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Study History Where It Is Made

AU’s PhD in History will prepare you for a career as an educator, researcher, analyst, and writer working in academia, public and institutional history, and other fields requiring investigative and analytical skills. In this program, you will develop a deeper understanding of how historians investigate and interpret the past while you explore the past with your own original research.

You will receive a high level of mentorship and develop close working relationships with your professors. Under the guidance of our award-winning faculty, our students complete strong dissertations and present work at top conferences while making valuable connections and gaining experience in the Washington, DC, area.

This program is ideal for students interested in American and modern European history, including Russian history. Our department also has strengths in a variety of subfields, including public history, African American history, women’s/gender history, politics and foreign relations, and Jewish history. This diversity will open your options for research and allow for specialization without sacrificing breadth of study.

Washington, DC

Rigorous Study with a Degree of Flexibility

Our program combines rigorous training in scholarship with the flexibility to pursue your intellectual interests. Our coursework will give you a solid foundation in historical theory and methodology, research methods, and United States or modern European history. Together with your academic advisor, you will design a program of study to match your academic goals. You will acquire and demonstrate mastery of tools of research, such as foreign languages, quantitative research methods, oral history, new media, and other methodologies. Your doctoral examinations will be tailored to fit your individual fields of study. You will then pursue your own research in writing your doctoral dissertation.

The Department will supervise PhD dissertations in the history of Modern Europe (normally for the period 1789 to the present), United States history (including the colonial period), US foreign relations, and modern Jewish history.

See all admissions and course requirements.

Cutting-Edge Faculty Dedicated to Your Success

Our history faculty makes national news, uncovers under-represented areas of history, and guides doctoral students, helping them generate innovative and influential research. From predicting presidential elections to publishing award-winning books and articles, our distinguished professors produce relevant historical scholarship and will train you do the same. With academic and professional mentorship from our faculty, you will you will enter the field as a thoroughly prepared and well-connected scholar.

Endless Opportunities in a Historic City

Pursuing your doctorate in the nation’s capital provides you with unparalleled access to renowned museums, archives, institutions, and resources. From the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution and National Archives to the DC Historical Society, our students are only a metro ride away from exceptional local and national repositories. As part of the Washington Consortium, students at American University are able to take courses at colleges and universities throughout the DC metropolitan area, providing the opportunity to work with a variety of faculty in diverse programs and fields of study.

A truly global city, DC, contains hundreds of embassies, cultural organizations, and enclave communities. Brimming with history, the DC area offers Civil War battlefields, the Capitol, Mount Vernon, the White House, and countless landmarks of the colonial period, Revolutionary War, Civil War, and more recent American history. The city is also home to smaller historical organizations like the DC Historical Society and the DC Preservation League. Whether your interest is global, national, or local, this historic city undoubtedly has something for you.

Explore the Possibilities

Our students go on to become university and college faculty and administrators or work in federal and state governments, for museums and archives, and in other exciting fields. Our alumni teach at universities around the world, from the University of Houston in Texas to University of Prince Edward Island in Canada and Ludwig Maximilians Universität in Munich. Our PhDs hold positions with the nation’s most important institutions, including the Library of Congress, Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration, American Historical Association, National Endowment for the Humanities, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Recent and Current PhD Dissertation topics

The Department will supervise PhD dissertations in the history of Modern Europe (normally for the period 1789 to the present), United States history (including the colonial period), US foreign relations, and modern Jewish history.

  • Auketayeva, Laura: "Gender and Jewish Evacuees in the Soviet Union during the Holocaust" 
  • Barry, Michael: "Islamophobic & Anti-Islamophobic Ideas in America"
  • Brenner, Rebecca: "When Mail Arrived on Sundays, 1810-1912" 
  • Boose, Donelle: "Black Power and the Organizing Tradition: Work-ing Women of Washington, DC. 1965-1990"
  • Chatfield, Andrew: "American Support for India’s Self-Determination from 1915-1920: Progressives, Radicals, and Anti-Imperialists"
  • Duval, Lauren: "Landscapes of Allegiance: Space, Gender, and Mili-tary Occupation in the American Revolution"
  • Englekirk, Ryan: "The Third Team: Unmasking Fraternity and Mascu-linity Among Major League Baseball Umpires 1970-2010" 
  • Estess, Jonah: "The People’s Money: The American Revolution, Cur-rency, and the Making of Political Economic Culture in American Life, 1775-1896" 
  • Frome, Gavin: "American Protestant Service Workers in Viet Nam, 1954-1975"
  • Gabor, Ruth: "'Moda' for the Masses: Moscow Fashion’s Appeal at Home and Abroad during the Cold War"
  • Gibson, Laura: "It’s Love that Counts: The History of Non-Nuclear Families in American Domestic Sitcoms"
  • Grant, Jordan: "Catchers and Kidnappers: Slave Hunting in Early America" 
  • Grek, Ivan: "Illiberal Civil Society in Russia, 1992-2000"
  • Harris, Curtis: "Hardwood Revolution: The NBA's Growth & Player Revolt, 1950-1976" 
  • Hawks, Julie: "Capital Investments: Engineering American Cold War Culture" 
  • Jobe, Mary "Allison": "'We Remember Him for His Character': The Life of James W. Ford and the Communist Party USA" 
  • Kaplan, Anna: "Left by the Wayside: Memories and Postmemories of the Integration of the University of Mississippi"
  • Killian, Linda: "Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine: The Shared Political Ideology at the Heart of American Democracy" 
  • Kitterman, Katherine: "'No Ordinary Feelings': Mormon Women’s Political Activism, 1870-1896" 
  • Langford, Amy: "Creating a Body Politic: Boundary Crossings and the (Re) Making of Latter-Day Saints on the U.S. Border, 1885-1920"
  • Levin, Jeffrey: "Felix Warburg and the Establishment of the Hebrew University" 
  • MacNeill, Lindsay: "Policing Politics in Austria, 1918-1955"
  • Milwicki, Alon: "Baptizing Nazism: An Analysis of the Religious Roots of American Neo-Nazism"
  • Rafferty-Osaki, Terumi: "'Strictly Masculine': Reforming and Per-forming Manhood at Tule Lake, 1942-1946" 
  • Recordati, Maurizio: "Russia Turns Inward: Russian Grand Strategy in the Post-Crimean War Period (1856-78)"
  • Sowry, Nathan: "Museums, Native American Representation, & the Public: The Role of Museum Anthropology in Public History, 1873-1929"
  • Styrna, Pawel: "Polish-Russian Relations, 1904-1921"
  • Vehstedt, Scott: "'Lets Help Finland': The Return of American Relief Aid in the Winter War, 1939-1940"
  • Weixelbaum, Jason: "At the Crossroads of Fascism: The Decision of Ford, General Motors, and IBM to do Business with Nazi Germany"

Alumni Job Placements

Graduates of the history PhD program are working as professors, researchers, and directors across the US and at international locations. Here is a list of where select graduates have or are currently working:

  • Director, National Coalition for History
  • Assistant Professor, University of Prince Edward Island
  • Assistant Professor, Towson University
  • Assistant Professor of History and Director of American Studies, West Chester University
  • Independent historian
  • Senior Archivist, National Archives
  • Associate Professor, Ryerson University
  • Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Historian, US Army
  • Senior policy adviser and special assistant to the president of the Humane Society
  • Historian, Office of the Historian, Department of State
  • Museum Director, Renton History Museum, Oregon
  • Public History Coordinator, American Historical Association
  • Assistant Professor, Bridgewater State University
  • Lecturer in Sociology, California State University at Bakersfield
  • Assistant Professor, Delaware State University
  • Historian, Global Classroom, US Holocaust Museum
  • Director, Digital Archive, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library
  • Assistant Professor, Illinois State University
  • Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland at College Park
  • Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Assistant Professor, University of West Florida
  • Independent historian and filmmaker
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of History, US Naval Academy
  • Administrative Support Specialist at FEMA
  • Senior editor and writer, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Instructor, Religion Dept., National Cathedral School (earned Master of Divinity after PhD)
  • Curriculum and Publications Coordinator, AU Registrar's Office
  • Assistant Professor, Seminole State College

News & Notes

PhD candidate Reza Akbari presented at the Middle East Studies Association's annual conference in Montreal, Canada. His presentation, Etched in Mistrust: Continuity and Change in US-Iran Nuclear Negotiations (1969-1978), argued that America's drive to keep Iran's nuclear program peaceful began decades before the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

PhD candidate Andrew Sperling published "A Halloween Party in Boston Turned Ugly when a Gang Hurled Antisemetic Slurs and Attacked Jewish Teenagers," detailing the events of an antisemetic attack on Jewish teens at a Halloween party in 1950. 

Theresa Runstedtler's new book on Black ballplayers of the 1970s and '80s setting the NBA up for success: Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywoof, and the Generation that Saved the Soul of the NBA (2023).

Doctoral student Maurizio Recordati Koen won first prize in the 2022 Trench Gascoigne Essay Competition for "The Stuff of Strategy: How Sublime Strategics Turned into a Real Thing" in RUSI Journal.

John Schmitz (CAS/PhD '07) published Enemies among Us: The Relocation, Internment, and Repatriation of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans during the Second World War.

Doctoral student Jonah Estess presented his paper, "Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: The American Revolution and the National Origins of the Politicization of Money" as part of the panel at this year's Business History Conference.

Andrew Demshuk published Three Cities after Hitler: Redemptive Reconstruction across Cold War Borders.

PhD candidate Katherine Kitterman wrote on women's voting rights in Utah for the Washington Post.

Nguyet Nguyen

Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow

Nguyet Nguyen brings new perspective to the Vietnam War.

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