History (Ph.D.)

History (Ph.D.)
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Why pursue a Ph.D. in history at UNH?

Our history Ph.D. program will prepare you for a career in historical research with a focus on U.S. history and colonial America. Our courses cover a wide range of times, places and subjects, with particular strength in cultural history, women's history, the history of religion, Atlantic history and African American history. You’ll refine your experience in methods of historical research and writing, gain competence in reading a foreign language, and work on a dissertation in collaboration with award-winning faculty in one of the top history departments in the nation.

Program Highlights

Members of our department have won some of the most important prizes in the profession, including the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes, a Guggenheim Fellowship and Fulbright fellowships, as well as many teaching excellence awards. Surveys of scholarly productivity among faculty at research universities have placed us among the top 20 history departments in the country. You may have heard or seen our faculty on PBS, C-SPAN, TLC, NPR or the History Channel. In addition to robust academics, our department offers lecture series that bring in visiting scholars, including the Rutman Distinguished Lecture Series on the American Presidency, which focuses on American political history.

Potential career areas

  • Academia
  • Biographer/author
  • Historical researcher
  • Policy analyst
  • Political consultant
  • Public sector historian

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Curriculum & Requirements

The Ph.D. is intended to prepare students for professional careers in historical research.  In this department, all Ph.D. students specialize in U.S. history / colonial America.  Students with a particularly strong secondary field outside of U.S. history may write dissertations that involve comparative studies of U.S. history / colonial America.

Before writing any dissertation, Ph.D. students must demonstrate competence in reading a foreign language, then pass a set of written and oral comprehensive examinations.

Degree Requirements

A doctoral student's program, which must be approved by the graduate committee of the department,  shall include each of the following requirements: two research seminars HIST 981 Doctoral Research Seminar in American History (taken twice), in which students will write a research paper in early U.S. History and a research paper in modern U.S. History; two reading seminars, HIST 939 Readings in Early American History and HIST 940 Readings in Modern American History; a course in historical methods; correction of any deficiencies in the student's previous program; proficiency in one foreign language; HIST 970 Graduate Seminar in Teaching History(applies to all doctoral candidates awarded teaching assistantships); HIST 971 Professionalization for Historians; preparation through reading and coursework in the entirety of U.S. history, with emphasis upon either early or modern U.S.; preparation through reading and coursework of two subfields outside of U.S. history, one of which may be a cognate field outside of history entirely; qualifying exams; dissertation proposal; and dissertation and successful defense.  

Candidacy is reached after successful completion of the following:

  1. required coursework listed above and courses to prepare fields or correct any deficiencies in the student's previous preparation;
  2. demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language;
  3. pass written and oral qualifying exams.

Note: In the definition of fields above, United States and U.S. are understood to mean the United States and its colonial antecedents.

Please consult the History Department's Graduate Student Handbook for additional details.

Apprenticeship and Degree Regulations

The department considers that graduate work in history, and particularly doctoral work, is professional training. The department recognizes the dual concerns of the historian's life: teaching and research. When feasible, all doctoral students are expected to undertake teaching in the department during a part of their residence. Participation in proseminar and in teaching constitutes an apprenticeship in conjunction with formal study. Doctoral students may choose to pursue the Cognate in College Teaching offered through the Graduate School. All graduate students are reviewed annually by the faculty of the department. A student accumulating two course failures is automatically barred from continuing in any degree program in history, but the department reserves the right to exclude others whose overall performance does not give reasonable assurance of a successful program completion. Students are allowed no more than three attempts to meet any language requirement.

  • Students will be able to demonstrate broad knowledge of historical events and periods and their significance
  • Students will be able to explain and critique the historical schools of thought that have shaped scholarly understanding of their fields of study
  • Students will be able to deploy skills of critical analysis: 1) Formulating persuasive arguments; 2) Evaluating evidence and critiquing claims in the literature; 3) Interpreting a variety of primary sources.
  • Students will be able to design and conduct major research projects, deploying these essential skills: )1 Reviewing the state of the field to identify a new topic and locate their work within larger scholarly conversations; 2) Identifying and accessing a sufficient base of primary sources; 3) Producing a high-quality research paper, well-written and meeting professional standards, suitable as the basis for conference presentation or academic publication; 4) Designing and writing a dissertation based on extensive research that makes an original contribution to knowledge
  • The skills listed above can lead to positions outside academia, such as in museums, archives, and government service. They also apply to students who seek faculty positions. For the latter group, students will additionally develop teaching skills, such as course design, classroom management, lecturing, leading discussions, and crafting assignments and evaluation methods
  • Students will be able to engage in professional dissemination of their work by presenting their research at conferences or submitting manuscripts to academic journals.

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Applications must be completed by the following deadlines in order to be reviewed for admission:

  • Fall: Jan. 15
  • Spring: N/A
  • Summer: N/A
  • Special: N/A

Application fee: $65

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: RI VT

Accelerated Masters Eligible: No

New Hampshire Residents

Students claiming in-state residency must also submit a Proof of Residence Form. This form is not required to complete your application, but you will need to submit it after you are offered admission or you will not be able to register for classes.


If you attended UNH or Granite State College (GSC) after September 1, 1991, and have indicated so on your online application, we will retrieve your transcript internally; this includes UNH-Durham, UNH-Manchester, UNH Non-Degree work and GSC. 

If you did not attend UNH, or attended prior to September 1, 1991, then you must upload a copy (PDF) of your transcript in the application form. International transcripts must be translated into English.

If admitted, you must then request an official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. We accept transcripts both electronically and in hard copy:

  • Electronic Transcripts: Please have your institution send the transcript directly to grad.school@unh.edu. Please note that we can only accept copies sent directly from the institution.
  • Paper Transcripts: Please send hard copies of transcripts to: UNH Graduate School, Thompson Hall- 105 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824. You may request transcripts be sent to us directly from the institution or you may send them yourself as long as they remain sealed in the original university envelope.

Transcripts from all previous post-secondary institutions must be submitted and applicants must disclose any previous academic or disciplinary sanctions that resulted in their temporary or permanent separation from a previous post-secondary institution. If it is found that previous academic or disciplinary separations were not disclosed, applicants may face denial and admitted students may face dismissal from their academic program.

Letters of recommendation: 3 required

Recommendation letters submitted by relatives or friends, as well as letters older than one year, will not be accepted.

Personal Statement/Essay Questions

Prepare a brief but careful statement regarding:

  1. Reasons you wish to do graduate work in this field, including your immediate and long-range objectives.
  2. Your specific research or professional interest and experiences in this field.

Additional Department Requirements

All applicants must submit a writing sample with their application.

Important Notes

All applicants are encouraged to contact programs directly to discuss program-specific application questions.

International Applicants

Prospective international students are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or equivalent examination scores. English Language Exams may be waived if English is your first language. If you wish to request a waiver, then please visit our Test Scores webpage for more information.

Inquire with the Department about Research Interests

As part of your application process, we recommend touching base with the academic department or specific faculty about your research interests, fit with the department, and available space. You can Submit an Extended Inquiry and we will inform your desired academic program about your interest. By submitting an inquiry form, you are not guaranteed to hear back from specific faculty. This can be a helpful step before going through the full application process.


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