University at Buffalo Department of History
Skip to: Admission, Funding, or Requirements

Jonathan S. Dewald, Director of Graduate Studies

office: 555 Park Hall

phone: (716) 645-8406




The aim of the Ph.D. program is to train applicants for careers at the highest levels of the historical profession, such as college and university teaching and research. The program at UB has three stages: coursework, taken in the first two years, followed by preparation for written and oral exams in three fields, then researching, writing, and defending a dissertation. (Although the process can be condensed into a single sentence, one should note that it typically takes from six to eight years to complete a Ph.D. in history.) At present, the department offers the Ph.D. in six major fields: American History, Early Modern Europe (1400-1789), Modern Europe (1789-present), North and South Atlantic History, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The course work of the first two years emphasizes key aspects of the profession. The required seminar in historical inquiry, for instance, aims to acquaint students with the various methodological and theoretical considerations involved in “doing” history, while core courses in the major field areas are designed to help students gain the knowledge and background necessary to teach a particular field. These courses are supplemented by research seminars, which offer in-depth exploration of a particular field of specialization and allow students to become accustomed to conducting original research. This course work also helps students prepare the three areas—one of the five major fields, a field of specialization within the major field, and a minor field—in which they will take comprehensive oral and written examinations.

The final part of the Ph.D. is researching and writing the dissertation. The process begins with the preparation of a dissertation prospectus in the semester following successful completion of the comprehensive examinations. It customarily entails an extended period of research away from the university, and usually takes several years from start to finish..

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* Baccalaureate degree or equivalent
* Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better
* 18 credit hours of history
* The aptitude portion (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing) of the GRE

The application deadline for students who would like to enter the Ph.D. program in the Fall semester is January 5th. For more information please email the Graduate Program Assistant or phone us at (716)645-2181. To apply, follow these simple steps:

1. Application: use the on-line form -- please choose "History PhD" from the drop down menu.  There is a nonrefundable $75 fee (pay online, or send a check or money order made out to the University at Buffalo and payable in U.S. funds)

2. Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended

3. Three letters of recommendation, preferably from professors in history or related disciplines. (Recommendation Letter Form)

4. Sample of written work (see below*)

5. Statement of purpose (see below**)

6. The aptitude portion (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing) of the GRE. Please Note: UB's Institution Code is 2925. GRE scores should no more than three years old at the time of application.

7. For international students, the financial statement and a TOEFL score (for those whose native language is not English). For U.S. citizens whose native language is not English, a TOEFL score. The minimum TOEFL scores are as follows:

     Internet based TOEFL = 79

     Paper based TOEFL = 550
     Computer test = 213

*What is the writing sample? What should I submit?

  • The writing sample should be an academic paper of approximately 20-40 pages that demonstrates significant engagement with primary and secondary historical sources, ideally in the field of study you wish to pursue.

**What is the “Statement of Purpose"?

  • In 800-1000 words, tell us about your reasons for applying to the program, and what you plan to accomplish while you are here.  Please be sure to consider the following questions:

  • What in your intellectual and/or personal history led you to choose a career in history?  Are there particular books, topics, or approaches that inspired your interest?

  • What topic and/or field do you plan to focus on in your coursework and research?  What ideas do you have for your own original research (dissertation)?  Why does this subject interest you?
  • How does your proposed area of study coincide with the work of professors in our department?  Who among the faculty might be reasonable choices to serve on a dissertation committee for your chosen topic?
  • Please visit the American Historical Association page for further advice on the application process.



With rare exceptions, the Department regularly offers a minimum of four years of support—usually in the form of a T.A. (Teaching Assistant) line—to all applicants to whom we extend an offer of admission for full-time study.

All new full-time, supported students in the first four years of our Ph.D. program receive a financial aid package from $15,000 -22,000, including the cost of health care, plus a full tuition scholarship.

The above financial aid numbers reflect that most of our students successfully compete for a variety of departmental, College, and external fellowships and grants that provide generous stipends for dissertation research and for the final stages of dissertation writing. Opportunities also exist for advanced Ph.D. students who have served as Teaching Assistants for four years to teach their own undergraduate courses as paid adjuncts, or teaching associates. Thus, most students can count on an additional fifth year of support, while our very best students frequently receive six, or even seven, years of support.

Outline of available funding:

  • T.A. Stipends. Currently set at $12,180 per academic year, plus full tuition scholarship. This is the base stipend, to which additional fellowships and scholarships will be added as supplements. Teaching Assistants are required to teach, normally serving as assistants to History Department professors in the American History survey or in the required UB World Civilizations sequence. Teaching Assistants are responsible for attending lectures and supervising two to three recitation sections per semester.
  • Plesur Fellowships. Available only to graduate students in History, the department provides such fellowships to new and continuing students—either in conjunction with a regular T.A. line, or with a Presidential Fellowship or Dean’s Scholarship. Plesur Fellowships range from $2,000 to $6,000.
  • Presidential Fellowships. A university-wide program that provides a fellowship award of $4,000 to $6,000 per academic year for up to four years, offered to an incoming student in addition to a regular T.A. line or the equivalent (e.g., a Plesur Fellowship). . In recent years, the History Department has successfully nominated at least one new applicant to the Ph.D. program for a Presidential Fellowship each year.
  • Dean’s Scholarships. A College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) program that provides a fellowship award of $4,000 per academic year for up to four years, offered to an incoming student in addition to a regular T.A. line or the equivalent (e.g., a Plesur Fellowship).  In recent years, the History Department has successfully nominated at least one new applicant to the Ph.D. program for a Dean’s Scholarship each year.
  • College Scholarships. A College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) program that provides a fellowship award of $2,000 per academic year for up to four years, offered to an incoming student in addition to a regular T.A. line.
  • Schomburg Minority Fellowships. Provide a stipend of $10,000 per academic year, plus a tuition waiver for four years. There is no teaching obligation attached to this fellowship.
  • Plesur/Lockwood Dissertation Travel Awards. Advanced Ph.D. students may compete each year for money designated to support travel and living expenses to conduct extensive dissertation research outside of Western New York. The department regularly awards several Plesur (or Lockwood) Dissertation Travel Grants. Most recently, the department has, for example, awarded three students such funding, with offers ranging from $10,000 to $12,000 each.
  • CAS Dissertation Fellowships. These dissertation writing fellowships are designated for students in the last year or so of writing, and are available on a competitive basis. History Department Ph.D. students have been among the most successful of all applicants in the College of Arts and Sciences. The award is for $4,000; to encourage students to work full time writing dissertations, the History Department offers each recipient an additional $2,000 from Plesur funds to supplement the $4,000 Dissertation Fellowship provided by CAS. Thus, the total award package available is for $6,000.
  • Plesur Conference Travel Funds. Students traveling to the AHA annual meeting for scheduled job interviews, as well as others attending a scholarly conference and/or presenting scholarly papers at such conferences, may apply for support from the Department of History. The Department provides Plesur funds for such purposes in order to encourage active participation in the broader scholarly community of historians.




Course Work
Historical Inquiry (History 501) is required of all Ph.D. students and must be taken during the fall semester of the first year of doctoral study. The course offers an introduction to the theory and philosophy of history and is intended to acquaint students with various problems in historical analysis and understanding.

Core Courses. All doctoral students must take at least two of the following core seminars: History 502 and 503, “Core seminar in American history”; History 504 and 505, “Core seminar in European history”; History 507, “Core seminar in East Asian history; History 506, "Core seminar in North and South Atlantic History"; and History 559 and 560, "Core seminar in Latin American and Caribbean History".

Research Seminars. Students must take at least two 600-level research seminars.

Distribution requirement. All Ph.D. students must fulfill a distribution requirement by taking at least one course (outside of the student's major field) that covers an area outside the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Language Requirement
All doctoral students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language; in some fields two languages are required. Students are expected to take their major language exams before their third semester. All language examinations must be passed before a student can take his or her Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations.

Qualifying Examinations
Before being admitted to candidacy, all doctoral students must successfully complete a series of oral and written examinations in three fields: a major field, a field of specialization within the major field, and a minor field. These examinations are usually taken during the third year of study.

The major field is the broadest level at which a student will carry out research and teach. The field of specialization normally reflects a choice as to the prospective area of dissertation research; it is, as the title suggests, more focused and specialized than the major field. The minor field is meant to complement the major field, typically by adding useful theoretical or methodological competencies or by supplementing the major field with knowledge of another geographical or thematic area. It should not overlap with the major field.

Dissertation Prospectus
All doctoral students who satisfactorily complete their oral examinations must prepare and defend a dissertation prospectus of ten to fifteen pages describing their proposed research, the archives they plan to visit, and placing the project within an historiographical framework. The prospectus is to be defended before the department within six months of the doctoral examinations.

The culmination of the Ph.D. is the preparation and defense of the dissertation, a substantial work of original research. There are three stages to this process. First, a student must submit, normally by the end of the third year, a written prospectus to his or her Dissertation Committee [See "Dissertation Prospectus Defense" below]. The Committee must approve the prospectus before further work on the dissertation may take place. The second stage involves researching and writing the dissertation. Finally, the completed dissertation must be read and approved by the student’s committee, by an outside reader (who is not a member of the history department) and successfully defended. The dissertation defense consists of an oral examination conducted by the student’s dissertation committee.



Last updated: Thursday, April 16, 2015

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