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The Department of History, which offers the degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is committed to training area specialists with a global perspective.  Our students learn how to research, interpret and teach the histories and historiographies of particular places from comparative, cross-cultural, transnational and global perspectives. The graduate program provides training in historical research and teaching to students who wish to find careers in colleges, universities, and other settings where the skills of the historian can be used. To advance this purpose, the department encourages a climate of intellectual inquiry and active research that embraces graduate students and faculty members alike. The hallmark of the program is the high measure of independence and flexibility it allows students in shaping a curriculum that meets their needs, within the limits of faculty expertise and available resources.

Contact Information

Department Chair: Lara Putnam
Main Office: 3702 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
Fax: 412-648-9074


Admission to the graduate program in history is highly competitive. Candidates must present a career statement, a sample of their written work on a historical topic, undergraduate and/or graduate transcripts, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for the aptitude sections only, and two letters of recommendation. Test of English as Foreign Language scores are required of all applicants whose primary language is not English. Individuals interested in the graduate program should contact the graduate administrator at the University of Pittsburgh, Department of History, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; by e-mail:; or students can apply online at The graduate administrator will also provide applicants with a copy of the department’s Graduate Rules and Regulations.

Financial Assistance

Financial aid comes in a variety of forms. At least two A&S non-teaching fellowships are available to incoming students each year. The most common are teaching assistantships and teaching fellowships. Mellon Predoctoral Fellowships that require no teaching duties are nominated by the department’s graduate committee from among the students at the dissertation stage. The fellowships are renewable for a second year in outstanding cases. The Lillian B. Lawler Fellowship is available to students who are working on their dissertations and who show distinction in teaching as well as research. The Carolyn Chambers Fellowship rotates between the Department of History and the Department of English and is available to students writing their dissertations. Fellowships are available through the Cultural Studies Program for students affiliated with that program who are writing dissertations. The department may also be able to offer one or two fellowships, without teaching responsibilities, to first year students.

Students specializing in East Asian, Latin American, Russian/East European, and Western European history are also eligible to apply for other fellowships through the University Center for International Studies (UCIS), 4400 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, University of Pittsburgh. Application forms and information concerning these awards should be obtained from the appropriate area program office in UCIS and submitted at the same time the student applies to the Department of History for admission.

Degree Requirements

The minimal requirements for the degrees established by the Graduate Faculty of the University and by A&S Graduate Studies, as described elsewhere in this bulletin, should be read in conjunction with the specific departmental requirements for these degrees in the following sections.

Requirements for the Master’s Degree

While the History Department doesn’t offer a terminal Master’s Degree, graduate students get the Master’s Degree while working towards their PhD.  The requirements for being awarded the Master of Arts in history should be met within two years. Eight units of work (24 credits) are required for the degree. Of these eight, as many as three may be lecture courses in the 1000 series, but students are encouraged to take as much of their work as possible at the seminar level. At least five units must be seminars. One of the eight units must be outside the Department of History in a related discipline. In addition, students must take 9 credits in seminars or transnational/thematic history and 6 credits in a regional field (Asia, Europe, Latin America, or the United States).

Students must present one paper, which is kept as part of their permanent record and is considered equivalent to a master’s thesis. A research paper, normally developed in a research seminar, involves a major original research project employing primary sources, and is presented to the seminar for evaluation and criticism. Where no suitable seminar is offered, the student may develop the paper as an individual project under the guidance of a faculty member (HIST 2902).

Proficiency in one research tool is required for the master’s degree in many regional fields (Asia, Europe, or Latin America). This requirement is met by demonstrating reading knowledge of a second language or competence in quantitative techniques. Students must, in consultation with their advisor, select the research tool most useful to their specialization. Students are urged to complete language preparation before entering graduate school, not only to lighten their workload, but also because some seminars require the use of a second language.

At the end of the student’s program, the candidate must take an oral examination covering the work completed and emphasizing particularly the interrelationships among courses and seminars. Upon completion of these requirements, the department, after considering the recommendation of the student’s committee, will decide upon the award of the master’s degree and upon admission into our PhD program.

Requirements for the PhD

Prerequisite for admission is a Master of Arts or equivalent preparation (plus approval, for those previously enrolled in the department). A minimum of 72 graduate credits is required for the degree.

Each regional field (Asia, Europe, Latin America, or the United States) will determine the number and kind of languages and research tools that are required for the PhD. When two research tools are required for the PhD, one is normally completed in the course of work for the MA; the second must be completed before sitting for the PhD comprehensive examinations.

Within 13 months of their entry into the program, students with an MA from other institutions must pass a preliminary examination. Candidates must complete 9 credits, and write an original research paper, in order to sit for the one-hour oral examination. After their MA and before sitting for the PhD comprehensive examinations, students must take nine additional credits in seminars and fulfill all research tool requirements.

Committee: a meeting of the comps committee will take place no later than October 31 of the academic year in which the exam will take place (for spring exams) or February 28 of the previous academic year (for fall exams). At this meeting the student and the faculty members will confirm a) the lists for each of the fields and b) a plan of action to complete the student's preparation for the exam.

Written essays: Students will work with graduate faculty members to prepare written, historiographic essays on two subjects: a thematic field (Atlantic history, power and inequality, texts and contexts, world history) and a regional field (Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States). No essay is required for the specialized, dissertation-related field that will be included in the oral examination. Essays should be no longer than 7500 words. The assize must be approved by the committee before proceeding to the oral examination.

Written work in seminars should be tailored to prepare students to write these historiography essays. Faculty members should make every effort to require students to write final seminar papers that help with the preparation of the written essays for the comprehensive exams.

Oral examination: The oral examination will take place no later than April for a spring term and November for a fall term exam. The oral examination will be a maximum of two hours in duration. The oral exam should focus on integrating the three fields covered by the students.

After having selected a suitable dissertation topic, in consultation with the appropriate advisor, the student will present a written overview to the doctoral committee describing the purpose, scope, and method of the proposed study and the sources upon which it will be based. With the acceptance of this prospectus at the overview examination and the approval of the assistant dean of graduate studies, the student is formally admitted to candidacy for the PhD.

The dissertation, directed and evaluated by the student’s doctoral committee, is expected to demonstrate the student’s capacity to carry out independent, original research. Only if the dissertation is judged to demonstrate such competence, after formal defense in a final oral examination, does the department recommend the awarding of a degree.

For further details regarding the graduate program in history and the specific exam requirements, please download the latest version of the Graduate Program Handbook from the History Department Website.




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