep knowledge of the specific subject under investigation; the application of appropriate analytical models; and a well-supported interpretation of the materials explored. This essay could (but need not) be a segment of a larger project; but it must be a complete, self-contained essay in and of itself.

Students enroll in HIS 201, Directed Research Colloquium, the winter quarter of their second year. The final essay (hard copy and pdf copy) must be submitted to the graduate program coordinator by the spring quarter deadline.

Qualifying Examination Dossier Requirements

The QE dossier includes four parts, each of which should be prepared in consultation with the student’s primary academic adviser and with the advice of the examiners. The examination will focus on the dossier. All examiners, including the examiner from outside the department, will participate in all segments of the examination.

The dossier includes:

  1. An essay reviewing the state of the scholarship in the student’s primary field of concentration. This essay should reflect the student’s general, broad competence in his or her field as well as a mastery of the theoretical issues and historiographic debates in four to five areas that represent their primary area of expertise. The essay may reflect the thematic focus of a research fields as well as work completed in an outside field (literature, anthropology, etc.).
  2. One syllabus, possibly two syllabi (the number to be decided in discussion with the student’s primary adviser), that demonstrates the student’s preparation to teach across the breadth of their primary field at the introductory level. The syllabus should be annotated to show how each class session would be prepared: principal sources for lectures, principal questions for discussion, reasons for assigning particular readings, etc.
  3. A syllabus (annotated in the same fashion as described in section number 2 above) in the student’s second teaching field, accompanied by a brief (three- to five-page) statement of principal issues. The exact content of these items will be decided in consultation with the examiner in the secondary teaching field.
  4. A prospectus that includes an evaluative survey of the literature relevant to the student’s proposed research topic, a detailed discussion of the archival resources, and a consideration of the theoretical issues to be engaged.


  • Although no specific segment of the dossier focuses upon the coursework completed outside the History Department, it is expected that this work will be incorporated into different sections of the portfolio, particularly the research prospectus.
  • Complete bibliographies must be appended to each piece of the QE dossier.


Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination (QE) emphasizes field mastery, integration of material from different fields, and focused preparation for dissertation research. The QE is a three-hour meeting during which a student presents and discusses a dossier that has been submitted to the student’s committee at least three weeks in advance. The examination is taken by the spring quarter of the third year. Prior to taking the QE, all incomplete notations (I) must be cleared from the student’s record. Additionally, the student must be registered the quarter the examination is taken.

The four examination fields are designed in consultation with the student’s QE committee members. Students prepare for the examination through regularly offered courses and independent readings courses sponsored by the examiners. Students are required to take at least two courses in each of the four fields. The fields are as follows:

  • Primary Field of Concentration. One of three fields: U.S. history; European history 1500 to the present; East Asian history 1600 to the present.
  • Area of Concentration. This is a subfield of the primary field of concentration with a focus on the student’s specific area of research interests.
  • Second Teaching Field. Chosen from the above list of primary fields, with the addition of world history, or, where appropriate, a comparative, thematic field such as gender, colonialism, Latin American, or African history.
  • Outside Field. One field outside history, such as anthropology, feminist studies, history of art and visual culture, Latin American and Latino studies, literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, or history of consciousness. Students select a field of topical, thematic, or methodological relevance to their dissertation. The student’s faculty adviser must approve the outside field.

The four examination fields must be defined and preliminary reading lists (see below) filed with the department no later than the student’s eighth quarter of residency.

A pass or fail will be given after the examination based on the student’s knowledge and research preparation as demonstrated by his or her dossier. In order to pass the QE, all areas must receive passing marks from each member of the committee. Immediately following the exam, the QE committee chair will complete and submit to the History Department the Report on Qualifying Examination form. If a student does not pass the QE the first time, they may retake only those sections not passed. No one will be permitted to take the QE more than twice.

M.A. Degree

The master of arts (M.A.) degree is awarded to all Ph.D. students after two years in residence, successful completion of 12 courses of 5 credits each and three proseminars of 2 credits each, demonstrated competency in one foreign language (for those in primary teaching fields other than U.S. history), removal of all Incomplete notations (I) on record, and approval of a M.A. essay (average word count of 8000-10000, excluding footnotes and bibliography) grounded in original research in primary historical documents.


The dissertation represents an extensive, book-length project grounded in research in original historical documents. A successful dissertation will reflect a broad and deep understanding of the field of inquiry, a mastery of the scholarship that currently defines the field, detailed knowledge of the subject of study growing out of dedicated research, and the incorporation (and explicit rejection of) appropriate interpretive models.

Academic Progress

Evaluation of Academic Progress

Each spring, the History Department reviews the academic progress of all continuing students. All first-year students are required to meet with the Graduate Committee to discuss academic goals and progress.

Time to Degree

During your time in the graduate program, you will become familiar with the terms "normative time" or "timely progress." It is important to progress within expected timetables as it affects many aspects of financial support as well as good academic standing. (See the Graduate Division Graduate Student Handbook.

Applying for Graduation

Degree Application

By the end of the first week of the quarter you intend to finish, an Application for Doctor of Philosophy Degree form, which requires dissertation adviser(s) and graduate director signatures, must be filed with the Graduate Division,

Dissertation Completion

The dissertation should be submitted to the dissertation reading committee before the end of the fifth week of the quarter in which the degree is to be conferred. As a courtesy to the committee, students should provide a hard copy draft unless the committee is willing to accept an electronic copy.

A copy of the signed title page along with a PDF of the dissertation must be filed with graduate program coordinator and one copy must be filed online with the Graduate Division by the deadline in the quarter in which the degree is to be conferred (see Academic and Administrative Calendar.