Program of Study

The normal program of study for the American Civilization Program is 33 credit hours organized around four examination fields. All courses are three credit hours. Each exam field involves what are called “distribution requirements.” See the general guidelines for graduate study for a discussion of these requirements.

In their first two years, American Civilization students prepare for written and oral examinations in four fields:

  1. American History before 1865.
  2. American History after 1865.
  3. Minor or Outside Field. This is often in a discipline other than History (Art History, Historic Preservation, Women’s Studies, English, and Anthropology are examples of possible outside fields), although it may also be in another historical subject matter (European or Latin-American History, for example).
  4. Special Interest Field in Material Culture Studies. This field relates to the subject of the student’s dissertation. A member of the Department of History usually advises this, but in the past some students have worked with faculty members in Art History and other options may also be possible. Students have latitude in shaping this exam field around their particular interests. In preparation for this field, Department of History faculty members offer a variety of courses in material culture including research methods and theory; the history of technology; consumer cultures in international context; and topical seminars on material life in the past.

The examinations are taken during the fifth semester and follow the same format (four take-home examinations and an oral exam) as the general Ph.D. exams in the Department of History. Before taking the examinations, students in the American Civilization Program must also demonstrate competence in one foreign language according to the same standards that apply to other graduate students in American History.

Upon passing their exams, students become Candidates for the Doctoral Degree, select a dissertation director and two other committee members, and prepare a dissertation prospectus. Within six months of this defense, doctoral candidates also present preliminary findings in a colloquium that is open to the department and other graduate students. Upon completing the dissertation, students defend the work before their committee with the addition of a fourth, outside reader.