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PhD Programs in European History

Students wishing to earn a PhD in European History can usually tailor the degree to meet their interests in the field through coursework and research. Explore different program options, requirements, common coursework, and admission standards for these degree programs.

How to Earn a PhD in European History

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in European History degree programs are typically on-campus programs that may allow students to further focus their studies through chronological, geographic, or topical concentrations or minors, such as a focus in medieval and early modern Europe, French history, or religious history. Many of these degree programs take 4 years or more to complete and typically have a foreign language requirement where students may have to demonstrate proficiency in languages other than English, such as German and French. Other common requirements for these doctoral degree programs include various exams, like qualifying exams, potential teaching and/or research responsibilities, and the completion of a dissertation in addition to coursework in the subject, some of which we explore more below.


Students in these programs may take a general introduction course to historiography and/or a course that specifically examines European historiography. Historiography in general explores the various philosophies and theories that comprise the field of history. Students in these courses may learn the various methods and strategies for carefully examining historical writings and how these methods have changed over time.

Readings in European History

Readings in European history courses may be set up as a seminar course where students discuss major themes and research across European history, or as a course that is tailored more specifically to students' interests to help prepare for oral exams. In general, students in these courses will read an array of work in European history and explore the different approaches to writing about history. Some of these courses may focus on a particular subfield of European history, such as East European history.

Country-Specific History

Depending on their interests and concentrated areas of study, students may take courses that explore the history of various countries, such as courses in modern German history or French history. Students may learn about the specific approaches used to address the history of a particular country and/or explore research in the field. Students in these courses may be required to complete various readings, papers, and/or presentations.

Historical Methods

Courses in historical methods are typically offered as seminars and introduce students to the theories and methodologies utilized by historians. Some of these courses may also explore topics and research in memory and how history and memory interact. Students may also discuss various theoretical approaches and how they are used by historians, including from subjects outside of history, like sociology. These courses are usually heavy on readings and discussions.

History of the Atlantic World

Courses that examine the history of the Atlantic world usually explore interactions between Europe, the United States, and/or Africa. Usually, these courses provide students with an overview of interactions during a given time frame, such as from 1400 to 1800 or from the Cold War to the present. Students generally explore different political interactions, major historical figures, and/or other cultural exchanges, including religious conversion.

Admittance Requirements for PhD Programs in European History

Students interested in pursuing a PhD in European History typically need to have at least a bachelor's degree, and although a majority of students may have a degree in history, it is not usually required. Some of these programs may not allow students to earn a terminal Master of Arts (MA) degree, but may fully consider students for admission who hold an MA from another school. The application process for PhD programs in European history varies by school, but applications can typically be completed online and require students to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose/personal statement, a resume, and/or a writing sample, like a research paper or thesis, that represents students' research and analytical skills. Some programs may also require students to submit current GRE test scores and/or a statement that discuses a student's foreign language competence. This statement may include prior coursework in languages that a student has taken and might touch on the student's reading ability in the language.

PhD in European History degree programs are usually very flexible and provide various focus areas, minors, and courses to allow students to focus their studies in the field. These degree programs typically take 4 years or more to complete and require a dissertation.