Each student chooses a major field corresponding to a broad segment of history that encompasses a variety of historical problems and that contains a body of literature rich enough to nurture the development of a professional historian. The major field should represent the area of history that a student will be primarily prepared to teach; it should be roughly equivalent to the period covered by an upper-level undergraduate survey course, as indicated in the following examples:
In American History, the major field should consist of the period covered by any two of the basic reading seminars, History 587, 588, 589, 590 or their chronological equivalent; for example, the United States from the Early Republic to World War I, or from Reconstruction to the present, from 1830 to 1945, and so on.
Students concentrating in Colonial and Revolutionary America, however, may confine their major field to a period of approximately two centuries, e.g., 1607-1815 or 1688-1865.
In other areas, the broader chronological and geographical sweep of the subjects makes a similar correlation between field definitions and existing courses impossible. In those areas, students should plan major fields either in the history of several countries for approximately a century, or in the history of a single country for a longer period. Examples of such major fields are: Europe since 1870; Europe in the 19th Century; Tudor-Stuart England; the Ancient Regime and the Revolution in France; Italy in the Renaissance, 1300-1550; France and England in the High Middle Ages; etc.
In all areas the precise focus and emphasis of the major field will be determined by prior consultation between the student and his or her examiners; in each case, the specific content of the student's previous program of study and his or her special interests within the field will help to determine the nature of the examination and the weight given to specific aspects of the field.
If a student wishes to offer a chronological minor field in American History, its scope should be equivalent to the period covered by one of the basic reading seminars listed above; for example, the United States from the Early Republic through the Civil War, or from 1815 to 1890, and so on. It is also possible to offer a thematic minor field in American history; for example, American social history, American legal history, the diplomatic history of the United States. Again, in other areas, it is more difficult to lay out prescriptive guidelines for minor fields. Possible minor fields in European history include the following: Renaissance and Reformation; 16th-century Europe; England, 1558-1760; Western Europe, 1815-1918; European cultural history, 1815-1914; Modern Britain.
In selecting minor fields, students are urged to consider the increasing importance of non-Western history and of studies outside the discipline of history. Not only is there much interesting work being done in these areas, but also many colleges and universities are looking increasingly for beginning teachers who can function effectively in fields outside of Western history. The Department encourages students to consider choosing a minor field in another discipline, for example, classics (especially ancient history), demography, economics, sociology, literature, the history of art, or areas in regional studies. A student who desires to offer a minor field in another department will need to consult appropriate faculty members and the graduate representative in that department in addition to the Director of Graduate Studies in order to secure approval for the proposed field.
Students may not take both minor fields in the history of the same country or region as their major field; that is, a student whose major field and one minor field are in the U.S., and/or pre-1776 North American history must choose the other minor field in an area unrelated to U.S. history; a student whose major field is the Old Regime in France and one minor field France from 1789 to 1848 must choose the other minor field in an area unrelated to French history; and so on. In some cases, a minor field in a markedly different time period may be substituted for a different country or area: e.g., a student taking a major field in Europe since 1870 and a minor field on France from the Treaty of Versailles to World War I might offer a second minor in some aspect of medieval French history. The Director of Graduate Studies must approve all such combinations of major and minor fields.
Students specify all their fields on a form provided for this purpose at the beginning of their second year of study; this proposal, and any subsequent alteration of it, must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.