History (PhD)

Our PhD program combines an emphasis on research and teaching designed to equip students to compete successfully for faculty positions. We offer focal fields in the North American West/ Borderlands, Indigenous People/Native Americans, Environmental history, African American/African history, the history of Women/Gender/Sexuality, Asia (with particular strengths in the history of China and Japan), Latin America, and Transnational history. Additionally, we have strengths in the history of Russia, science and the social sciences, and intellectual history. Most of our doctoral students come to the UO with a master’s degree. We also admit a small number of highly qualified students with bachelor’s degrees into our PhD program.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:

  • Develop expertise in the most important interpretive frameworks and significant debates in history, as well as the major historical sub-disciplines.
  • Develop expertise in the most important historical scholarship in at least three major fields.
  • Present persuasive historical arguments to scholarly and public audiences in both written and oral form, substantiated with primary and secondary sources.
  • Navigate historical archives, both physical and digital, in order to produce new historical knowledge that is relevant for the discipline and the broader public.
  • Be knowledgeable about the major professional organizations, conferences, and funding organizations for the discipline. Knowledgeable about the various career opportunities available to professional historians, including but not limited to work in academia, public history, public service, and non-profit organizations.
  • Productively collaborate in a multicultural context being aware of historical issues of equity and inclusion for historically marginalized individuals/groups within and around the workplace.

Doctor of Philosophy in History

Typically, incoming PhD students who enter with a master's degree are expected to have completed the equivalent of the history department's MA program. Students admitted on the BA-to-PhD track complete the program’s MA requirements as they progress toward their PhD degrees. In some cases, doctoral students might be admitted without having fulfilled some of these prerequisites—for example, a course equivalent to Historical Methods and Writings (HIST 612). If this is the case, doctoral students will be required to take Historical Methods and Writings (HIST 612), Professional Development (HIST 615), and Graduate Student Conference (HIST 616).

PhD students prepare themselves in three fields, as follows:

  1. Major Research Field. A specific, more narrowly defined field—typically, the area of one’s dissertation, as conventionally understood
  2. Major Teaching Field. A general, more broadly defined field that encompasses the research field but is more extensive—typically, a teaching field, as conventionally understood
  3. Minor Thematic, Methodological, or Comparative Field. Typically the theme, method, or comparison to be advanced in the dissertation

For example, a student of modern France might choose modern France as a major research field, modern Europe as a major teaching field, and gender history, intellectual history, or military history as a minor thematic field. A student of China might take a major research field in modern China, a teaching field in China, and a minor comparative field in Japan.

Plan of Study

By the end of the first term in the program, students are required to file a plan of study, signed by the advisor, in which they state their major field, list all anticipated course work, and specify their language requirement. The plan of study may be modified later by agreement of both student and advisor. All plans of study are reviewed and approved by the director of graduate studies.

An entering PhD student lacking the equivalent to Historical Methods and Writings (HIST 612) must take the same HIST 612, 615, 616 sequence as that required of MA. students (see table below). This requirement may be waived for incoming students with sufficient preparation based on prior graduate work.

HIST 611Field Readings 15
HIST 612Historical Methods and Writings 25
HIST 615Professional Development 31
HIST 616Graduate Student Conference 41
HIST 507Seminar: [Topic] (two seminars)5
or HIST 607 Seminar: [Topic]
HIST 608Workshop: [Topic] (two colloquia) 55

 Additional Requirements

  • Minor Field. Two courses at the 500 or 600 level that, together, define a thematic, methodological, or comparative field. A nonhistory course may be used with approval
  • One additional course at the 500 or 600 level in history or another field
  • Distribution Requirement. PhD students are required to take two courses focusing on subjects outside their country or region of geographic specialization

There is no total credit requirement for the PhD—rather, the Division of Graduate Studies stipulates both a minimum (per term) credit requirement and a residency requirement.

Language Requirement

PhD students must demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language by passing an exam that tests their ability to read and comprehend a passage of average difficulty drawn from primary sources or the secondary literature. The language exam is offered once each term during the regular academic year.

Advisors must approve the choice of language. The language requirements of PhD students, however, will vary according to field. Students admitted into the PhD program should have the language preparation required to enable historical work in their field. Some additional language study might be required by individual advisors as an essential part of a student’s PhD work. These standards should be established at the time a faculty member accepts a graduate student and fills out the plan of study form.

Oral Comprehensive Examination

PhD students should take and pass their oral comprehensive examinations in the winter term of their second year, or during spring term at the latest. BA-to-PhD students should take their oral comprehensive exams in their third year. Students may, but are not required, to register for Comprehensive Exam Preparation (HIST 618) to prepare for their comprehensive examinations with the appropriate faculty members.


After completing course work, demonstrating language competence, and passing the oral comprehensive examination, the doctoral student advances to candidacy. The doctoral candidate must compose and defend a dissertation prospectus and then research and write a dissertation that makes an original scholarly contribution to the field and shows evidence of ability in independent investigation. Finally, the candidate defends the dissertation in a formal, public session.

Students should have tentatively identified a dissertation topic by the end of their first year (or, for BA-to-PhD students, by the fall of the third year) and should then file a Tentative Dissertation Topic Form with the graduate director.

PhD students must also prepare and defend a dissertation prospectus no later than the term subsequent to successful passage of the oral comprehensive exam. Students may, but are not required, to register for Dissertation Prospectus (HIST 619) to prepare their dissertation prospectus with the appropriate faculty.

Time to Degree

Applicants with MA degrees who are accepted into the PhD program must complete the PhD requirements within seven years.

Students with BA degrees who are admitted to the PhD program must complete the MA requirements within two years. Such students must complete both the MA and the PhD requirements within a total of seven years from the time of admission.