Graduate Handbook

Ph.D. Field Requirements

The various subfields in the history Ph.D. program have specific requirements of their own. This section outlines those requirements, but students should meet with advisors on a regular basis to confirm that there have been no changes in them and that they have fulfilled them. In all fields but U.S. History, passing one language exam is necessary for the M.A. Degree. In all fields fulfillment of all language requirements is mandatory for permission to take the oral examination.

Africa

Courses: In their first year of study, students are required to take a colloquium in African history in which they will produce a historiography paper. They are also required to take GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography in the first year. All students are required to take a total of 10 courses for credit: 6 in the first year and 4 in the second.

Languages: Study of one African language is mandatory. Two language exams must be passed before the oral exams. One of the languages may be a European language, such as French, German, or Portuguese. The other must be an African language, such as Arabic, Bamana, Pulaar, Swahili, Wolof, Zulu, or another, as regional and research specialty may demand.

Orals: Comprehensive exams are to be taken in the fifth or sixth term. Fields are to be developed in consultation with the Africanist faculty. One field may be in a discipline other than history. Failing a field will require re-sitting that portion of the exam.

Dissertation Prospectus: Students are required to produce a preliminary proposal for dissertation research in the first weeks of the fifth semester. This proposal will serve as the core of funding proposals and of the eventual dissertation prospectus. The defense of the prospectus itself takes place after the oral exams.

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Ancient

Courses: Students in Ancient history are required to take GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography in the first year and GR8061 Topics in Pre-Modern European History at some point during the first two years (if offered). All students are required to take a total of ten courses taken for credit (6 courses in the first year, 4 courses in the second year). For students in Greek and Roman History at least three of these courses must be at the 2000-level, three at the 8000-level, and two in ancillary disciplines (epigraphy, numismatics, papyrology, law). All students need to plan their courses with their advisor.

Languages: Students are required to pass language exams in four foreign languages before taking the oral exam. All students need to pass exams in French, and German. Students in Greek and Roman History need to sit for both Greek and Latin upon their arrival at Columbia. Students are expected to pass the department's language examination in at least one of these two languages within one year from the beginning of the first semester, and to pass the other classical language within two years from the beginning of the first semester. Exceptions will be made only for students who demonstrate, on entering the program, that their language preparation has been unusually weak; these students will reach an agreement at that time with their advisors about the maximum time they will take to pass the classical language exams. Students in ancient Near Eastern History need to pass exams in two ancient Near East languages before taking the oral exam.

Orals: Oral exams are to be taken in the sixth term. Students in Greek and Roman History may choose either of the following routes for the major field.

  1. A set of periods, namely three out of the following, the only limitation being that at least one period must be Greek and one Roman: 800-479 B.C. (Greek), 754-167 B.C. (Roman), 479-323 B.C. (Greek), 323-30 B.C. (Greek), 30 B.C. - A.D. 235, 167-30 (Roman), A.D. 235-565.
  2. A set of three thematic fields from the following list, covering all or most of classical antiquity (any chronological limitations must be agreed to beforehand by the student's advisor): economic history, constitutions, social history, religious history, intellectual history, gender and sexuality, law, historiography, slavery, environmental history, warfare, political history. Students in Ancient Near Eastern History will be examined on all periods of Near Eastern history from 3200-300 B.C. for the major field. Candidates will also present a minor field, to be agreed upon with their advisors. Students who wish to delay their orals beyond the sixth semester, which is discouraged, will be required to seek the approval of the departmental Director of Graduate Studies.

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Early Modern Europe, 1350-1750

Courses: First-year students in Early Modern European History are required to enroll in GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography. Students are also advised to enroll in GR8061 Topics in Pre-Modern European History at some point during the first two years (if offered). Students are required to take two research courses during their first two years; they are strongly encouraged to take one each term, for a total of four. Normally the research requirement is fulfilled in 8000-level seminars, but students may substitute 3000-or 4000-level classes or independent study, if necessary, by arrangement with the instructor and the advisor. Students normally take three courses a term in the first year and two a term in the second year.

Languages: Students are required to pass language examinations in French and German before taking the oral exam. Other languages relevant to their research may in some cases be substituted for either French or German (with approval of their advisor).

Orals: Students normally take the oral exams by the end of the sixth term; they are encouraged to take the exam as early as possible during the third year. Students must have completed their language requirements prior to sitting the Orals exams. Orals fields in Early Modern European history vary considerably depending on the area of concentration, and will be decided upon in consultation with the student's advisor. If a student fails any of the exam fields, at least two of the original Orals committee must convene for the re-examination.

Dissertation Prospectus: Students are encouraged to defend their dissertation prospectuses in their sixth term or early in their seventh.

Advanced Standing: Students with advanced standing are not required to take the second year of coursework, although they still must complete two terms of research courses and may wish to continue coursework beyond the first year. Although the sixth-term deadline noted above for orals coincides with the GSAS deadline for the M.Phil. for students with advanced standing, such students should discuss with their advisors an accelerated schedule for orals and the prospectus defense.

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East Asia

Columbia University offers a doctoral program in East Asian History to students registered in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures or in the Department of History. The faculty, requirements, teaching assignments, and degree (History-East Asia) are the same for all students, regardless of their departmental affiliation. The History-East Asia Coordinator who works with the Director of Graduate Studies in both departments oversees the program.

Courses: Students in East Asian History are required to enroll in a total of twelve one-semester courses for credit. Of these, one must be History GR8910 (Introduction to History and Historiography), to be taken in their first year, and one must be a bibliography course or the equivalent. Of the remaining ten courses, eight must be colloquia or seminars or the equivalent selected in consultation with the advisor. The remaining courses may include directed-reading courses. If you take two semesters of second-year Classical Chinese you may count these two courses as one seminar to fulfill your seminar requirement. Additional courses above the required twelve may be taken in consultation with the student’s advisor.

Languages: All entering students must take a diagnostic placement examination in the language of specialization during the registration period of the fall semester. The results will be forwarded to the History-East Asia Coordinator, to the Director of Graduate Studies in EALAC, and to the respective advisors. The Ph.D. language requirement is fulfilled by receiving a B+ or better in the required Asian language courses, or by demonstrating equivalent proficiency in the language placement examination. European language requirements can be fulfilled only by exam in the History Department or the corresponding language department. Students must pass all required languages before the Orals, and are encouraged to do so as early as possible.

The Primary Language:

  • Chinese history. 5th-year modern Chinese, or the equivalent; two years classical Chinese, or the equivalent.
  • Japanese history. 5th-year Japanese (one semester of a translation-intensive course); one year classical Japanese, or the equivalent; one semester of Kanbun, or the equivalent. Students in pre-1900 history are expected to undertake additional training in Classical Japanese, Sōrōbun, Kuzushiji, Kanbun, and/or Classical Chinese, as recommended by the advisor.
  • Korean history. 5th-year Korean, or the equivalent.
  • Tibetan history. Third-year Tibetan or the equivalent; third-year classical Tibetan or the equivalent.

Second and Third Languages:

  • Chinese history. Pre-Qing history: three years of Japanese, or the equivalent. Qing and later: advanced proficiency in a relevant language, such as Japanese, Korean, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, etc., chosen in consultation with the advisor.
  • Japanese history. For all: one European language, chosen in consultation with the advisor. Students are encouraged to take another Asian language or languages, and a second European language, if required by the advisor
  • Korean history. Pre-20th century: two years of classical Chinese, or the equivalent. 20th-century history: three years of Japanese, or the equivalent.
  • Tibetan history. For all students: reading knowledge of one European language or Japanese, chosen in consultation with the advisor. For all students: three years of modern Chinese or two years of modern Chinese and one year Classical Chinese, chosen in consultation with advisor. In exceptional cases in which Chinese is not necessary for research interests, this requirement may be waived in consultation with advisor.

First-year essay and research papers: All students, including those already holding an M.A., will write a first-year essay, to be completed by the end of the second semester. Students who enter the program without an M.A. can apply to their department to receive the M.A. degree upon completion of the first-year essay and other relevant requirements. Two additional research papers, normally written for a seminar, must be completed by the time of the oral examination. At least one of these papers must be based on research in primary sources, and at least one must deal with a topic outside the student's major field of specialization. On completion of the first-year essay, continuation to the Ph.D. requires approval by the advisor, in consultation with the History-East Asia Coordinator and the Director of Graduate Studies in the relevant department. Students must submit a one-page progress form no later than February 1 of the first year.

Orals: The purpose of the oral examination is to help students develop a general knowledge of several fields of history and scholarship so as to equip them to teach and write in areas beyond those of their specific research interests. The examination committee will consist of four examiners in four fields, one of which will typically be in the major field of specialization (e.g. modern Chinese history), two outside the specialization, and one outside East Asia (e.g. 20th-century France, Theories of Imperialism), the exact composition to be determined in consultation with the advisor.

Teaching Assistantship: After the first year, all students in History and EALAC will have teaching or service assignments in the undergraduate East Asian program, offered mainly by EALAC and the Committee on Asia and the Middle East. These assignments will be determined through consultation among the History East Asia Coordinator and the Directors of Graduate Studies of History and EALAC.

Dissertation Prospectus: Within six months of the oral examination or before leaving for field research (whichever occurs first), the dissertation prospectus will be defended before a committee of four faculty, including one outside the specialization or representing issues of method. The composition of the committee is to be determined in consultation with the advisor. The prospectus is usually a refined version of the grant proposal submitted at the beginning of the third year to outside funders for dissertation research in Asia.

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International and Global History

This field offers training in historical literatures, conceptual frameworks, and research strategies that transcend conventional area divisions. Students may work with a variety of faculty interested in transnational and comparative methodologies, and in the historiographies of world and international history, combining it with work in more specific areas.

Courses: First-year students are required to take GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography, and GR8930 Approaches to International and Global History. Students will consult with their advisors in choosing four other courses in their first year, and four more courses in their second year for a total of 10 courses. At least six of the eight electives must be 8000-level courses, and at least one should be a research seminar.

Languages: Students are required to pass exams in at least two languages, as appropriate to their research and interests.

Orals: Oral exams are to be taken in the sixth term. Orals fields will be developed in close consultation with advisors, and will vary widely depending on the students' research and teaching interests. They can be both thematic and geographical in scope. At least two out of the four examinations must be trans-regional in scope, and at least one must be in a specific regional history. Students will be required to retake the exams for any failed fields.

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Jewish History

Courses: All first-year students in Jewish History are required to enroll in GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography. Other courses are to be chosen in consultation with the student's advisor.

Languages: Students are required to pass examinations in three foreign languages before the oral exam: Hebrew, French, and German. Students may also be asked to sit exams in one or more of the following languages, depending on research interests: Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Yiddish.

Orals: Students are expected to take their orals in their sixth term. They are required to take one subfield in Ancient Jewish History, one in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History, and one in Modern Jewish History, plus a field in History outside of Jewish history, either geographical or thematic, to be agreed upon with their advisor. Students pursuing a Ph.D. in American Jewish history through the Jewish History field (as opposed to the US field) may, if they so choose, omit the Ancient Jewish History subfield and add American Jewish history as a subfield, with Modern Jewish History clearly designated as Modern European Jewish History.

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Latin America

Courses: First-year students in Latin American History are required to enroll in GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography, and in the M.A. seminar, GR9660x-GR9661y Latin American Master's Seminar. This seminar involves the writing of an article-length paper based on primary sources and a review of the relevant historiography. During their first or second year students must take the graduate colloquia on the literature of the field from the colonial and national period. All students are required to take 6 courses in the first year. In the second year students enroll in two courses each semester, at least two of which must be graduate colloquia. These requirements may be adapted for students with advanced standing.

Languages: Students are required to pass examinations in three foreign languages before taking the oral exam: Portuguese, Spanish, and either French or German. Students might replace one of these with another language according to their research project.

Orals: Orals are to be taken in the sixth term. The major field is divided into the colonial, nineteenth-, and twentieth century periods, with the minor field from outside the department or in another area of history.

Dissertation Prospectus: Students are encouraged to defend their dissertation prospectuses no later than their sixth term or early in their seventh.

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Medieval Europe

Courses: Students are required to enroll in GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography in the first year and GR8061 Topics in Pre-Modern European History at some point during the first two years (if offered). Students are also required to take two research courses during the first two years; they are strongly encouraged to take one each term, for a total of four. Normally the research requirement is fulfilled in 8000-level seminars, but students may substitute 3000- or 4000-level classes or independent study, if necessary, by arrangement with the instructor and the advisor. Students normally take three courses a term in their first year and two a term in the second year. Students who do not pass exams in two languages at the beginning of the first term are normally expected to take language courses during the first year.

Languages: Students are required to pass language examinations in French, German, and Latin before taking the oral exam. Students may also be required to take exams in additional languages relevant to their research. Entering students must sit for Latin and either French or German during the first set of exams after matriculation.

Orals: Students are required to take the oral exams by the end of the sixth term; they are encouraged to take the exam as early as possible during the third year. Orals fields normally include three fields in medieval subjects (defined geographically, chronologically, and/or thematically) and a fourth field in another era or another discipline.

Dissertation Prospectus: Students are encouraged to defend their dissertation prospectuses in their sixth term or early in their seventh; they may do so earlier.

Advanced Standing: Students with advanced standing are not required to take the second year of coursework, although they still must complete two terms of research courses and may wish to continue coursework beyond the first year. Although the sixth-term deadline noted above for orals coincides with the GSAS deadline for the M.Phil. for students with advanced standing, such students should discuss with their advisors an accelerated schedule for orals and the prospectus defense.

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Middle East

Courses: First-year students in Middle Eastern History are required to take GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography. All other courses are to be chosen in consultation with the student's advisor. All students are required to take 6 courses in the first year and 4 courses in the second year.

Languages: Students are required to pass examinations in two foreign languages before taking the oral exam. One language must be chosen from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or Hebrew, and one from French, German, Russian, Italian, or Spanish.

Orals: Orals are to be taken in the Sixth term. A failure in one field would only require retaking the failed field. Failure in more than one field would necessitate retaking the entire exam.

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Modern Europe

The broad rubric of Modern Europe encompasses a wide array of fields and approaches. Some graduate students place particular emphasis on national fields or geographical areas, from the British Isles to Russia and from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, but others organize their studies around an approach or theme, be it intellectual developments, social and economic relations, diplomacy, or global power. Our program makes possible a variety of research orientations, and further encourages transnational and comparative work. In all cases, students work out their program of study in close consultation with faculty.

Courses: First-year students are required to take GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography. Students in Modern European History are advised to take GR8061 Topics in Modern History within the first two years (if offered). All students are required to take 6 courses in the first year and four courses in the second, chosen in consultation with the advisor. After approval by the advisor, the student should submit a copy of each paper for their file. All first and second year students participate in occasional colloquia and workshops organized by the European wing and will have opportunities to present their research in that setting.

Languages: Language requirements vary according to the field and research specialization of the student. Students are, however, required to pass a minimum of two language examinations before the orals in Western European fields (ordinarily in French and German, although one language may be substituted), three language examinations in the East Central European field, and three language examinations (ordinarily including Russian and French and/or German) in the Russian field.

Orals: Students prepare four orals fields, one of which must be in a field outside the student's major area of interest or in a discipline other than history. Orals are to be taken in the fifth, or at the latest the sixth, term.

Dissertation Prospectus: The program is structured on the expectation that students will defend their prospectuses no later then the spring of the seventh year.

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Socio-Medical Sciences

The Ph.D. in Sociomedical Sciences is an interdisciplinary program, with study divided between the Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH) and one social science department in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The aim of the program is to train researchers and teachers to apply social science theory and methods to the study of social factors related to health status and health care needs, social systems, and the relation between these systems and the populations they are designed to serve. Graduates of the program have typically been employed in academic positions either in social science departments or health professional schools, or have taken positions as analysts or evaluation researchers in health planning agencies or consulting organizations. For students who choose history as their social science discipline, the curriculum will be run jointly by the History Department and MSPH. Admissions decisions for the program in history are also made jointly by the MSPH and History. Students may obtain further information from the Division of Sociomedical Sciences, Office of Admissions, Mailman School of Public Health, 600 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, 212-305-3927, or by visiting the MSPH website.

Students in the Sociomedical Sciences Ph.D. program at the School of Public Health whose social science department in GSAS is History are required to take either G8910 Introduction to History and Historiography or G8500 The Literature of American History in the first or second year. The complete program of study is available in the student handbook for the Department of Sociomedical Sciences.

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South Asia

The South Asia fields works with students on a model of co-advisement.

Courses: In the first year, students in the South Asia History are required to take the GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography, and five additional courses.

In the second year, students are required to take four courses.

Students are expected to have taken at least two graduate seminars in South Asia history over their first two years in the program. One of these two seminars will form the basis for producing the Masters Thesis. The Masters Thesis should be based on primary research and include a review of secondary literature. They are required to follow the deadlines for the Masters thesis listed in the Graduate Student Handbook.

Languages: Students are required to pass language exams in two languages, chosen in consultation with their advisors. At least one of the languages must be a modern South Asian language (i.e., Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Sindhi, Kannada etc.); the other can be either a second modern South Asian language, or one selected from Sanskrit, Persian, French, Dutch, Portuguese, or German.

Students cannot opt-out of language requirements by demonstrating fluency in a South Asian language which is not among the primary research languages for their project.

Orals: Orals are generally taken in the fifth term. They consist of three major, and one minor field. The major fields should consist of the following:
1. Ancient and Medieval South Asia
2. Modern South Asia
3. Comparative South Asia [conceives the study of South Asia through broadly global, transnational, or comparative framework]

4. The Minor field can be geographic, chronologic, thematic or conceptual in content, and can draw from a different field (US, Early Modern or Modern Europe, East Asia, Intellectual, etc.) or different discipline (such as Anthropology, Art History, Architecture, Law, Philosophy, etc.).

Dissertation Prospectus: Students are expected to defend the dissertation prospectus in the sixth term. The prospectus is generally a 4-5,000 word document, with a substantial bibliography (that would draw on reading lists from the orals field).

The prospectus should outline the project’s methodology, discuss its relationship to current historiographic debates, outline the archives to be explored, and provide a plan of research.

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United States

Courses: In their first year, students in American History are required to take GR8910 Introduction to History and Historiography and five additional courses (at least two of which much be graduate colloquia and at least one of which must be a research seminar). GR8500 The Literature of American History is also required for all students. In the second year, students enroll in three courses, at least one of which must be a research seminar. They also begin preparation for orals.

Languages: Students are required to pass one examination demonstrating proficiency in a foreign language. Although students in American History may receive the M.A. degree without having passed the language exam, no student can take the oral examination without having fulfilled the language requirement.

Orals: Orals are generally taken in the fifth term. The orals fields in U.S. history consist of three American fields—colonial history, nineteenth-century history, and twentieth-century history—and a minor field. The minor field may be drawn from another discipline such as political science, sociology, literature, etc., or a field of history outside the United States. It cannot be a subfield of American History such as Southern history or American women's history, but may be a comparative field with some American content (such as comparative labor history, imperialism, etc.). Students may also petition the U.S. area chair for permission to be examined in only two of the three chronological fields in American History and two minor fields as described above. Those permitted to choose this option must have taken one course with substantial coverage of the chronological period of American history omitted from the examination.

Dissertation Prospectus: Students are expected to defend the dissertation prospectus in the sixth term.

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