PhD in History


  • The Tufts History Department has a distinguished tradition of offering doctoral training in Modern South Asian history from the mid-eighteenth to the twentieth century. Successful PhD candidates have gone on to obtain positions in some of the most prestigious institutions of American academe. The program provides doctoral students with an ambience geared to intense and focused research into the most pressing questions of South Asian scholarship today, while also connecting students to the larger international expertise of the Tufts History faculty, faculty in related disciplines such as religion and anthropology, as well as the resources of the Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Students in this major field also partake of the active intellectual life surrounding South Asian studies in the Boston area, including the Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies.

    The Modern South Asia PhD immerses students in both the breadth and the detail of a complex arena of historical inquiry. Students study local and regional specificities, and also the large-scale political, economic, social, cultural and intellectual interactions that have made South Asia a nexus for globalizing forces in the modern period.

    Focus is placed on building expert skills in historical reasoning and analysis, in good writing and exposition, and in historiographic theory and debates.

    Students who enter the PhD program in Modern South Asian history at Tufts secure themselves a place in a scholarly tradition that has significantly influenced academic discussions in the United States and abroad by the formulation of new themes and heuristic categories, and by the impressive caliber of its work.

    Additional requirements for the PhD in Modern South Asian History:

    • Language requirements: English, at least one major South Asian language, and one other appropriate language
    • Primary field of concentration: Nineteenth-and twentieth-century South Asia
    • Secondary geographic field: An appropriate field in the history of the Middle East, East Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, or East Asia
    • Thematic field: An appropriate interdisciplinary and comparative field in topics such as nationalism, agrarian or labor history, world history


  • Global History begins with the premise that the world is an ever changing, interconnected system. This program pursues a comparative and connected approach to the study of history. It also explores formations and processes such as colonialism, empire, globalization, and diaspora, that situate places, social groups, and events beyond the limiting conceptual framework of the nation-state, or the world region. At the same time, a global perspective also enhances understanding of a particular region's history, and can illuminate the significance of a well-defined historical place and time by situating it within a larger comparative horizon. Our commitment to cross-cultural studies, perspectives from the Global South, and comparative history provides a context within which students can conduct research across and beyond national or imperial histories.

    Students will be able to work in comparative and connected frameworks with scholars who specialize in Atlantic, Indian Ocean, transnational, postcolonial, and global approaches, and whose areas of study include Europe, Africa, Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the United States.
    Additional requirements for the PhD in Global History

    • Three graduate fields:
      • a major field in a specific regional/national area directly related to the thesis topic.
      • a second regional/national field that complements the major field.
      • a thematic field that emphasizes global history approaches.
    • At least one of the fields should be in non-European/U.S. history.
    • Demonstrated competence in two languages besides English.
    • At least one graduate course in another discipline.

    The Global History PhD program is highly selective and admits only candidates with strong interest in transnational, global and world history research, and demonstrated ability to connect different fields, approaches and historiographies.

    To determine whether the Global History program is a good fit for their interests and academic background, applicants should contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Elizabeth Foster. Potential applicants should also write directly to the main faculty members in the department that they hope to work with.

    The History department is not currently accepting applications for the Global History PhD program. The program in Modern South Asian History will continue to accept applications. Please contact Professor Foster with additional questions.

Please note: the Department will not be accepting new PhD students in South Asian History or Global History for the Fall of 2024. Please check back for the Fall 2025 admissions cycle.

Requirements for admission:

  • Exceptional academic track record.
  • Proficiency on entrance in at least one foreign language (proficiency in two foreign languages is required before completion of the degree).
  • If appropriate, TOEFL scores.
  • Detailed statement of intent, including discussion of planned dissertation field.
  • In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the availability of standardized testing, GRE scores are currently waived for students applying to this program.

The prospective applicant should be in contact with Professor Ayesha Jalal for the Modern South Asia program, with Professor Elizabeth Foster for Global History.

Requirements for completion:

  • Proficiency in two foreign languages.
  • Completion of sixteen courses at the graduate level, including the Historiographical Proseminar. Students admitted with a Master’s Degree from another university may transfer up to two courses for Tufts credit, subject to their adviser’s approval.
  • At least three semesters of independent readings or research.
  • Oral or written examinations in three fields, based on course work and readings, administered by the appropriate members of the department.
  • Dissertation directed by the supervising faculty, to be read and defended before a committee including the adviser, at least two other faculty of the History Department, and an expert in the field from another institution. This defense will also include presenting a chapter to the Graduate-Faculty Roundtable.