Doctoral Program

The Stony Brook doctoral program offers an intensive, far-ranging education, culminating in an original research and writing project. It prepares students for a professional career in higher education, or for jobs in media, government or other fields which rely upon the skills and knowledge of the historian. In addition to acquiring thorough training in a chosen specialty defined by time (medieval, early modern, 18th, 19th or 20th centuries) and by place (Latin American, U.S., European, Asian or African), students of different periods and regions of the world take many of the same courses, on topics drawn from the department’s thematic areas.  Our innovative approach, now taken by other history departments as a model, prepares students for research and teaching about the past not just for a single corner of the world, but in its relationship and interdependence with other places. At Stony Brook, many courses and much teaching now revolve around fundamental sets of ideas which are continuing to reshape historical scholarship about many times and locales. Our graduate students still receive solid grounding in the national or regional histories and periods of their choosing. Whether Europeanist or Latin Americanist or Asianist or Americanist, graduate students have ample chances to study with faculty in their own geographic specialty, as well as to work with other faculty specializing in the thematic clusters of interest to them. And our thematic emphasis enables them also to think across and beyond these boundaries, in ways that make for cutting-edge scholarship, as well as timely and insightful teaching. Our current thematic clusters are Empire, Colonialism, and Globalization; Nation-State, Civil Society, and Popular Politics; Environment, Health, Science and Technology; and Gender, Race, and Sexuality (see the department’s web page for theme descriptions, as well as information on associated faculty and their research interests).

The first phase of the doctoral program consists of coursework.  During their first year, all students take a Core Seminar that covers fundamental readings in several thematic areas, as well as basic methods of research and historical writing. Early on, students also take Field Seminars in conventional geographic and chronological specialties, Theme Seminars devoted to readings in the department’s topical areas of specialty, as well as a Teaching Practicum. In the second year, they may begin taking Research Seminars, organized around the production and presentation of major research papers. During the third year, all students must take a comprehensive oral examination in their primary and secondary fields. In addition, all students must take the Dissertation Prospectus Seminar, in which they compose and discuss their dissertation projects and prepare preliminary fellowship proposals. Upon satisfactory passage of the required courses, the orals, and any language requirement, students are then “advanced to candidacy.” In the final phase of their doctoral education, students work closely with a faculty advisor to research and write the Ph.D. dissertation—a book-length manuscript that offers a significant contribution to the historical literature. In accordance with Graduate School rules, the official “time limit” is seven years from a student’s completion of 24 graduate-level courses (whether at Stony Brook or elsewhere) to the defense and submission of the dissertation.

Course of Study and Program Requirements:

A. Coursework

Students in the doctoral program are expected to complete three years of coursework distributed in the manner outlined below. All students take the team-taught Core Seminar in the first year. Course requirements also include 2 Field, 3 Theme, and 2 Research seminars, plus an additional Field or Theme seminar (depending on the student’s academic needs and course availability). At the end of the third year, students take a comprehensive oral examination designed to assess their mastery of the subject matter, conceptual tools, and research skills necessary to undertake independent research for the dissertation. The dissertation is to be a substantial piece of original research completed independently by the student, and all students are required to defend their dissertation orally before their Doctoral Defense Committee at the end of their course of study.

1. Core Seminar (HIS 524/526, HIS 525/527: 3 credits each semester). This course provides an intensive, year-long introduction to historical theory and research. It also familiarizes students with the thematic organization of the graduate program. All full-time students in the doctoral program as well as the Academic Track of the master’s program are required to take this course, which is offered only as a fall/spring sequence, during their first year.

2. Two or Three Field Seminars (3 credits each). The department offers a number of Field Seminars designed to familiarize students with the history and historiography of specific regions and periods. These courses include: Medieval and Early Modern Europe (HIS 501) and Modern Europe (502); Early American History (521) and Modern American History (522); Colonial Latin America (541) and Modern Latin America (542), all of which are offered on a one- or two-year cycle. In addition, the following Field Seminars are offered in African and Asian history: Introduction to African and/or Asian History (562), South Asian History (563), Chinese History (564), and Japanese History (565); note that some of these Field Seminars may be offered slightly less frequently.  Some Field Seminars are populated with students in the Master of Arts in Teaching program (M.A.T.), as well as with M.A. and Ph.D. students. Students may choose to take either two or three Field Seminars, in accordance with their intellectual interests and needs.

Students choosing to concentrate in the history of Europe, the United States, or Latin America are encouraged to complete both parts of the Field Seminar sequence in their area of concentration.  If more survey or focused reading is required in a specific area, students have the option of taking a third Field Seminar or a relevant Theme Seminar.  With the approval of the Graduate Director and Advisor, students may also satisfy their Field Seminar requirements by taking an appropriate course in an outside department or institution.

3. Three or Four Theme Seminars (3 credits each). The Theme Seminars are the heart of the department’s commitment to the theoretically informed, interdisciplinary study of history. Topics, approaches, and instructors vary, but these seminars generally fall within the rubric of our program’s theme clusters: Gender, Race, and Sexuality; Nation-State, Civil Society, and Popular Politics; Empire, Colonialism, and Globalization; and Environment, Health, Science, and Technology. On occasion, students may apply to take seminars in outside departments or institutions (that is, other universities in the NY Consortium) that may serve as a Theme Seminar. There is also some flexibility for those students wishing to take either three or four Theme Seminars. On occasion, students may also wish to “convert” a Theme Seminar into a Research Seminar (by completing the readings and writing a research paper, with the prior arrangement of the seminar professor and the student’s advisor).

4. Two Research Seminars (3 credits each). One Research Seminar is offered each semester. It gives students the opportunity to carry out individual research projects using primary sources in areas related to their developing scholarly interests. Research seminars are generally taken during the second and third years. Third-year students often use the Research Seminar to begin preliminary work on their dissertations.

5. Supervised Teaching (HIS 581, 3 credits). All students who hold teaching assistantships and are not enrolled in Teaching Practicum (HIS 582, see below) are expected to register for this course, if possible; if this is not possible, the student should notify the Graduate Director.

6. Teaching Practicum (HIS 582, 3 credits). Required of all Teaching Assistants, as well as those expecting to TA for undergraduate courses in the future. It is generally taken during Fall semester of Year 1. This course gives students the opportunity to discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of undergraduate classroom teaching in a large, diverse public university. Stony Brook offers a laboratory for future college teachers to develop and try out “lesson plans,” as well as to broach such universal concerns as classroom authority, student participation, student-teacher relations, the problem of plagiarism, sexual harassment, etc. Students may be required to attend teaching workshops offered by the Graduate School in addition. These workshops, as well as the Teaching Practicum, are also open to students who do not hold teaching assistantships.

7. Dissertation Prospectus Workshop (HIS 695, 3 credits). This course must be taken by all students and should be completed in the Spring semester of Year 3. Students are expected to work closely with their own Advisors during the semester, as they prepare their dissertation plan. By the end of the course, students will produce and present to the History Department a formal Dissertation Prospectus (usually a 15-20 page proposal). The prospectus must be acceptable both to the instructor of the workshop and to the student’s Ph.D. advisor. Completion of the workshop and written approval of the dissertation prospectus by the student’s Ph.D. advisor and committee members are required for advancement to candidacy. The course grade is S/U.

As part of the coursework taken prior to the qualifying examination, students may also enroll in the following workshops:

8. Directed Readings (HIS 682, 3 credits each): Students who enter the program without a master’s degree may choose to take three credits of Directed Readings in the Fall and/or Spring of the initial year, to enable the student to meet regularly with his or her Advisor and address any deficiencies in preparation for the Ph.D. program.  In addition, on the rare occasion that a student’s needs are not met by the department’s Field and Theme seminars, he/she may wish to arrange a Directed Readings with an individual faculty member so as to undertake a specific set of readings on a topic of mutual interest.

9. Orals Workshop (HIS 684, 3 or 6 credits). This workshop provides a space for students to work semi-independently in the scholarly literature of their developing fields of specialization. Normally, students enroll in Orals Workshop (for either 3 or 6 credits, depending on their remaining course requirement needs) in the Fall semester of Year 3. To prepare for the Orals, students have to define three areas of specialization (two in their major geo-political field, and one in a comparative field). Ideally, students should develop their Orals book lists and topics on the basis of the most relevant Field and Theme seminars they have taken and in consultation with their Orals committee. Students may use the Orals Workshop to read independently or in small groups, as well as to meet periodically with Orals committee members. All students should make sure they have dress rehearsals before the exam actually takes place. (See below for details on the Oral Examination.)

10. Courses in Other Departments and Institutions: Students are encouraged to take courses in other departments in order to acquire the theoretical tools offered by other disciplines and gain an interdisciplinary perspective on their fields of interest. Many of our students take courses in such departments as Sociology, English, Art History, and Cultural Analysis and Theory, as well as such interdisciplinary programs as Women’s and Gender Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Such courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s Advisor. In addition, Stony Brook belongs to a NY-area Consortium of universities. Students are welcome to take graduate seminars for credit at Columbia, NYU, or other institutions. The Graduate School has a form for this (what else is new?!), and the student should obtain prior permission from his/her Advisor and the Graduate Director. Whether the outside course is to count for a Field, Theme, or Research course is negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Below is a sample course of study that might be followed by a first-year doctoral student without a master’s degree who also holds a teaching assistantship. Graduate School regulations stipulate that new students without M.A. degrees must take 12 credits per semester during Year 1; those students with MA degrees or who have obtained at least 24 credits at the graduate level are required (and permitted) to register for only 9 credits per semester.

Core Seminar I (HIS 524 or HIS 526): 3 credits
Teaching Practicum (HIS 582): 3 credits
Field Seminar: 3 credits
Theme Seminar: 3 credits
Total: 12 credits

Core Seminar II (HIS 525 or HIS 527): 3 credits
Supervised Teaching (HIS 581): 3 credits
Theme or Field Seminar: 3 credits
Theme or Field Seminar or Directed Readings: 3 credits
Total: 12 credits

B. Full-time Status

Students who have not yet advanced to G4 status (i.e. who have completed fewer than 24 graduate-level credits) are required to register for 12 credits in order to maintain full-time status. Full-time enrollment for students who have achieved G4 status is 9 credits. Students acting as teaching assistants must carry at least 9 credits (including, if possible, the 3-credit Supervised Teaching, HIS 581). Once a student has advanced to candidacy, s/he must register for 9 credits of dissertation research (HIS 699, 700, 701) each semester until the degree is awarded in order to remain on full-time status.

C. Award of Master’s Degree to Doctoral Students

Doctoral students who have completed the requirements for the master’s degree may petition the Graduate School to be awarded the master’s degree while continuing in the doctoral program.

D. Foreign Language Requirement

All students (except native speakers of the language of their field of specialization) must demonstrate proficiency in at least one relevant foreign language before being advanced to Ph.D. candidacy. This is a Graduate School requirement that may not be waived. Minimal proficiency in a language means the ability to translate a given passage clearly and accurately with the aid of a dictionary. Relevant language(s) are determined by the student’s area of specialization.

Proficiency may be demonstrated either through a written exam administered by the department or a satisfactory grade in a graduate language course (e.g., French 500). The in-department exam consists of translating a passage from a scholarly work in History, with the aid of a dictionary. It is administered and evaluated by an appropriate faculty member. The results of the Language Exam must be reported to the department’s Graduate Program Coordinator and entered into the student’s file.

At the discretion of the Advisor, a student may be required to study additional languages as part of his or her degree program. It is the student’s responsibility to establish with her or his Advisor which foreign languages are necessary for the completion of the Ph.D and to make sure they have completed the language requirement in a timely fashion so that they may advance to candidacy. Ideally, students take their written language exams by the Fall semester of year 3.

E. Oral Examination and Advancement to Candidacy

By the end of the second year in the doctoral program, each student should name a Ph.D. Advisor (a History Department faculty member who has agreed to serve as the student’s dissertation advisor) and, in consultation with that advisor, name two additional members of the department who agree to serve on his/her Oral Exam Committee. The committee will help the student define his or her examination fields, language requirements, and course work, as well as monitor the student’s progress on the dissertation. Members of the committee must also review the student’s dissertation prospectus and endorse it in writing, once it meets their standards, before the Oral Exam may be scheduled.

A list of members of the student’s Oral Exam Committee must be submitted to and approved by the Graduate School at least three weeks prior to the exam. The “Statement of Fields” form is available in the Graduate Program Coordinator’s Office. It is the student’s responsibility to coordinate the examination date and time with his or her committee. The examination may not be taken until all University and History Department requirements (including but not limited to the completion of all coursework, the passing of the Foreign Language Requirement, and the written approval of the Dissertation Prospectus by the Ph.D. advisor and by all committee members) have been met. Students should check with Roxanne Fernandez, our Graduate Coordinator, well in advance to make sure their records are up-to-date and to process the paperwork.

Full-time students are expected to take their Oral Exam no later than the end of the sixth semester of graduate study. The student, in consultation with the examination committee, will arrange the day, time, and place of the Oral Exam. In addition, the student shall present to each member of the examination committee–no later than the middle of the semester that precedes the Ph.D. oral examination–a suggested list of books and topics. Committee members will advise the student of any changes or additional reading that is to be completed for the examination. The Oral Exam usually lasts about 1 ½ or 2 hours and is graded as “pass with distinction,” “pass,” “weak pass,” or “fail.” Students who fail the Oral Exam may petition to take the exam a second time at a future date.

F. Dissertation Committee

As the doctoral student is near completion of the dissertation, he/she must constitute a four-person Dissertation Defense Committee. The Ph.D. Advisor plus three other faculty members (including one “outside faculty” member) compose the Dissertation Committee. If, in the rare case, a Ph.D. advisor is no longer willing to serve as dissertation advisor or if the student wishes to work with a new Advisor, the student must identify some other faculty member in the History Department to serve. The new Advisor must declare in writing his/her willingness to serve as dissertation advisor before the student may be advanced to candidacy. Normally, the Ph.D. advisor meets with the student at least once each semester (or, if the student is not in Stony Brook, will correspond) to discuss progress on the dissertation.

G. Dissertation and Defense

Following Advancement to Candidacy, students are required to enroll for one credit of dissertation research each semester (whether through HIS 699, HIS 700, or HIS 701, depending on each student’s location) until the dissertation defense. Teaching assistants must register for 9 credits of Dissertation Research on Campus (HIS 699).

The dissertation is the basic requirement for the conferral of the Ph.D. The student must present the completed dissertation in such a way that the dissertation committee has a reasonable period in which to read, critique, and suggest changes to be incorporated into the final version before the dissertation defense.  In other words, the completed dissertation MUST be in the hands of the committee at least one full month before the scheduled date of the dissertation defense. Ideally, the dissertation committee should be given one or two months to read and correct the dissertation and to give the student their written criticisms and suggestions. If the committee is indeed given this proper amount of lead time, committee members’ comments must be in the student’s hands one month before the dissertation defense. If the criticisms are not written out, the student can assume the dissertation is approved in the form submitted. The student must answer all written objections and corrections by revising the dissertation to the faculty member’s satisfaction before it is submitted to the Graduate School.

The Dissertation Committee is composed of four faculty members, including the student’s Ph.D. Advisor and one faculty member outside the field of History or the institution of Stony Brook. The Defense is also open to interested students and faculty. The Graduate School must give advance approval of the Dissertation Committee. (The same form used for the Oral Exam will be used for the defense. These forms are available in the Graduate Program Coordinator’s Office and must be forwarded to the Graduate School BY THE 15TH DAY OF CLASSES of the semester during which the scheduled date of the defense occurs.) All the paperwork for the Dissertation Defense should be given to the History Department’s Graduate Program Coordinator, Roxanne Fernandez, well in advance.

H. Advising and Evaluation

When students are accepted into the graduate program, they are assigned a first-year Advisor based on the areas of interest indicated by the student in his or her application. Students may change Advisors with the permission of the Graduate Director, the new Advisor, and the previous Advisor at the end of the first year or thereafter.

Advisors assigned to new doctoral students will meet with them to discuss program requirements and the student’s individual course of study, and they will meet with their advisees on a regular basis as they progress through the program. Ideally, students should consult with their Advisors about their course of study (including general course selection, language requirements, and enrollment in courses outside the department) at the beginning of each semester.

Evaluation of student performance takes place throughout the academic year (for example, through grading of student work in graduate seminars), including at the end of each semester, but most importantly through the end-of-year review.  In this review, which is held at the end of each Spring semester, faculty members meet to evaluate the progress of all students in the graduate program.  Evaluations of student performance will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the student and include suggestions for improvement. The Graduate Director will be responsible for sending a written summary of the evaluation to each student, with a request that the student contact his or her Advisor for further details. All students will be ranked in one of the following three categories:

Good Standing: indicates satisfactory grades and timely completion of degree requirements.

Some Concerns: may reflect low grades in one or more courses, slow or intermittent progress towards the degree (even if grades are acceptable), or areas or skills needing special attention.

Probation: unsatisfactory academic performance and/or progress towards the degree. This departmental probation is independent of the rules for academic probation set by the Graduate School. Specific steps will be set forth to be taken by students on probation, including a timetable for fulfilling them, and failure to satisfy these conditions may result in dismissal from the program. Students on departmental probation whose academic performance remains unsatisfactory may be permitted to complete the master’s degree but asked not to continue towards the doctoral degree.

Students are encouraged to meet with their Advisors to discuss the results of this annual assessment, and such meetings are mandatory for those students who are either placed on probation or for whom some concerns are noted. The performance of students who receive either of these ratings will be reevaluated at the end of the Fall semester.

In recent years, the Graduate School and the Department have cracked down on the problem of Incomplete Coursework. Students are strongly discouraged from taking Incompletes in their courses except in the case of pressing emergencies. The pressure of Incompletes impairs one’s ability to perform well in subsequent semesters, and Incompletes can negatively affect a student’s eligibility for financial aid. Graduate School regulations require that all Incompletes be changed to letter grades within one calendar year after the end of the term in which the course was originally taken; ideally, however, they should be resolved much sooner.

The Graduate School has also instituted a strict policy concerning Time Limits for completing the program as a whole. Students who do not defend their dissertation within a seven-year period after they have advanced to G4 status (i.e. after they have acquired 24 graduate-level credits, usually at the end of their first year or, if they entered the program with an M.A. degree, upon beginning the doctoral program) are required to petition for a “Time Limit Extension” from the Graduate School. These petitions are contingent on a “contract” that the student draws up with his/her advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies for the completion and defense of the dissertation. Students should bear this time frame in mind as they make plans for doing dissertation research and writing.

For more detailed information on the department’s policies on evaluation for all graduate students (including doctoral students),  please click on Graduate Student Policies.

I. Professional Activities Outside the Classroom

Most students become involved in a variety of scholarly and collegial activities within and outside the History Department, and we welcome student initiatives to help us build a collegial community. Students are encouraged to take full advantage of the activities of interdisciplinary and community-building programs on campus: the Humanities Institute, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center, the Initiative in the Historical Social Sciences, the Graduate Student Organization, etc., as well as our own departmental Colloquium for faculty and graduate students and the Department’s various welcome, end-of-the-year, and holiday parties (when we really count on the volunteerism of everybody!). We also urge you to take full advantage of scholarly activities in the greater metropolitan area, and to seek out opportunities to participate in scholarly conferences both here and at other institutions.

Please feel free to bring ideas, initiatives, or concerns to the Department’s Director of Graduate Studies, and/or to the Department Chair. For more administrative issues, our Graduate Program Coordinator, Roxanne Fernandez, is ready to answer questions or help you in any other way she can. Susan Grumet, Departmental Administrator, is on top of just about all facets of this department, and is especially helpful when it comes to the Undergraduate Program.

Graduate News

Humanities Institute Event on 4/14/2015 featuring History Department Faculty

Humanities Institute at Stony Brook
Workshop on Gender and Religion
Tuesday, April 14
2:30 – 6:00 pm, Humanities 1008

2:30 – 4:00 Gender, Body, Religion in Modern Africa (Chair: Tracey Walters)
Christian Mobility, Muslim Invisibility: Bodies and Difference in Northern Nigeria
Shobana Shankar, Stony Brook University

Schooling, Spirit Possession, and the “Modern Girl” in Niger
Adeline Masquelier, Tulane University

 4:00 – 4:30 Coffee Break

 4:30 – 6:00 Gender, Body, Religion in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Chair: Sara Lipton)
Help-Mates and Soul Mates: Trans(sexual)migration of Souls in Sixteenth–Century Kabbalah
Joshua Teplitsky, Stony Brook University

Curating the Body in Francisco Delicado’s Retrato de la Lozana Andaluza
Israel Burshatin, Haverford College

 6:00 – 6:30 Comments and General Discussion

 6:30 – 7:00 Reception

Co-sponsored by the Department of History and the Center for the Study of Jewish, Christian, Muslim Relations
download poster here


Doctoral Student wins Fulbright

Congratulations to Stony Brook History Department PhD student Erica Mukherjee, who has been awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship for 2015-16. The grant will support 9 months of research in India on her dissertation project, “The Real and Imagined Environments of the Colonial Indian Railways.”

HIS 517: Mobilities & Connections [Graduate Theme Seminar] (Spring 2015)

This seminar examines expanding circuits of global mobility from the early modern period to the present, and considers methodological implications of taking mobilities and connections as object of analysis. We will examine historical processes and dynamics on multiple scales from the perspective of people, commodities, and ideas in motion, along with dynamic networks and material or cultural effects these circuits generate; and the regulatory systems that emerge in consequence of increasingly robust flows. Expanding global connections and their effects produce new constraints and open a wide range of fresh possibilities for both states and diverse groups of people. The course will look closely at the interplay between unprecedented mobility and the restrictions imposed by modern political regimes, and the shifting relationship between people and real and imagined political entities from the global (empires, internationalisms, global governance bodies), to the provincial (kingdoms, nationalisms, nation-states). Organized thematically around mobile people, commodities, and ideas, and global institutions, we will examine disaporic migrant connections, global radical and anti-colonial movements, material and cultural effects of long-distance commodity production and exchange, and the circulation and expanding scope of institutional ideas and practices. The course will be interdisciplinary, incorporating comparative and monographic historical and anthropological studies, theoretical writings, and selections from literary or historical primary source texts; and transregional, examining particular themes via close consideration of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and their interconnections. Readings will include books or articles by scholars such as Benedict Anderson, Sebouh Aslanian, Sven Beckert, Lauren Benton, Engseng Ho, Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Mark Mazower, Adam McKeown, Jeremy Prestholdt, Maia Ramnath, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (links above are to recommended or required books ordered for the course).

SBU students rock the SSRC

Congratulations to both Ashley Black and Andrew Ehrinpreis for being awarded fellowships from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). Black has won the prestigious Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship for her research on Mexico City as a site of Latin American exile in the 1950s. Ehrinpreis has won a Drugs, Security, and Democracy Fellowship (co-sponsored by the Soros Open Society Foundations) for his dissertation, “Constructing Coca: A History of Bolivian Coca Nationalism and the War on Drugs, 1920–2000.” Ehrinpreis is the third Stony Brook history student to win this prize.

PhD student wins national fellowship

Please join us in congratulating Gregory Rosenthal! The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded him the prestigious Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship for his project, “Hawaiians Who Left Hawaii: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786–1876.” Mellon fellowships—of which only 65 were awarded this year—support advanced graduate students in humanities and social sciences in the their last year of dissertation writing.

Another SBU grad student wins fellowship

Congratulations to Ph.D. candidate Froylán Enciso! The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (dedicated to studies of violence and violence prevention) has awarded him a dissertation fellowship for his project, “Made in Sinaloa: From the Regional to the Global History of the Mexican War on Drugs, 1909–1985.”