Department of History, Carr Building, Duke University's East Campus
Department of History, Carr Building, Duke University's East Campus



We view our efforts to improve our department's graduate program as ambitious -- less because of the central importance or far-reaching character of any single proposal we are considering, and more because of our commitment to rethink the program as a whole, and to reconfigure its various parts to connect more effectively. The discussion below and in related documents and "snapshots" provide great detail about our plans and strategies.

Duke has long had a strong tradition of graduate education in history, and we have no intention to let go of the considerable strengths of our program -- particularly the close attention graduate students receive from our faculty, our close relationship with other area history departments and history working groups, and our students' ability to tailor courses of study that cross the boundaries of fields and the discipline of history itself. But we do wish to create a clearer path for our students in navigating the program, and to ensure that our training prepares them for the practice of history amid the globalization and technological transformations of the twenty-first century.

Faculty and Staff of the Duke History Department, April 2004
Faculty and Staff of the Duke History Department, April 2004


Graduate Program, Department of History, 212A Carr Building, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719

Phone (919) 684-3014 Fax (919) 681-7670

Key Participants in the CID

  • Dept. Chair, 2003-04: John Herd Thompson
  • Dept. Chair, 2004-05: Sarah Deutsch
  • DGS for Fall 2004: Cynthia Herrup (
  • DGS for Spring 2005: Edward Balleisen (
  • CID Team Leader, 2003-04: Laura Edwards
  • CID Team Leader, 2004-05: Simon Partner (
  • Grad Student Rep.: Tom Rogers
  • Grad Student Rep.: Marie Hicks
  • Grad Student Rep.: Kelly Kennington (

  • Duke's Graduate Program in History
    Our site includes a full description of current courses, the current graduate student handbook, a directory of current students, and application information.


    Over the past decade, we have, like most leading history departments, reduced our intake of Ph.D. students. We now generally admit between 8 and 12 students a year, almost all of whom receive five years of full funding either from Duke or outside funding agencies. We offer graduate training in most geographic and chronological concentrations, but most of our recent students have focused their work in Modern Europe, Modern Latin America, the British Empire, the United States, or Military History.

    The graduate program at Duke is characterized by close relationships between faculty and graduate students, and substantial flexibility for students in defining a course of study, and significant participation of graduate students in departmental governance. Graduate students receive considerable experience in the classroom, usually having the opportunity to lead discussion sections, direct undergraduate research papers, and teach their own seminars and/or small lecture courses over the course of their years in graduate school. Every year, several of senior graduate students also teach their own courses at area colleges and universities.

    Our faculty is characterized by a tendency to integrate research methods from other disciplines, and to pursue research agendas that cross over traditional sub-disciplinary fields. Duke's history graduate students often tackle similarly ambitious research topics, and have had good success in landing tenure track positions in academia, with numerous recent graduates gaining employment at leading research universities and liberal arts colleges. Several of our Ph.Ds also work for goverment agencies, non-governmental organizations, corporations, or in public history.

    Commonalities PowerPoint
    Slides for a powerpoint presentation on the characteristics of our current graduate program, given at the Jan. 2004 convening by Tom Rogers

    Key Ideas PowerPoint
    Slides for a powerpoint presentation on our early proposals for reform, given at the Jan. 2004 convening by Laura Edwards

    Improving Graduate Education through the CID

    After a collective reconsideration of our graduate program from the ground up, we have identified four main goals for our CID initiative:

    1) to maintain the core of our program's current flexibility, while adding a more structured and predictable set of course experiences in the first two years, encouraging our students to cultivate intellectual breadth as well as depth, and involving a greater percentage of our faculty in graduate teaching;

    2) to build more effective connections between the various formal pieces of the program (coursework, apprenticeship in teaching, prelims, and dissertation research/writing);

    3) to foster a more vibrant intellectual community among graduate students and faculty, recognizing the challenges of doing so as our class sizes have come down in the past decade; and

    4) to ensure that our graduates are prepared to thrive in the next generation's professional environment for historians -- one that will likely be predicated on facility with information technology, proficiency with a variety of historical methodologies, and an ability to speak and write to both professional and broader audiences.


    Fall 2003 Initial Discussions

  • CID Team Meetings
  • Graduate Student Meetings
  • Meetings with Duke Professional Schools
  • Jan 2004 CID Convening: Brainstorming

    Jan-Mar 2004 CID Team development of agenda

  • Drafting/Circulation of Draft Report
  • Discussions in Exec. Committee,
  • Department Meetings
  • Faculty Interviews
  • April 2004 Adoption of Carnegie Report

    Summer 2004 Proposal of New Graduate Courses

    2004-05 Implementing New Curriculum

    Fall 2004 (planned) CID Team Discussions:

  • Mentoring
  • Evaluations/Benchmarks
  • Prelims
  • Dissertation Writing Workshop


    * Extensive assessment of the graduate program and of trends in the discipline of history

    * Adoption of a resulting report on the graduate program (see link below), which:

  • describes the strengths and weaknesses of the program;
  • identifies a series of problems and a range of potential means of addressing those problems;
  • sets out a set of specific reforms to the curriculum for the first two years of coursework; and
  • lays out the rough outlines of an agenda for our CID deliberations in the next two years.
  • * Highlights of the new curricular changes:

  • a revamped sequence of two core courses, one focusing on historiography and theory, and one stressing research skills;
  • a process for rationalizing and extending our graduate course offerings, with an emphasis on chronological and geographic breadth, faculty rotation, a clearer distinction between readings and research seminars, and limits on the number of independent studies;
  • a requirement of two research seminars in the second year, wit the resulting two research papers constituting the research component of the M.A. degree; and
  • the creation of a new required second-year teaching course, to assist graduate students as they begin their careers as instructors.
  • Innovation 1: Revamping Core Courses
    This snapshot provides an overview of our reconstructed two core courses, an introduction to historiography, and an introduction to historical research methods.

    February 2004 Report on Reforms to the Duke Graduate Program
    This report lays out our departmental CID agenda and outlining the initial reform package adopted by the department in April, 2004

    February 2004 Report, pdf version

    Innovation 2: The New Curriculum for the First Two Years

    KEY CHALLENGES, 2004-05 (and probably beyond)

    Implementation of the New Curriculum

  • Launching the New Core Courses
  • Developing New Readings and Research Courses
  • Coordinating Course Offerings
  • Disseminating New Rules to Faculty and Students (creating new culture of expectations)
  • Improving Mentoring/Assessment

  • Benchmarks for Progress
  • Rationalizing Feedback
  • Grad Student Mentors?
  • Rethinking Prelims

  • Guidelines for Scope
  • Portfolio Option?
  • Reducing No. of Fields, Increasing Breadth?
  • Deepening Intellectual Community

  • Writing Workshop for dissertators
  • Student-Organized Conversations?

  • This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
    developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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