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History PhD

Admission Requirements

  • MA degree in History, with high standing, from a recognized university.
  • Proficiency in English. Applicants whose primary language is not English must demonstrate that their knowledge of English is sufficient to pursue graduate studies in their chosen field. Please refer to the Graduate Admission page for further information on the Language Proficiency requirements and exemptions.

Applicants should understand that admission is contingent on a superior academic record, strong references, and a convincing statement of purpose which clearly describes their professional goals and intended area of research. In addition, admission is contingent on the availability of an appropriate faculty member in the Department of History to serve as supervisor.

Degree Requirements

Fully-qualified candidates are required to complete a minimum of 90 credits.

12 credits – Required Course

HIST 889 - Doctoral Seminar (6 credits)
HIST 878 - Comprehensive Major Field Tutorial (6 credits)

6 credits – Elective Courses

Two 3-credit reading courses at the 800-level in the student's minor comprehensive field.

12 credits – Comprehensive Examinations

HIST 880 - Comprehensive Examinations (12 credits)

6 credits – PhD Thesis Proposal Preparation and Colloquium

HIST 885 - PhD Thesis Proposal and Colloquium (6 credits)

54 credits – Thesis

HIST 890 - Thesis Research (54 credits)

Courses. (18 credits). During the first two years of their program, doctoral students must register for HIST 889 Doctoral Seminar (6 credits). This seminar complements students’ individualized tutorial preparation for comprehensive exams and facilitates their preparation of the thesis proposal by offering a forum for faculty guidance in and peer discussion of matters of scholarly, pedagogical, and professional practice. Subjects to be addressed include study and writing strategies for comprehensive exams; thesis topics and proposal-writing; research methods and resources; and professional skills. The seminar meets bi-weekly during the fall and winter terms. In addition, doctoral students are required to take 12 credits of 800-level courses, consisting of two 3-credit reading courses in the student's minor comprehensive fields and a 6-credit reading course, HIST 878, in the student's major comprehensive field. HIST 878 includes an explicit course-preparation component, where the student prepares an annotated syllabus for an undergraduate lecture course encompassed by the major field. In exceptional cases, students may, with permission of the graduate program director, do three credits of course work at an equivalent level in another discipline.

Comprehensive Examinations. (12 credits). Early in their first term in the program, and in consultation with the GPD, new PhD students form an advisory committee of three faculty members to assist in the selection and preparation of comprehensive fields. In the first year of their program, students take reading courses with the supervisors of each of the three fields, which prepares the students to complete the full requirements of each field's preparation over the following terms.
Subject to the availability of appropriate faculty members, the Department of History is normally prepared to supervise comprehensive examinations in a range of broadly defined geographical and chronologically limited fields, as well as in thematic fields, as suits the student's program.  Example of fields recently supervised include:  History of Canada since 1867; History of France since 1789; History of Haiti from 1801 to 1986; Labour History.  For other fields available, applicants may consult the faculty research pages of the department's website.
The major field will be that in which the student’s proposed doctoral thesis falls. Normally students choose at least one field defined in specific geographical terms.
Any student may offer one examination in a related discipline when approved by the History Graduate Committee and by the appropriate faculty member and/or program administrator in that discipline.
The preparation of a comprehensive field should give students sufficient background to teach at an introductory level and/or do advanced research in the field. Although the requirements may vary from one field to the next, a core reading list of 50 to 100 titles per field is suggested as reasonable. The reading list for a field is be drawn up by the professor in consultation with the student in the context of the reading courses associated with the field taken in the student's first year, and once established, both must agree to any significant changes.
The examinations are normally scheduled by the end of the fourth term (or fall of the second year) of the student’s program. The comprehensive examinations consist of take-home examinations in three selected fields, each is completed over a 72-hour period. These written examinations are normally completed within a three-week period. If successful, they are followed by an oral examination, involving all three examiners,normally held within two weeks of the last written comprehensive. The purpose of the oral comprehensive is to allow the doctoral student the opportunity to explain or expand on parts of the written examinations which professors found inadequate or unclear, as well as to allow for more general discussion among the examiners and the student as a group of historians.

PhD Thesis Proposal Preparation and Colloquium. HIST 885: PhD Thesis Proposal and Colloquium (6 credits). Following the successful completion of the comprehensive exams, students prepare a written thesis proposal for the approval of the internal members of their thesis committee. The thesis proposal should describe and justify the intended topic, explain its place in the historiography of the field, discuss the intended research methods, and identify the source requirements including their availability. Students are normally expected to submit and defend their thesis proposal by the end of the fifth term of their studies. When the written proposal is approved the student presents an oral colloquium about the proposal to the department. When the proposal and colloquium requirements are satisfied, the student is admitted to candidacy.

Thesis. HIST 890: Thesis Research (54 credits). Doctoral students must submit a thesis based on their research and defend it in an oral examination. A doctoral thesis in history is expected to be based on extensive research in primary sources, to make an original contribution to historical knowledge, and to be presented in an acceptable literary form. The PhD thesis should normally run to no more than 400 pages including all critical apparatuses.

Language. Doctoral candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to read and translate historical material in one modern language other than English. In addition, students may elect, or may be required, to demonstrate competence in a second language. Language examinations, which are normally given twice a year, are administered by the department. Dictionaries are not allowed in writing the exam.

Academic Regulations

  1. Academic Standing. Please refer to the Academic Standing section of the Calendar for a detailed review of the Academic Regulations.
  2. Residence. The minimum period of residence is six terms (including summer terms) of full-time graduate study beyond the master’s or magisteriate degree, or nine terms of full-time graduate study beyond the bachelor’s degree for those students who are permitted to enrol for doctoral studies without a master’s or magisteriate degree, or the equivalent in part-time study.
  3. Time Limit. Please refer to the Academic Regulation page for further details regarding the Time Limit requirements.
  4. Graduation Requirement. In order to graduate, students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.00.


Most graduate seminars and tutorials are one term in length. The content of these courses varies from term to term. Students should consult the department for more detailed information.

Research, Theses, and Comprehensive Examinations

HIST 877 Comprehensive Minor Field Tutorial (3 credits)
Subject matter varies from term to term and from year to year. Students may re-register for this course provided that the course content has changed. Changes in content are indicated by the letter following the course number, e.g. HIST 877A, HIST 877B, etc.
HIST 878 Comprehensive Major Field Tutorial (6 credits)
HIST 880 Comprehensive Examinations (12 credits)
HIST 885 PhD Thesis Proposal and Colloquium (6 credits)
HIST 889 Doctoral Seminar (6 credits)
HIST 890 Thesis Research (54 credits)

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