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The Princeton graduate history program seeks to train the next generation of scholars. We value an approach to scholarship grounded in the particular while retaining a sense of the whole.
Throughout the path to the Ph.D., graduate students learn to take as comprehensive a view of history as possible. In their courses the faculty encourage students to trespass outside geographic and disciplinary boundaries. Students, faculty, and outside scholars continue these conversations beyond the classroom through workshops, lectures, and conferences, all part of Princeton's vibrant intellectual community.
Students leave the program with a far-reaching understanding of the past and prepared to engage in discipline-defining research. They go on to careers writing and teaching at top universities and colleges around the world.
Students take courses or seminars for two years, sit for a general examination and, upon successful completion, write a dissertation of such scope that they can anticipate its completion within three additional years of graduate study.
Each course usually meets once a week for three hours. A course may be either the seminar type, centering on individual students preparing research papers, or the more general, reading type, aimed at having students gain a broad acquaintance with a subject, or a mixture of both.
Sample of written work.
First-year students are expected to enroll in three courses each semester (including HIS 500 in the fall). Second-year students ordinarily enroll in two courses the first semester and one course the second semester. Courses include: graduate seminars offered by the history department; graduate seminars in other departments; undergraduate courses; supervised research papers; and supervised general reading. Although much of each student's program will be aimed at preparing for the general examination, students are strongly advised to take some courses in the first two years that do not fall within their general examination fields. For most students, the first two years of graduate school will provide the last opportunity to receive systematic instruction in subjects outside their specialized interests.
The minimum requirement of the department is a reading knowledge of either French or German (or Spanish in the case of American history). Within each field, the faculty decides what additional languages are required and the degree of proficiency that is required. In rare cases when the student, the student's adviser, and the director of graduate studies all agree that the substitution of another language is reasonable, appropriate, and academically sound, some other language may be used in place of French or German. The following field requirements apply:
The faculty of the history department set most of the language examinations. Examinations in some languages, however, may be administered by appropriate language departments at Princeton. Normally the examination consists of two passages to be translated, one with and one without a dictionary. Language examinations will be announced at the beginning of each semester. Other examinations should be scheduled in consultation with the director of graduate studies and (if appropriate) the department involved.
Entering students should arrange one language examination early in their first term. The department expects students to pass at least one language examination before enrolling for the second year. No student may complete the general examination or enroll for a fifth term without passing all language requirements. In fields that demand more than two languages, all but one of them must be passed prior to enrolling for a third term. Second-year students who fail the language exam at the regularly scheduled time may petition the director of graduate studies and receive a second chance to take the exam in the same term, in order to fulfill the language obligation at a time that interferes less with generals preparation.
The general examination tests the candidate’s knowledge of three distinct fields of historical study, one to be offered as the major field, and two as minors. To be eligible to complete the general examination, a student must have fulfilled the appropriate language requirements and completed all of the work in the courses in which he or she has enrolled. No student with an Incomplete will be permitted to complete the general examination until the outstanding course work has been finished.
The general examination consists of three written papers, one in each field, and an oral examination of not more than two hours. All three fields must be completed by May of the second year of study.
Examination fields are individually defined, in consultation with the director of graduate studies. Each field must be defined closely enough to permit the candidate to show evidence of intensive study, and broadly enough to have major historical significance. Common examples of examination fields include: Europe since 1870; the Ancien Régime and the Revolution in France; Tudor-Stuart England; Colonial and Revolutionary America; the United States, 1815–1920; Modern Japan; Modern Latin America; and the Atlantic world. Students are encouraged, if they wish, to choose a minor field in a subject from a discipline other than history. In all cases, candidates submit the titles of their fields to the director of graduate studies in the spring of their second year of study.
Students enrolled in the following special programs of study should consult the requirements particular to them: African studies, African American studies, East Asian studies, Hellenic studies, history of science, Latin American studies, and Near Eastern studies.
A student who completes all departmental requirements (coursework, language examinations, and research papers, with no incompletes from the first year and first semester of the second year), but fails the general examination may take it a second time. If the student fails the general examination the second time, then Ph.D. candidacy is automatically terminated.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy, but also may be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program. Students who have satisfactorily passed all required coursework (with all incompletes resolved), fulfilled the language requirements in their field of study, and completed the two required research papers may be awarded an M.A. degree.
The Department of History tries to provide part-time teaching experience for most of the advanced graduate students who desire it. Teaching assistantships generally involve two to four classroom hours a week and should not interfere with progress toward completing the dissertation. Appointments are made by the department chair, according to the needs of the undergraduate teaching schedule, to third-, fourth-, and fifth-year graduate students.
After passing the general examination, the qualifying candidate prepares a written dissertation. During the summer months between the second and third years, students are expected to attend a special dissertation writer’s seminar. Here students begin intensive work on and prepare a preliminary prospectus. On or before December 1 of the same year the student has taken his or her generals in May (or within six months of generals if taken at another time), the candidate must submit a finished version of the prospectus for the approval of the faculty adviser. Students are expected to complete the research and writing of the dissertation by the end of their fifth year of graduate study; earlier completion is certainly feasible in many cases.
The scope and length of the dissertation should be defined so that the dissertation can be completed in no more than three years of research and writing. The scope of the dissertation and its length varies from student to student; the decision, reached in consultation between the student and the supervisor, is based on the nature of the problem and the documentation. The completed dissertation may be as short as 75 pages or as long as 300. Only in exceptional circumstances should it exceed 300 pages. Whatever the scope or length, the dissertation must be capable of being developed for publication as a book or a series of articles in scholarly journals.
When the dissertation is completed, it is read by three readers in addition to the adviser; one of these three readers is normally not a faculty member of the Princeton history department. After the dissertation has been accepted, the candidate must pass a final public oral examination, which normally is conducted by a board consisting of the student’s adviser and the three readers.
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
William C. Jordan
Courses for Spring 2015
Courses listed below show only regular graduate-level courses for the term; undergraduate courses and graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students, are not listed.
This course provides tools for understanding material things and landscapes that humans created and lived in over time, enabling us to unpack the social and historical logic embedded in small- and large-scale artifacts and to devise ways of teaching through these objects, built and unbuilt environments and the work processes that shaped them. Transcending periods and specialties, and supplementing textual and iconographic approaches to understanding and teaching history, this methods course is especially relevant to students interested in history of urban and rural environments, technology, cultural construction, work, and everyday life.
This seminar covers classical and contemporary debates and historiography of world history, from the making of world systems, to the rise and fall of empires, to global revolution and the onset of modernity.
The Atlantic slave trade, broadly defined, affected the lives of tens of millions of people throughout the world. This course focuses on the experience of slavery in North American and the Caribbean from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, delving into specific sites of slavery to understand how this global trade worked at a local level. This readings seminar designed for graduate students interested in American and comparative slavery introduces both classic and new scholarship from the ever-growing and changing field of American slavery.
The seminar begins by exploring classic scholarship centered on four historical periods, each posited as important moments in the origin of gendered science: medieval Christianity, the scientific revolution, the professionalization of scientists in the late-19th century, and 20th-century second-wave feminism. We then turn to a series of well-developed analytical tools employed by historians of science and gender, and finally to recent scholarship. In all cases, we will analyze the imbricated processes by which science as a social enterprise has been fundamentally gendered and the implicit gendering of the sciences of sex and sexuality.
This course explores special topics in modern South Asian history. The precise topic varies from year to year.
This course provides graduate students with a comprehensive introduction to the historical study of China from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. Readings address major historiographical and methodological issues of the field, with a focus on recent literature produced in the United States. Topics covered include political institutions, local society, ethnicity and ideology, material culture, gender, urban and environmental history.
The littoral of the Mediterranean Sea has long been viewed as a major place of contact, conflict and exchange for groups belonging to the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This course approaches the encounters of different religions and ethnicities in such a manner as to introduce students not only to the classic historiography on the subject, but also to the main controversies and debates current in scholarship. Our discussions involve forays into the fields of transnational and global history.
This seminar will consider Islam and mobility across the Indian Ocean, discussing ways that Southeast Asians, Africans, and Indians have created their distinct communities while nonetheless declaring themselves to be of one discrete entity: the Umma. Alongside discussions of knowledge creation, orientalism and nationalism, the seminar will also explore issues relating to global projects for religious and political reform, using Indonesia as a primary example.
This seminar explores the transition from the late ancient to the medieval world through the lens of law and legal practice from the late Roman to the Carolingian empire. We will look at how the different codifications built on earlier legal models and traditions but adopted and adapted them in their respective circumstances. We will explore these processes until the ninth century when the Carolingian rulers came to rule an Empire which comprised a variety of different Roman and post Roman legal traditions and laws and were confronted with the challenge to find new ways and strategies for their coexistence, compatibility and convergence.
The goal of this seminar will be to introduce students to some of the most important ideas and debates surrounding the two major religious revolutions of Late Antiquity: the triumph of Christianity and the subsequent emergence and world conquests of Islam. The course will focus on extensive reading in both primary and secondary literature and students will be introduced to and trained in using major instrumenta studiorum for this period; texts may also be read in Greek, Syriac, and Arabic. No prior knowledge of Late Antiquity, Christianity, or Islam will be assumed.
This seminar covers the history of the Soviet Union from inception until dissolution and slightly beyond. The readings are exhaustive and comprehensive, with particular attention paid to institutions, empire, the cultural foundations of politics, and the world context.
This seminar will discuss methodological and historiographical issues in intellectual history with a specific focus on "conceptual history" (Begriffsgeschichte). Among the figures we will consider are Reinhart Koselleck, Carl Schmitt, Daniel Bell, Hannah Arendt.
The aim of this course is to study the multiple histories of the United Kingdom and the British Empire in the broader context of global history. This is partly in recognition of the interconnectedness of British national and British imperial histories; but also acknowledges and explores the relationship between Britain's imperial history and Britain's global dominance, which held for much of the period this seminar covers. The weekly readings combine very recent with some well established texts; some knowledge of British history, the history of the British Empire and recent developments in global history will be helpful but not essential.
In this course we will examine history, politics, and culture of East Central Europe after World War I. We will study a variety of institutions and cultural trends using narrative history, as well as literary essays and political manifestos.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England underwent a series of rapid political, cultural, and economic changes that transformed it from a backwater of Europe into a country of global importance. This graduate seminar will examine some of the historical problems associated with this modernization. It will revisit classic and broadly influential political and religious debates as well as examine newer and emerging areas of interest, such as consumption and material history, gender and masculinity, the Atlantic world, and cultural exchange in the pre-imperial period.
Fourth in a sequence of core courses in United States history, this course is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to the literature and problems of American history since World War I.
This course is a research and writing seminar that introduces major historical methods of research in ancient and medieval Japan. In addition to weekly research assignments, students identify a research topic by the third week of the class, and complete a research paper at the end of the semester (entailing 15-20 pages). Instruction focuses on research methods and topics, although some reading of sources also occurs.
Students will strive to interpret primary documents of the period as well as various narratives of the Meiji Restoration produced throughout the twentieth century. Four different themes will be woven together: 1) the reconstruction of the event of 1868 through primary documents and secondary studies; 2) the reconstruction of the history of the interpretations of 1868 in modern Japan; 3) the analysis of one of the most influential retellings of 1868, Shimazaki T¿son¿s Yoake mae (in the English translation by William F. Naff); and 4) a meditation on narrative, memory and fiction in the production of historical knowledge.
A distinctive feature of science (in its multiple designations in different cultures) is its geographical unrootedness. Historiographical schools over the past fifty years have experimented with designations for science's trans-local qualities - national styles of science, international science, cosmopolitanism, the Republic of Letters, and so on - with varying degrees of success. This graduate seminar explores the utility of taking a global approach to the history of science. We will explore recent scholarship on topics spanning from colonialism to translation, oceans to hygiene, nationalism to military technology.