Following the campus guidelines for Coronavirus all UC Davis classes, lectures, seminars, labs and discussion sections will move to virtual instruction and remain virtual through the end of fall quarter 2020, including final exams. Given this, the department’s administrative functions have moved to remote work conditions. To contact staff members of the department via e-mail or phone, please go to our administrative staff contact page. 

Degree Requirements

Doctoral students in history graduate with the qualitative and quantitative skills necessary to conduct professional research and teaching in history.

Major and Minor Areas of Interest

Students select a major or minor area of interest from among nine fields of concentration:

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • United States
  • China
  • Japan
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Science and Medicine
  • South Asia


The doctoral program further offers three minor areas of concentration:

  • World History
  • Cross-Cultural Women's and gender History (CCWgH)
  • Environmental History


In addition, students may elect a non-history minor field of study, in consultation with the major adviser.

Degree Requirements



Students are required to take the equivalent of 44 units of coursework.

Major field coursework: 16 units

Minor field coursework: 8 units

Third field coursework: 4 units

HIS 204: Historiography: 4 units

HIS 203A: Research Seminar: 4 units

HIS 203B: Research Seminar: 4 units

HIS 203C: Research Seminar: 4 units

HIS 389: Seminar for TA Training: 1 unit

The minor field coursework may be waived if a student completes a designated emphasis.


Language Exam

Students are required to pass at least one foreign language examination. Depending on your major field, you may be required to demonstrate competency in more than one language. During this two-hour exam, students are asked to translate a primary or secondary source document with the assistance of a print dictionary.


Minor Field Certification

After completing two graduate seminar courses and under the direction of a faculty member, students develop a syllabus for a course outside of their major field of interest. Students then complete a 15–20 page, historiographical and analytical essay justifying the choices of readings and interpretation embedded in the syllabus.

This certification is intended to prepare students to have an alternate course they are prepared to teach for when they go on the job market.

Students who are completing a designated emphasis (see below) do not need to complete a minor field certification.


Cross Cultural Women's and gender History

The CCWgH minor requires students to complete two graduate seminars, one of which must be HIS 201Q. The other graded reading seminar should be outside of the major field, so that students examine a particular topic in a cross-cultural perspective. Students also complete the essay and syllabus as described above in the Minor Field Certification section.


Designated Emphases (DE)

A designated emphasis a more formalized minor that is listed on your diploma. As part of the DE, students are required to answer an additional question on the qualifying examination. The Department of History is affiliated with the following DEs:


Preliminary Exam

Students become eligible to take the preliminary examination after completing the above requirements. This examination consists of both a written and oral portion. During the written portion, students answer three essay questions over the course of four hours. The oral portion is a one-hour continuance of the written portion, in which committee members may ask for elaboration regarding the written answers or may ask follow up questions regarding the subject area.

The content and scope of the qualifying examination varies by field.


Qualifying Exam

This usually is the last requirement to be completed before a student advances to candidacy. In consultation with the major professor and committee members, students prepare a lengthy essay defining the dissertation problem and method, identify major sources, and situate the project in the relevant historiography. Over the course of two hours, committee members examine the student on all aspects of the proposal. The members of this committee should mirror the members of the dissertation committee.