Ph.D. Program

Students who enter our Ph.D. program become part of a diverse and close-knit community, where faculty and students work together in pursuit of academic excellence.  It is a program with a distinctive identity—it concentrates on contemporary history.  By agreement with the Ohio Board of Regents, students must write their dissertations within the framework of contemporary history, which is defined by chronology as the period since 1918 (or the end of World War I).  Many of our faculty members focus their teaching and research in contemporary history, enabling our students to choose from a wide range of related courses.  Those courses cover a broad geographic sweep, including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States.  They also cover a diverse array of thematic fields, including cultural and intellectual history; women, gender, and social history; international relations and military history; politics and policy history.  Faculty who work in earlier chronological periods also offer courses which Ph.D. students may take to satisfy supporting field requirements and to add both depth and breadth to their doctoral studies.  After passing comprehensive exams, our Ph.D. students often have a chance to teach a course on their own, an important advantage for those who seek academic employment after completing their degree.  Financial support for up to five years of doctoral study is available through teaching assistantships from the Department of History and fellowships from the Contemporary History Institute


Admission to the Ph.D. program requires an M.A. in history, preferably with a thesis.  Applicants who have a graduate degree in another, closely related field will still be considered.  But they must provide clear and convincing evidence that they are prepared for doctoral study in history.  The History Department requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 for admission to any graduate program; we expect that an applicant’s GPA in his/her M.A. program will be significantly higher.  The History Department requires GRE scores and three letters of recommendation.  In addition, an applicant must submit a writing sample that demonstrates the ability to engage in advanced historical research and to express ideas clearly and persuasively.  A chapter or chapters from an M.A. thesis would be an appropriate writing sample.  

Also required is a statement of purpose, approximately 500 words in length.  This should explain your reasons for seeking admission to our Ph.D. program and what you hope to study.  Try to be as specific as possible.  We do not expect that you propose a precise dissertation topic, but in making our decisions on admission we do look to ensure that a student’s interests can be well served by our course offerings and faculty expertise.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch with any faculty member with whom you think you might like to study.  Click here for individual contact details and more information about the wide-ranging scholarly interests of our faculty.

Pleaseclick here for further information about Ohio University’s graduate admission requirements.

All graduate applications must be submitted electronically. Click here to apply to the Ph.D. program in history.

When to Apply

The deadline for applications for the Fall Semester is February 1 of the preceding winter.  The History Department’s Graduate Committee will make decisions on admission shortly after that date.  Applicants will be notified of those decisions by early to mid-March.  Almost all admissions to our program occur in this cycle.  Please note that applicants for entry in the Fall Semester have priority for financial aid in the form of teaching assistantships and fellowships. 

The History Department’s Graduate Committee may admit applicants to start in the Spring Semester.  Such candidates should apply no later than November 1 of the preceding fall.  Admissions on this cycle, however, occur very rarely and only in extraordinary circumstances.  Please note that teaching assistantships and fellowships are typically unavailable in this cycle.  And please be in touch with the History Department’s Director of Graduate Studies before applying on this secondary cycle.

Program Requirements

Each student selects an area of concentration—Europe, Latin America, the United States, the Non-Western World, or International History—and then completes related coursework in three examination fields (listed below) plus a cognate field consisting either of courses in a related discipline or in the Contemporary History Institute.  In addition, a one-semester research seminar in the first field and a historiography course are required.  Please note that the first field is the dissertation field, and consequently must be completed in a field that emphasizes or focuses on contemporary history (on the period since World War I).

First/Dissertation Fields (each may also be used as a Second or Third Field)

  • US Cultural and Intellectual History
  • US Foreign Relations
  • US Military History
  • US Political History
  • US Social History
  • US Women and Gender
  • British Empire
  • Germany
  • Eastern Europe
  • Russia
  • Latin America
  • Africa
  • Southeast Asia
  • East Asia

Other Examination Fields (available as Second or Third Fields only)

  • Antiquity and Medieval Europe
  • Early Modern Europe
  • Colonial and Revolutionary America
  • Nineteenth Century US
  • Colonial Latin America and Atlantic History
  • World History

Language Requirement

Each Ph.D. student must demonstrate reading competence in one language other than English.  A dissertation advisor, in consultation with the student, may determine that a student must develop proficiency in additional languages as necessary to the student’s chosen specialization or dissertation research.  Students specializing in fields outside US or British history should expect to demonstrate competence in more than one language other than English.

After completing all required course work and language requirements, a Ph.D. student will take written and oral comprehensive exams in his or her three fields of study.  Following the successful completion of these exams, the student will write and defend a dissertation prospectus and, ultimately, the dissertation itself.  Prospectus and dissertation committees consist of three faculty members in history and one Ohio University faculty member from another department or school.

For More Information

Please consult the Graduate Student Handbook for more information about program requirements.