For More Information

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

Professor Govind Sreenivasan
History Department, MS 036
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA 02454-9110
(781) 736-2277

For help on general questions (e.g., housing, scholarships and the like), see the contact information for the Graduate School. 

Ph.D. in Comparative 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 scholarhip 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 announcemenmt about the requirements of our new MA and PhD programs in History in September 2009.

The program in comparative history has three main objectives. One is to train students to do comparative historical research — not only to study individual countries in depth, but to analyze thematic issues in a broader transnational context. That comparative perspective makes it possible to determine what is common, what is unique, and thereby draw conclusions about general patterns and dynamics.

A second goal is make its students competitive in the academic marketplace. That means providing expertise in a particular region or country, the capacity to teach an array of courses (including global history) and effective teaching skills.

A third goal is to develop generic research and writing skills. While most students will pursue an academic careers, some use their training — and communication skills — to pursue other kinds of employment. To meet these goals, the doctoral program in comparative history includes dedicated graduate courses, lays a strong emphasis on research (from the M.A. thesis to the doctoral dissertation) and classroom instruction (with guidance to improve teaching skills).

Why Earn an Ph.D. in Comparative 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 comparative history program at Brandeis provides traditional disciplinary training with a comparative perspective that is fundamental to a broader global understanding of issues, patterns and dynamics of change.
  • Dedicated mentoring: Brandeis is a small research university with an emphasis on small classes and dedicated mentorship; this gives each student the opportunity to work closely with a distinguished senior scholar.
  • Scholarships and fellowships: To enable qualified students to come to Brandeis, the graduate school provides a full-tuition scholarship and a five-year fellowship, as well has a number of other special grants to conduct research, present papers at conferences and the like.
  • Intellectual diversity: Brandeis is richly endowed with an array of graduate programs that complement comparative history and provide extraordinary opportunities for interdisciplinary training.
  • Career support: The program in comparative history plays an active role in preparing students to compete on the academic market; the Office of Career Services is especially helpful to those seeking nonacademic careers.
  • Boston: Brandeis students can partake of the rich intellectual and cultural environment of the Boston area, from the plethora of events at area universities to the array of museums and other institutions in metropolitan Boston. 

The Ph.D. Curriculum and Requirements

This one-year, full-time program has the following requirements:

  • Foreign languages: By the end of the fourth semester, each student must pass an examination in two foreign languages (a test of reading knowledge, with use of a dictionary permitted).
  • Graduate seminars: Although the seminars vary from year to year, students normally are expected to enroll in several graduate seminars (Historical Methods, Early Modern Europe, Modern Europe, Comparative History, Global History, Historiography).
  • First-year research paper: This M.A. thesis, based on original research in primary resources, requires registration in both semesters; students present a prospectus to the entire department for maximum faculty input and guidance.
  • Interdisciplinary training: To promote interdisciplinarity, the program encourages students to take graduate courses outside history.
  • Qualifying examinations: Students take the oral qualifying exam at the end of the fourth semester; the goal is encourage students to move as quickly as possible to the dissertation stage and to complete the degree within the five years of funding.
  • Doctoral dissertation: The dissertation normally focuses on a problem within a single national context, but informs the analysis by drawing on comparative materials and scholarship from other countries and times.

This schedule leaves some time to enroll in other advanced courses in history or other departments.

Recent Placements

  • Tenure-track positions at Jerusalem University
  • Academic administrator at the Kennedy School, Harvard University
  • Officer in the Central Bank of Lithuania
  • Editor for a commercial publisher
  • Archivist at the National Archives


Applications must be submitted by Jan. 15, the deadline set by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The application itself is now electronic (although hard-copy applications will be accepted). To apply, visit the Graduate School Web site.