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UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara


Division of Humanities and Fine Arts
Humanities and Social Sciences 4036
Telephone: (805) 893-2992


Department Chair:  Stephan Miescher

Graduate Program

In addition to departmental requirements, applicants for admission and candidates for degrees must fulfill University requirements described in the “Graduate Education” section of the UCSB online catalog.

Master of Arts—History (Requirements - PDF)


The M.A. degree in history is a valuable stage on the path to the doctorate. Although it is understood that some students may choose not to continue beyond the M.A., and that others may not be permitted to do so, the aim of the program is to provide students with research training leading to the doctoral degree. Consequently, the department does not admit students solely for the purpose of obtaining a master’s degree. All applicants are admitted to a single M.A./Ph.D. program.

Applicants to the graduate program in History are expected to show high potential for engaging in advanced historical research and analysis. Applicants must meet general university requirements for admission to graduate standing and should have completed an undergraduate major in History or related fields (approximately 40 upper-division quarter units or approximately 24 upper-division semester units). History is a discipline that benefits from training in other fields, so applicants who do not meet these requirements are still encouraged to apply, but are also strongly urged to contact faculty in their proposed field of study for advice. If admitted, applicants who were not History majors may be required to do some additional course work, which must be completed in the first year and does not count in satisfaction of graduate degree unit or course requirements.

Applicants must submit a suitable sample of historical writing, such as a term paper or equivalent, and three letters of recommendation. These should address the applicant’s academic qualifications for graduate work in history. In addition, applicants ordinarily are expected to have a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 in upper-division history courses (or 3.75 in master’s courses). The department also takes Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores into account, as part of a more holistic review of applications that includes a number of more qualitative criteria, such as writing samples, letters, prior research and work experience. The Graduate Division of the University requires applicants to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the junior and senior years. The average GPA of students admitted to the Graduate History Program is 3.55 for the junior and senior years

The department admits only in the fall quarter of each year. Applications must be received by the application deadline (December) of the year prior to the intended quarter of entrance. Applicants requesting Graduate Division and/or history department financial assistance must have their application in to the department by the application deadline, including the necessary support materials.

It should be stressed that admission to the program is competitive, and satisfying these minimum requirements does not, by itself, guarantee admission. At the same time, the decision to admit is based on consideration of the entire file, and promising applicants in unusual circumstances whose records fall below the minimum should not be discouraged from applying.

Applicants must be accepted by a major professor with whom they wish to work. Applicants unsure of how to choose a major professor should inquire by e-mail or telephone to the graduate program assistant, Department of History, as to how to proceed. No student will be admitted or allowed to continue without a faculty sponsor.

Doctor of Philosophy—History (Requirements - PDF)


The M.A. degree in history or a cognate field is normally required for admission into the Ph.D. program. Applicants who do not meet this requirement must complete the M.A. in history before continuing to the Ph.D. The application deadline for those applying with an M.A. degree from another institution is in December. Students taking the master’s examination at UC Santa Barbara must achieve an average grade of A- or higher. In addition, the candidate must acquire a minimum of three satisfactory recommendations from professors within the department, including at least two from professors who have supervised or reviewed the candidate’s graduate seminar research papers and one from a faculty member who will serve as major professor. These letters must be on file by the third week of the quarter following award of the M.A.

The General Fields of History

The Department of History at UCSB offers doctoral study in sixteen general fields of history:

  • Africa
  • Ancient History
  • Comparative Gender and Sexualities History
  • Comparative History of Race and Ethnicity
  • Early Modern Europe
  • East Asia
  • History of Public Policy
  • History of Science
  • Latin America
  • Medieval Studies
  • Middle East
  • Modern Europe
  • Public History
  • South Asia
  • United States
  • World History

Cold War Studies and International History is offered as a secondary field, and not as a possible primary field.

Under guidance of the major professor, students will develop a dissertation topic, study, and in due time present themselves for general examinations, in four examination fields, among them a primary/dissertation field and two secondary fields, the latter two chosen from the above general fields. The fourth, complementary examination field is either a research field or methodology within the discipline of history, or a cognate field outside the discipline of history chosen from within another academic department. The examination committee consists of the student’s dissertation advisor and the three professors under whom the student prepares their examination fields. After successful completion of the general examination, the student constitutes a dissertation committee which may (but need not) be composed of the same faculty as the examination committee. The student writes and submits a dissertation prospectus to the dissertation committee. Once the prospectus is approved, the student advances to candidacy. Then the student will conduct their research and write their dissertation.

Program Supervision

Once admitted to the Ph.D. level, each student will be systematically advised by his or her major professor, who will submit a review of the student’s progress and prospects annually in the spring quarter. The results of the annual review will be individually communicated to the student in writing by the director of graduate studies. If the student’s progress is unsatisfactory, the department will recommend to the Graduate Dean that the student be placed on academic probation. If at the end of that year progress is still unsatisfactory, the department chair will recommend to the Graduate Dean that the student be dismissed from graduate study.

Graduate Program with an emphasis in Public Historical Studies and Joint Program with CSUS with emphasis in Public History

The Department of History has established within its graduate program a public history emphasis at the doctoral level and offers that emphasis in a unique joint doctoral program with the Capital Campus program of California State University in Sacramento, which brings together public history faculty of the two universities to form one faculty offering doctoral instruction between the two campuses.

Graduate Program with an emphasis in Public Historical Studies and Joint Program with CSUS with emphasis in Public Historical Studies trains professional historians to serve as research historians working within the community at large, rather than in academic institutions. Whether practicing as historian for museums, heritage sites and organizations, on the staffs of public agencies, or as contracting and consulting historian, public historians will research and write historical studies of problems of concern to particular communities or political jurisdictions; aid them in recapturing, recording, understanding, and representing their histories as communities and as organizations; and serve in a variety of other professional employments, such as giving testimony in court proceedings, preparing family histories, preparing environmental impact statements, conducting surveys of historic properties and other cultural resources, and working in historical agencies.

To meet the wide range of opportunities presented by an always-changing array of publics, the UCSB program prepares public historians as historians, as broadly-trained scholar-professionals fully versed in the literature, methods, and interpretive debates of the discipline, while also especially conscious of and practiced in the special challenges and resources distinctive to the public practice of history. The program supports students in developing distinctive special research concentrations through the work with individual faculty, interdepartmental, and intercampus committees, under the guidance of the student’s advisor. Public History students regularly take advantage of the History Department’s large and distinguished faculty to integrate their particular research and reading interests into their program.

Students already holding an M.A. in public history or its equivalent apply directly to the joint UCSB-CSU Sacramento Ph.D. program or the current UCSB Ph.D. program. Students with a B.A. (or M.A. in another field) apply to the M.A. program at CSU Sacramento.

For further information, please visit the History Department’s website at

Optional Interdisciplinary Emphases

Students pursuing a doctoral degree in History may petition to add the following Optional Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Emphases: Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Black Studies, Environment and Society, European Medieval Studies, Feminist Studies, Global Studies, Information Technology and Society.

Requirement sheets for each emphasis may be found on this page.