The Johns Hopkins Department of History welcomes graduate students as members of a diverse and congenial community of scholars. The department takes seriously the idea that graduate students are junior colleagues with much to contribute. The program is designed for students who wish to proceed directly to the PhD degree and aims primarily to train students for careers as research scholars and university teachers. At the same time, we also recognize and support students who choose to pursue other career option.

The Hopkins history department is the oldest PhD program in history in the United States and the recipients of our degrees hold distinguished positions in universities and colleges in this country and abroad.

The department continues to pioneer new areas of research. The department’s particular areas of strength include the United States (including especially African American history, colonial America, and the history of capitalism), Europe from medieval times through the 20th century, the Atlantic world, modern Africa, Early Modern Empires (including especially the Spanish, Ottoman, and Qing empires), and Jewish history. Most members of our faculty focus on social, economic, intellectual, and cultural history. The department hosts clusters of faculty with common interests in transnational, comparative, legal and urban histories, histories of religion and heterodoxy, gender history, and the Black World. We endeavor to recruit students with a similarly varied set of interests and orientations.

The combination of flexibility, independence, scholarly collegiality, and intensity of intellectual exchange offered by the Hopkins program gives it a distinctive character. The weekly department seminar, held on Monday afternoons from 3:00-4:30pm and attended by faculty and graduate students, is the center of intellectual life in the department. The Monday Seminar – as well as specialized seminars including the Black World, European History, Gender History (known as Geminar), Atlantic World, 20th Century U.S. History, and East Asian seminars – brings together students, faculty, and invited scholars from outside the university to discuss their research work. These seminars create a lively intellectual community in which graduate students quickly become contributing members.

The Hopkins history program places a high premium on careful mentoring of students by individual faculty. The decision to nominate any student for admission is made by the one or more faculty members who will become that student’s sponsor or sponsors. Applicants should indicate the proposed field of specialization and their interest in working with a specific cluster of faculty at the time of application.

The main criteria for admissions are outstanding intellectual promise and an evident talent for, and strong commitment to, research. Each applicant is required to submit a sample of written work, preferably a research paper that demonstrates careful use of primary documents. An ability to read at least one foreign language is also expected.

The department began offering fellowships for six years beginning with the class that matriculated in 2023. Normally, each student is required to perform four semesters of supervised teaching or research duties at some point during the graduate program, most often as a teaching assistant during the second through fourth years. For classes that matriculated prior to 2023, the department offers write-up grants conferring tuition and stipend on a competitive basis. Recipients of these grants must plan to defend their dissertations within the funded year and are expected to focus entirely on the completion of their dissertation.

The Butler Prize

The Butler Prize is awarded annually to the best paper written by a first-year student. Each year the chair of the department appoints a faculty committee to select the winner. Papers are normally nominated by faculty sponsors. The prize was established in 1957 by Dr. Alexander Butler, a graduate of the department.

Graduate Student Resources