Students may pursue a Ph.D. in our award-winning department in two overlapping ways. We have fields:

• Atlantic history
• Environmental history
• European history
• Latin American history
• Transnational history
• U.S. history

Alternatively—and more distinctively—our department allows and encourages students to pursue doctorates around themes:

• Global connections, empire, capitalism
• Health, science, environment
• Race, citizenship, migration
• Religion, gender, cultural identity
• States, nations, political cultures

In addition to the fields above, doctoral students interested in Russia, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Japan, the Muslim world, the Indian Ocean, or the Pacific can find one or more expert faculty to advise them. Please see our faculty directory.

One advantage a small program like ours is that everyone gets to know everyone else. We believe in inclusive education, and in practice, our Ph.D. students—whether they be studying South America or South Asia or any other area—get trained in themes and fields, thus gaining the best of both worlds. For example, Latin Americanists often serve as teaching assistants for U.S. and European survey courses. Building on this kind of foundation, students can go on to teach a variety of courses, including world history. 

The department organized its thematic pedagogy almost twenty years ago, in 1997, as the historical profession began moving in new directions. In other words, Stony Brook's Department of History was on the vanguard of re-envisioning graduate education. Having anticipated trends in historical scholarship and the job market, our program now draws on deep experience in re-thinking historical specialties traditionally defined by geographic region and time period.

Our graduates have a good track record finding employment at four-year colleges, universities, and the public sector. We encourage Ph.D. students to publish early and often, with considerable success. Our program emphasizes the development of strong teaching skills and offers extensive teaching opportunities, starting with teaching assistantships and moving on to stand-alone courses in summer and winter terms.

Read testimonials from some of our graduates and current students.



Course of Study

A. Required coursework

1. Core Seminar (HIS 524/526, HIS 525/527: 3 credits each semester)

This course provides an intensive, year-long introduction to historical theory and research. It also familiarizes students with the thematic organization of the graduate program. All full-time students in the doctoral program as well as the Academic Track of the master's program are required to take this course, which is offered only as a fall/spring sequence, during their first year.

2. Two or three Field Seminars (3 credits each)

The department offers a number of Field Seminars designed to familiarize students with the history and historiography of specific regions and periods. These courses include: Medieval and Early Modern Europe (HIS 501) and Modern Europe (502); Early American History (521) and Modern American History (522); Colonial Latin America (541) and Modern Latin America (542), all of which are offered on a one- or two-year cycle. In addition, the following Field Seminars are offered in African and Asian history: Introduction to African and/or Asian History (562), South Asian History (563), Chinese History (564), and Japanese History (565); note that some of these Field Seminars may be offered slightly less frequently.  Some Field Seminars are populated with students in the Master of Arts in Teaching program (M.A.T.), as well as with M.A. and Ph.D. students. Students may choose to take either two or three Field Seminars, in accordance with their intellectual interests and needs. Students choosing to concentrate in the history of Europe, the United States, or Latin America are encouraged to complete both parts of the Field Seminar sequence in their area of concentration.  If more survey or focused reading is required in a specific area, students have the option of taking a third Field Seminar or a relevant Theme Seminar.  With the approval of the Graduate Director and Advisor, students may also satisfy their Field Seminar requirements by taking an appropriate course in an outside department or institution.

3. Three or four Theme Seminars (3 credits each)

The Theme Seminars are the heart of the department's commitment to the theoretically informed, interdisciplinary study of history. Topics, approaches, and instructors vary, but these seminars generally fall within the rubric of our program's theme clusters: Gender, Race, Sexuality; Nation-State, Civil Society, Popular Politics; Empire, Colonialism, Globalization; and Environment, Health, Science, Technology. On occasion, students may apply to take seminars in outside departments or institutions (that is, other universities in the NY Consortium) that may serve as a Theme Seminar. There is also some flexibility for those students wishing to take either three or four Theme Seminars. On occasion, students may also wish to "convert" a Theme Seminar into a Research Seminar (by completing the readings and writing a research paper, with the prior arrangement of the seminar professor and the student's advisor).

4. Two Research Seminars (3 credits each)

One Research Seminar is offered each semester. It gives students the opportunity to carry out individual research projects using primary sources in areas related to their developing scholarly interests. Research seminars are generally taken during the second and third years. Third-year students often use the Research Seminar to begin preliminary work on their dissertations.

5. Supervised Teaching (HIS 581, 3 credits)

All students who hold teaching assistantships and are not enrolled in Teaching Practicum (HIS 582, see below) are expected to register for this course, if possible; if this is not possible, the student should notify the Graduate Director.

6. Teaching Practicum (HIS 582, 3 credits)

Required of all Teaching Assistants, as well as those expecting to TA for undergraduate courses in the future. It is generally taken during Fall semester of Year 1. This course gives students the opportunity to discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of undergraduate classroom teaching in a large, diverse public university. Stony Brook offers a laboratory for future college teachers to develop and try out "lesson plans," as well as to broach such universal concerns as classroom authority, student participation, student-teacher relations, the problem of plagiarism, sexual harassment, etc. Students may be required to attend teaching workshops offered by the Graduate School in addition. These workshops, as well as the Teaching Practicum, are also open to students who do not hold teaching assistantships.

7. Dissertation Prospectus Workshop (HIS 695, 3 credits)

This course must be taken by all Ph.D. students and should be completed in the Spring semester of Year 3. Students are expected to work closely with their Advisors during the semester as they prepare their dissertation plan. If possible, they should also meet with their whole committee—or, at minimum, solicit feedback from each committee member. The instructor of the workshop, the student's Ph.D. advisor, and the rest of his/her committee must approve the prospectus prior to the formal end-of-semester Prospectus Presentations.  

B. Elective coursework

8. Directed Readings (HIS 682, 3 credits each)

Students who enter the program without a master's degree may choose to take three credits of Directed Readings in the Fall and/or Spring of the initial year, to enable the student to meet regularly with his or her Advisor and address any deficiencies in preparation for the Ph.D. program. In addition, on the rare occasion that a student's needs are not met by the department's Field and Theme seminars, he/she may wish to arrange a Directed Readings with an individual faculty member so as to undertake a specific set of readings on a topic of mutual interest.

9. Orals Workshop (HIS 684, 3 or 6 credits)

This workshop provides a space for students to work semi-independently in the scholarly literature of their developing fields of specialization. Normally, students enroll in Orals Workshop (for either 3 or 6 credits, depending on their remaining course requirement needs) in the Fall semester of Year 3. To prepare for the Orals, students have to define three areas of specialization (two in their major geo-political field, and one in a comparative field). Ideally, students should develop their Orals book lists and topics on the basis of the most relevant Field and Theme seminars they have taken and in consultation with their Orals committee. Students may use the Orals Workshop to read independently or in small groups, as well as to meet periodically with Orals committee members. All students should make sure they have dress rehearsals before the exam actually takes place. (See below for details on the Oral Examination.)

10. Courses in other departments and institutions

Students are encouraged to take courses in other departments in order to acquire the theoretical tools offered by other disciplines and gain an interdisciplinary perspective on their fields of interest. Many of our students take courses in such departments as Sociology, English, Art History, and Cultural Analysis and Theory, as well as such interdisciplinary programs as Women's and Gender Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Such courses should be selected in consultation with the student's Advisor. In addition, Stony Brook belongs to a NY-area Consortium of universities. Students are welcome to take graduate seminars for credit at Columbia, NYU, or other institutions. The Graduate School has a form for this (what else is new?!), and the student should obtain prior permission from his/her Advisor and the Graduate Director. Whether the outside course is to count for a Field, Theme, or Research course is negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Sample Course of Study

Below is a sample course of study that might be followed by a first-year doctoral student without a master's degree who also holds a teaching assistantship. Graduate School regulations stipulate that new students without M.A. degrees must take 12 credits per semester during Year 1; those students with M.A. degrees or who have obtained at least 24 credits at the graduate level are required (and permitted) to register for only 9 credits per semester.

Fall Semester
Core Seminar I (HIS 524 or HIS 526): 3 credits
Teaching Practicum (HIS 582): 3 credits
Field Seminar: 3 credits
Theme Seminar: 3 credits

Spring Semester
Core Seminar II (HIS 525 or HIS 527): 3 credits
Supervised Teaching (HIS 581): 3 credits
Theme or Field Seminar: 3 credits
Theme or Field Seminar or Directed Readings: 3 credits

Program Requirements

1. Full-time Status

Students who have not yet advanced to G4 status (i.e. who have completed fewer than 24 graduate-level credits) are required to register for 12 credits in order to maintain full-time status. Full-time enrollment for students who have achieved G4 status is 9 credits. Students acting as teaching assistants must carry at least 9 credits (including, if possible, the 3-credit Supervised Teaching, HIS 581). Once a student has advanced to candidacy, s/he must register for 9 credits of dissertation research (HIS 699, 700, 701) each semester until the degree is awarded in order to remain on full-time status.

2. Award of Master's Degree to Doctoral Students

Doctoral students who have completed the requirements for the master's degree may petition the Graduate School to be awarded the master's degree while continuing in the doctoral program.

3. Foreign Language

All students (except native speakers of the language of their field of specialization) must demonstrate proficiency in at least one relevant foreign language before being advanced to Ph.D. candidacy. This is a Graduate School requirement that may not be waived. Minimal proficiency in a language means the ability to translate a given passage clearly and accurately with the aid of a dictionary. Relevant language(s) are determined by the student's area of specialization. Proficiency may be demonstrated either through a written exam administered by the department or a satisfactory grade in a graduate language course (e.g., French 500). The in-department exam consists of translating a passage from a scholarly work in History, with the aid of a dictionary. It is administered and evaluated by an appropriate faculty member. The results of the Language Exam must be reported to the department's Graduate Program Coordinator and entered into the student's file.

At the discretion of the Advisor, a student may be required to study additional languages as part of his or her degree program. It is the student's responsibility to establish with her or his Advisor which foreign languages are necessary for the completion of the Ph.D and to make sure they have completed the language requirement in a timely fashion so that they may advance to candidacy. Ideally, students take their written language exams by the Fall semester of Year 3.

4. Oral Examination and Advancement to Candidacy

By the end of the second year in the doctoral program, each student should name a Ph.D. Advisor (a History Department faculty member who has agreed to serve as the student's dissertation advisor) and, in consultation with that advisor, name two additional members of the department who agree to serve on his/her Oral Exam Committee. The committee will help the student define his or her examination fields, language requirements, and course work, as well as monitor the student’s progress on the dissertation. The student shall present to each member of the examination committee—no later than the middle of the semester that precedes the Ph.D. oral examination—a suggested list of books and topics. Committee members will advise the student of any changes or additional reading that is to be completed for the examination. 

Full-time students are expected to take their Oral Exam during Semester 5, prior to embarking on Prospectus during Semester 6 (i.e., Orals in Fall of Year 3; Prospectus in Spring of Year 3). If special circumstances warrant, the Oral Exam may (with Grad Director's approval) be delayed one semester only.

The Oral Exam may not be taken until all University and History Department requirements (including but not limited to the completion of all coursework, the passing of the Foreign Language Requirement, and the written approval of the Dissertation Prospectus by the Ph.D. advisor and by all committee members) have been met. Students should check with Roxanne Fernandez, our Graduate Coordinator, well in advance to make sure their records are up-to-date and to process the paperwork. A list of members of the student's Oral Exam Committee must be submitted to and approved by the Graduate School at least three weeks prior to the exam. The "Statement of Fields" form is available in the Graduate Program Coordinator's Office. 

The student, in consultation with the examination committee, will arrange the day, time, and place of the Oral Exam. The Oral Exam usually lasts about 1–2 hours and is graded as "pass with distinction," "pass," "weak pass," or "fail." Students who fail the Oral Exam may petition to take the exam a second time at a future date.

5. Dissertation Committee

As the doctoral student is near completion of the dissertation, he/she must constitute a four-person Dissertation Defense Committee. The Ph.D. Advisor plus three other faculty members (including one "outside faculty" member) compose the Dissertation Committee. If, in the rare case, a Ph.D. advisor is no longer willing to serve as dissertation advisor or if the student wishes to work with a new Advisor, the student must identify some other faculty member in the History Department to serve. The new Advisor must declare in writing his/her willingness to serve as dissertation advisor before the student may be advanced to candidacy. Normally, the Ph.D. advisor meets with the student at least once each semester (or, if the student is not in Stony Brook, will correspond) to discuss progress on the dissertation.

6. Dissertation and Defense

Following Advancement to Candidacy, students are required to enroll for one credit of dissertation research each semester (whether through HIS 699, HIS 700, or HIS 701, depending on each student's location) until the dissertation defense. Teaching assistants must register for 9 credits of Dissertation Research on Campus (HIS 699).

The dissertation is the basic requirement for the conferral of the Ph.D. The student must present the completed dissertation in such a way that the dissertation committee has a reasonable period in which to read, critique, and suggest changes to be incorporated into the final version before the dissertation defense.  In other words, the completed dissertation must be in the hands of the committee at least one full month before the scheduled date of the dissertation defense. Ideally, the dissertation committee should be given one or two months to read and correct the dissertation and to give the student their written criticisms and suggestions. If the committee is indeed given this proper amount of lead time, committee members' comments must be in the student's hands one month before the dissertation defense. If the criticisms are not written out, the student can assume the dissertation is approved in the form submitted. The student must answer all written objections and corrections by revising the dissertation to the faculty member’s satisfaction before it is submitted to the Graduate School.

The Dissertation Committee is composed of four faculty members, including the student's Ph.D. Advisor and one faculty member outside the field of History or the institution of Stony Brook. The Defense is also open to interested students and faculty. The Graduate School must give advance approval of the Dissertation Committee. (The same form used for the Oral Exam will be used for the defense. These forms are available in the Graduate Program Coordinator's Office and must be forwarded to the Graduate School by the fifteenth day of class of the semester during which the scheduled date of the defense occurs.) All the paperwork for the Dissertation Defense should be given to the History Department's Graduate Program Coordinator well in advance.

7. Advising and Evaluation

When students are accepted into the graduate program, they are assigned a first-year Advisor based on the areas of interest indicated by the student in his or her application. Students may change Advisors with the permission of the Graduate Director, the new Advisor, and the previous Advisor at the end of the first year or thereafter.

Advisors assigned to new doctoral students will meet with them to discuss program requirements and the student's individual course of study, and they will meet with their advisees on a regular basis as they progress through the program. Ideally, students should consult with their Advisors about their course of study (including general course selection, language requirements, and enrollment in courses outside the department) at the beginning of each semester.

Evaluation of student performance takes place throughout the academic year (for example, through grading of student work in graduate seminars), including at the end of each semester, but most importantly through the end-of-year review. In this review, which is held at the end of each Spring semester, faculty members meet to evaluate the progress of all students in the graduate program.  Evaluations of student performance will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the student and include suggestions for improvement. The Graduate Director will be responsible for sending a written summary of the evaluation to each student, with a request that the student contact his or her Advisor for further details. All students will be ranked in one of the following three categories:

Good Standing indicates satisfactory grades and timely completion of degree requirements.
Some Concerns may reflect low grades in one or more courses, slow or intermittent progress towards the degree (even if grades are acceptable), or areas or skills needing special attention.
Probation means unsatisfactory academic performance and/or progress towards the degree. This departmental probation is independent of the rules for academic probation set by the Graduate School. Specific steps will be set forth to be taken by students on probation, including a timetable for fulfilling them, and failure to satisfy these conditions may result in dismissal from the program. Students on departmental probation whose academic performance remains unsatisfactory may be permitted to complete the master's degree but asked not to continue towards the doctoral degree.

Students are encouraged to meet with their Advisors to discuss the results of this annual assessment, and such meetings are mandatory for those students who are either placed on probation or for whom some concerns are noted. The performance of students who receive either of these ratings will be reevaluated at the end of the Fall semester. For a complete description of departmental policies on evaluation, including probation and dismissal, see here.

In recent years, the Graduate School and the Department have cracked down on the problem of Incomplete Coursework. Students are strongly discouraged from taking Incompletes in their courses except in the case of pressing emergencies. The pressure of Incompletes impairs one's ability to perform well in subsequent semesters, and Incompletes can negatively affect a student's eligibility for financial aid. Graduate School regulations require that all Incompletes be changed to letter grades within one calendar year after the end of the term in which the course was originally taken; ideally, however, they should be resolved much sooner.

The Graduate School has also instituted a strict policy concerning Time Limits for completing the program as a whole. Students who do not defend their dissertation within a seven-year period after they have advanced to G4 status (i.e., after they have acquired 24 graduate-level credits, usually at the end of their first year or, if they entered the program with an M.A. degree, upon beginning the doctoral program) are required to petition for a "Time Limit Extension" from the Graduate School. These petitions are contingent on a "contract" that the student draws up with his/her advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies for the completion and defense of the dissertation. Students should bear this time frame in mind as they make plans for doing dissertation research and writing.

Professional Activities Outside the Classroom

Most students become involved in a variety of scholarly and collegial activities within and outside the History Department, and we welcome student initiatives to help us build a collegial community. Students are encouraged to take full advantage of the activities of interdisciplinary and community-building programs on campus: the Humanities Institute, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center, the Initiative in the Historical Social Sciences, the Graduate Student Organization, etc., as well as our own departmental colloquium for faculty and graduate students, and the Department's various welcome, end-of-the-year, and holiday parties (when we really count on the volunteerism of everybody!). We also urge you to take full advantage of scholarly activities in the greater metropolitan area, and to seek out opportunities to participate in scholarly conferences both here and at other institutions.


Each year, we admit 6 to 8 students into the doctoral program. Applications for graduate admission are handled through the Graduate School. All prospective students must apply online.

If you have any questions about the process, please consult our FAQ, and feel free to call or email us with further questions: the Graduate School (631-632-4723), the History Department Graduate Coordinator (631-632-7490), or our Director of Graduate Studies.

Completed Doctoral program applications for admission and financial assistance, along with all required supporting material, must be postmarked/submitted/received by January 9. Students are admitted in the spring for study beginning in the fall. Occasionally students are admitted for part-time study, though we have found that a high percentage of students who pursue doctoral study on a part-time basis do not complete the program.

We expect all applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree in history or a degree in a closely related field with a substantial amount of coursework in history and a strong record of undergraduate achievement. In special cases, students who do not have a bachelor's degree in history or whose GPA does not meet the requirements stated above may be admitted on a provisional basis for M.A. study only.

Applicants are also required to submit scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The History subject test is not required. It is advisable, especially for financial aid applicants, to take the GRE no later than October to insure that the review of application materials is not delayed. Applicants may also wish to include photocopies of GRE score report (in addition to having the official score reported to the University).

Students whose first language is not English must submit scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Admissions decisions are based primarily upon the admissions committee's estimation of the student's potential for scholarly achievement and the ability of the Stony Brook faculty to support the student in his or her intended field of scholarly study. These decisions are based upon:

• The applicant's undergraduate record
• Letters of recommendation that describe the applicant's achievements and potential for intellectual growth
• A sample of written work (such as a research paper submitted for an undergraduate class or a master's thesis) that illustrates the applicant's capacity for research, analysis, creative thought, and writing skills
• GRE Scores
• A statement of purpose describing the intended field of study, the insights or experiences that lay behind the decision to specialize in this area, and the kinds of questions which the applicant hopes to explore; this statement should be as specific as possible, and applicants are encouraged to contact the professor(s) with whom they hope to work before submitting the application


Many graduate students are funded through teaching assistantships. The History Department receives approximately twenty-five teaching assistantships per year from various sources; it also has a small number of graduate assistantships. Many full-time graduate students receive full tuition waivers. In addition, the Department has available to it a series of Presidential Fellowships, created by the president of the university, to be used to recruit promising new doctoral students. The Department also has an endowed fellowship, known as the Evan Frankel Foundation Fellowship, that is given each year to an outstanding first year student in the doctoral program and continues for four years. The Gardiner Graduate Fellowship awards funding to a graduate student researching early American history or subjects related to aspects of American history in which the Gardiner family played an important role—principally colonial American history and the history of the greater New York region.

Everyone who applies is automatically considered for financial assistance from the History Department, usually in the form of a Teaching Assistantship/Tuition Scholarship. There are no special forms to fill out for Departmental support.

Entering graduate students in history may also be nominated by the admissions committee to compete for university-sponsored awards, namely Graduate Council Fellowships and Turner Fellowships. If you wish to be considered for either of these financial opportunities, you will need to have your application completed before January 1. Students wishing to be considered for these awards must be U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents. Turner Fellows must self-identify as either African American, Native American, or Hispanic on their application.

U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents are also eligible for other forms of financial aid, which are applied for via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form

Most residents of New York are also eligible for the NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

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