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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
A colloquium to introduce the beginning graduate student to the great traditions in historical writing, a variety of techniques and analytical tools recently developed by historians, and the nature of history as a profession.
This seminar offers a history of global interactions roughly since the 1850s, combining an analytical framework with an overarching narrative. It singles out geopolitics, political economy, empire, networks and exchange, warfare and welfare, and oil. Key themes include the Anglo-German antagonism, the U.S.-Japan clash, the rise and fall of global communism, the German story and the European Union, the fall and rise of China, and America's global predominance and partnerships.
Course examines interactions between states and citizens since Latin American independence with an additional consideration of the region's integration into global economic and political systems.
The seminar highlights the major approaches to and debates about Africa's rich and complicated history with a focus on the impact of the Atlantic slave trade. Topics include the nature of African societies before the era of the Atlantic slave trade; the shifting of Africa's political and economic center of gravity from the interior to the coastal regions; and the demographic, social, and political impact of the slave trade on the Atlantic world including the underdevelopment of Africa and slave resistance in the Americas.
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.
This graduate seminar examines key historiographical, conceptual and methodological issues in modern Syrian history. Based on student interest, themes and materials covered may vary.
A survey of important work in the history of sexuality, seeking to understand sexuality not only as a topic of historical inquiry but as a category of analysis. Seminar focuses on U.S. history (from colonial period to the present), but some of the readings address contexts outside of the United States, as well as interdisciplinary and/or theoretical approaches to questions of gender/sexuality.
A survey of major issues in the historiography of early modern Japan and Meiji Japan (1600-1890).
Readings in Japanese political, social, and economic history. Topics include transwar continuity and change, political economy, labor, gender issues, culture and state, religion, Japanese expansion and colonialism, the Allied Occupation of Japan and "social management," and transnational-historical approaches to studying Japan. Some readings in Japanese (optional for those who do not specialize in Japanese history).
This seminar introduces students to major historiographical and methodological issues in twentieth-century Chinese history, with emphasis on the Republican period. Topics reflect theoretical debates and empirical questions, including: nationalism and citizenship, urban life, gender and sexuality, the Communist revolution, early PRC history.
This course introduces students to the recent theoretical literature on the history of the sea as well as the current historiography on the early modern (1300-1850) Mediterranean. Students are expected to write a research paper for the course. Wide latitude is given in order to accommodate student interest.
Between the later sixth century and the middle of the ninth century eastern Roman state, society and culture experienced a series of substantial transformations which resulted in what we call today 'Byzantium'. This course looks at some of the key sources for this process and analyses both the ways in which they have been interpreted and the questions those interpretations raise. Particular attention will be paid to the issues associated with relating written textual evidence to archaeological data and interpretation.
Reading and research seminar on the environmental history of medieval Europe.
Readings in the political, social, and cultural history of twentieth-century France are the focus of this course. Topics include: the Founding of the Third Republic, the First and Second World Wars, the crisis of democracy in the interwar decades; postwar reconstruction; decolonization, 1968.
The course examines financial innovation and its consequences from the early modern period to present: it examines the evolution of trading practices, bills of exchange, government bonds, equities, banking activity, derivatives markets, securitization. How do these evolve in particular state or national settings, how are the practices regulated, how do they relate to broader processes of economic development and to state formation? What happens as financial instruments are traded across state boundaries, and how does an international financial order evolve? What are the effects of international capital mobility?
This seminar covers major themes in the comparative study of early modern European states. It is intended for history graduate students who prepare for exams and independent research, but also for students in related disciplines. The seminar uses both classical and contemporary historiography to explore fundamental topics in early modern political history such as the nature of court society and absolutism, religion and confessionalization, the military revolution, and rituals and bureaucratic practices.
Seminar surveys historically significant schools of American legal thought, along the way questioning the notion of distinctive schools, as well as the distinctive legality and the distinctive Americanness of the thought. It offers an intellectual history of main themes in modern American legalism, with an emphasis on core controversies. Students will also find that the readings introduce a variety of methodologies and approaches used by historians and others who study issues of legality and law.
This course examines the historical approaches to multiracial and multiethnic interactions in the United States. By focusing on the constructions of race and ethnicity through a comparative lens, privileges and societal hierarchy becomes more pronounced and difference more nuanced. Some of the central themes of the course are identity, citizenship, and migration. The majority of readings are from 1850 to the present.
This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the literature of African-American History, from the colonial era up to more recent times. Major themes and debates will be highlighted. The course should help students to define interests within the field to pursue further study and research and also to aid preparation for examinations.
A comprehensive introduction to the literature and problems of American History from the end of the Civil War through World War I.
This course provides an introduction to the written sources of Japanese history from 750-1600. Instruction focuses on reading and translating a variety of documentary genres, and court chronicles, although visual sources (e.g. maps, scrolls, and screens) are introduced in class as well.
This History of Science graduate seminar will explore the topic of Alchemy.