For More Information

For further information about the graduate program, contact the graduate program head:

Professor David Engerman
History Department, MS 036
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA  02454-9110
(781) 736-2281

Ph.D. in American History

IMPORTANT NOTE (May 2009):  The History Department is in the process of reorganizing its graduate programs to best reflect the intellectual direction of historical scholarship today and build on our historic strengths.  Applications for the new program will be due on January 15, 2010. Please stay tuned for a detailed announcement about the requirements of our new MA and PhD programs in History in September 2009.

The program in American history offers a curriculum designed to help students gain a comprehensive understanding of American history as well as a mastery of historical research and writing. The program is small and highly selective. Its flexible course of study allows students to work closely with distinguished faculty in independent reading and research courses.

During the first year, required coursework focuses on American history, and centers on directed research and a critical approach to problems of historiography. Second-year students are encouraged to complete preparation in their examination fields through directed readings and relevant courses. In their second and third years, students serve as Teaching Fellows under the direction of individual faculty members.

The program is funded by the Rose and Irving Crown Fellowships. The Crown family continues to make annual contributions to operating expenses and to the endowment fund. Their generosity has made our unique program possible. Students in the program typically take five or six years to complete their studies. Most go on to teach at the university level, or to work in the field of public history. Graduates of program currently serve as fulltime faculty members at a wide variety of colleges and universities in the United States.

Why Earn an Ph.D. in American History?

  • Academic opportunities: The Ph.D. is of course a requirement for any permanent academic position in higher education.
  • Nonacademic careers: The doctoral degree enhances your qualifications for nonacademic careers (and higher salaries) in public and private organizations, from service in the federal government to the private sector.
  • Transferable skills: The emphasis on research, writing and public speaking will give you skills that are critical for every career path.

Why Brandeis?

It is certainly possible to earn a Ph.D. at many fine institutions, but there are compelling reasons why you should consider studying at Brandeis:

  • First-class training: The American History program is a highly selective program that trains students in the broad field of American history, problems in historiography and critical thinking, research and writing skills.
  • Dedicated mentoring: Brandeis is a small research university with an emphasis on small classes and genuine mentorship; each student has the opportunity to work closely with a distinguished scholar.
  • Competitive stipends: Successful applicants to the program will receive a Rose and Irving Crown Fellowship. In each entering class, all Crown Fellowships are the same amount. They include a scholarship that meets the entire cost of Brandeis tuition, plus a cash stipend, and a research grant. The dollar amount changes from year to year. In the year 2008-09, the Crown Fellowship included a full-tuition scholarship, plus a cash stipend of $18,750. Crown Fellowships are normally renewable for a total of five years, for students who maintain an A-minus average. Each Crown Fellow also receives a $1,000 research stipend that can be used at any time in the course of his or her studies.
  • Collegial learning atmosphere: All students are admitted with the same full fellowship package, a policy that promotes cooperative and collaborative learning.
  • Teacher training: Teaching Fellows receive academic credit when they serve as discussion-section leaders under the supervision of individual faculty.
  • Intellectual diversity: Brandeis has an array of graduate programs that complement and overlap with the graduate program in American history, including politics, Near Eastern and Judaic studies, sociology, and English and American literature. Faculty in the African and Afro-American studies and American studies departments play key roles in the program. The program also complements the comparative history program in the Brandeis history department; this graduate program provides traditional disciplinary training with a comparative perspective that is fundamental to a broader understanding of the issues, patterns and dynamics of change.
  • Career support: The Office of Career Services helps to identify opportunities, design an effective resume and prepare for interviews.
  • Library resources: Library resources include our own Goldfarb Library, a collection of exceptional strength in American history. In addition, the Boston Library Consortium  allows graduate students to use books in major libraries throughout the area. Graduate students have full access to many nearby manuscript repositories. Brandeis is within easy commuting distance of some of the very best public and private libraries in the United States, including the Boston Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Boston Public Library and the American Antiquarian Society.
  • Boston: Brandeis students partake of the rich intellectual and cultural environment of the Boston area — from a plethora of events at area universities to the array of museums and other institutions in metropolitan Boston. The Boston Area Graduate History Network is a recently formed consortium of graduate history programs. It facilitates cross-registration in courses offered by different institutions, and publicizes seminars, talks and other events of interest to students of history.

The Ph.D. Curriculum and Requirements

  • Full-time residence at the university for three years
  • A minimum of 16 semester-long courses
  • Two double-credit courses of Directed Research in American History during the first year
  • Reading knowledge of a foreign language demonstrated by passing a written translation examination
  • Mastery of American history as evidenced by passing qualifying examinations in four fields, including:
    • General American history
    • A period or topic of specialization in American history
    • An area of comparative modern European, Asian, Latin American or African history
    • A related discipline in the social sciences or humanities, or a subdiscipline in history
  • Completion and defense of the doctoral dissertation

Recent Placements

  • Tenure-track positions at Colby College, Amherst College, the University of Arizona, SUNY-Fredonia


Admission is by vote of the Executive Committee. The deadline for a completed doctoral application to the American History program is Jan. 15.

To apply, visit the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Web site and download and complete an electronic application. The application requires a writing sample, transcripts, letters of recommendation, Graduate Record Examination scores and a personal statement.