History Ph.D.


The Ph.D. program in history at UC Santa Cruz has a global and transnational orientation, and emphasizes an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach to historical studies, encouraging innovative thinking about global historical processes. In consultation with their faculty advisors, Ph.D. students complete courses of study and original research that bring together their temporal, geographical and thematic or methodological interests. Every student also acquires expertise in a more broadly conceived primary teaching field, defined in terms of geography and period, as well as a secondary teaching field that is focused on a different region or analytical approach.

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

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


Information on the History Department application deadline can be found on the Graduate Admissions Deadlines webpage. Additional information and application material are on the Division of Graduate Studies website.

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 UC Santa Cruz 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 one proseminar of 2 credits (HIS 280A) is required for advancement to candidacy. Courses taken are graduate seminars, independent study courses, and most upper-division courses.

Course Requirements

HIS 200Methods and Theories of History


HIS 201Directed Research Colloquium


HIS 202Practicing World History


HIS 298AConstructing a Field


HIS 200: year 1, fall quarter

HIS 298A: year 1, fall or winter quarter

HIS 201: year 2, winter quarter

HIS 202: year 1

One research seminar during the first four quarters:

HIS 204AHistory of Gender Research Seminar


HIS 204CColonialism, Nationalism and Race Research Seminar


HIS 204ETransnationalism, Borderlands, and History


One Proseminar of 2 credits:
HIS 280AHistory Graduate Proseminar: Teaching Pedagogy


HIS 280A: year 1

Reading seminars in the research area and primary teaching field:

  • Graduate students will complete at least five readings seminars in their research area / primary teaching field. These specializations must be defined in consultation with faculty advisors and declared by the end of the student’s first year in the Ph.D. program. Students may substitute independent studies with advisors and other faculty members for two of these seminars.

Second teaching field:

Two courses from among Borderlands and Transnationalism; Critical Race and Indigeneity; East Asia; European; Gender and Sexuality; Latin American; Middle East and North Africa (MENA); Science, Technology and Environment; South Asia; Southeast Asia; U.S.; and World History.

Outside courses:

Two graduate courses outside the History Department, which may be from two different departments.

Foreign Language Requirements

Students whose research centers on a primarily English-speaking part of the world must demonstrate reading competency in at least one foreign language prior to taking the qualifying examination. Students working on all other parts of the world must demonstrate a reading competency in at least two foreign languages prior to taking the qualifying exam; 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 are native speakers of the language in question or 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.

Language requirements must be satisfied before taking the qualifying exam.

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 (pdf copy) must be submitted to the graduate program coordinator by the spring quarter deadline.

Qualifying Examination (QE) Dossier Requirements

The QE dossier includes three sections, each of which students will prepare in consultation with their primary academic adviser and with the advice of the examiners. The dossier must include at least one field statement (and, ideally, more than one), two annotated syllabi drawn respectively from the primary and secondary teaching fields, and a 10-15-page dissertation prospectus. Specific requirements for the contents of the dossier may vary by geographic and thematic areas of emphasis. These requirements should be discussed with and agreed upon by the primary advisor and other members of the QE committee at least one full quarter prior to the oral exam date. Complete bibliographies must be appended to each piece of the QE dossier.

A commonly used model for dossiers in the department is the following:

  1. Three field statement essay(s). The first and longest essay (25-30 pages) should review the state of the scholarship in students’ main area of teaching expertise, broadly defined and reflecting primary fields of employment within the discipline. One of the two shorter essays (roughly 15-20 pages each) should survey the historiography on the student’s more specific area of research. The other should focus either on interdisciplinary theoretical or methodological literature related to the student’s program of study or a second area of geographical or thematic specialization (or both). The field statements should demonstrate students’ broad competence in subject matter as well as mastery of the theoretical issues and historiographic debates in their designated research and teaching of expertise.
  2. Two annotated syllabi that demonstrate students’ preparation to teach undergraduate courses in their primary and secondary teaching fields. The syllabi 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 10 -15-page dissertation prospectus that includes an evaluative survey of the literature relevant to your proposed research topic, an explicit statement of research questions, a detailed discussion of the archival sources, and a consideration of the theoretical issues to be engaged. Note: Although no specific section 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 theoretical or methodological literature and the dissertation prospectus.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination (QE) emphasizes field mastery, integration of material from different fields, and focused preparation for dissertation research. The QE culminates in 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 and students must take and pass their language examination(s). Additionally, the student must be registered the quarter the examination is taken.

The four exam fields are designed in consultation with your QE committee members. You will prepare for the exam through regularly offered courses and independent readings courses sponsored by your examiners. You are required to take at least five courses in research and primary teaching fields combined. You are also required to take at least two courses in the secondary teaching and outside fields. The fields are as follows:

  • Research Field: In consultation with their faculty advisors, students will designate a primary field for research and teaching, defined by their temporal, geographical, and thematic or methodological interests, by the end of their first year in the program.
  • Primary Field of Teaching: In consultation with their faculty advisors, students will designate a primary field for research and teaching, defined by their temporal, geographical, and thematic or methodological interests, by the end of their first year in the program. The link will include a current but not exhaustive list of these specializations.
  • Second Teaching Field: Each Ph.D. student also prepares a second teaching field different from the primary area of research interest and can choose from among Borderlands and Transnationalism, East Asian, European, Critical Race and Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality, Latin American, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Science, Technology and Environment, U.S., and World History.
  • Outside Field: One field outside history, such as anthropology, literature, feminist studies, politics, sociology, or history of consciousness. You will select a field of topical, thematic, or methodological relevance to your dissertation. Your faculty adviser must approve the outside field.

A pass or fail will be given after the examination based on the student’s knowledge and research preparation as demonstrated by their dossier and their performance at the meeting. In order to pass the QE, students must receive passing marks from each member of the committee. Immediately following the exam, the QE committee chair will complete the Report on Qualifying Examination form and submit it to the History Department. 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 the Teaching Pedagogy proseminar (HIS 280A) of 2 credits, demonstrated competency in at least one foreign language (for those whose research centers upon a part of the world whose primary language is not English), 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 of appropriate interpretive models. The dissertation plan is laid out in the prospectus submitted with the qualifying examination, and it is expected that students remain in dialogue with their advisor and committee members about progress and any revisions to the original plan.

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. Additional Information can be found in our 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).