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bigbangdeux

Non-history undergrad to History PhD help?

13 posts in this topic

Hey everyone question for everyone here. I didn't major in History for my BA (double in classics/modern languages& lit) I did have a lot of historical overlap, especially with the period/topics I'm suggesting in my SOP. I'm a little concerned, however, that I might be lacking in understanding of historiography. Does anyone have any suggested reads or advice for someone who didn't major in History in undergrad and wants to (hopefully) come into a PhD program as prepared as possible.  

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Your post is coming across as someone who still has no idea what to study in a PhD program.  Your interests are far too broad (ancient vs. modern, very different methodological approaches and contexts!). Becoming informed at this stage it is not about trying to learn everything in Historiography 101 that every student has to take anyway but what's out there in general within your area of research interest.  Your POIs will always know so much more until you actually start writing the dissertation and they do recognize that applicants don't have much knowledge but will draw a line somewhere between ignorant and reasonably informed.

Seriously, don't apply for the PhD this year if you hope to get in on your first try.

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17 hours ago, bigbangdeux said:

I did have a lot of historical overlap, especially with the period/topics I'm suggesting in my SOP. I'm a little concerned, however, that I might be lacking in understanding of historiography.

Many, many other disciplines in the humanities overlap with history because we, as a Western society, have built our world in terms of chronological progression. Please, don't say that you overlap with history in your SOP because that will not impress anyone. Actually, if your background is in Classics and Modern Languages, we kind of expect you to overlap. 

At this point, there is no rush in studying historiography. What you need to do is be honest with yourself about why you want to a PhD in History and not in Classics/Languages. For this, you need to understand (if you don't already) the disciplinary difference among these three and pose why you, coming with this BA under your arm, will bring fresh perspectives into the themes you want to develop. 

Historians don't read historians only. In my case, I read anthropologists, geographers, literary critics, and scholars from media/film studies. I know that a friend read mostly ethnographers and another friend has a share of classicists. So, why do you want to study history? 

The way to address this is to look at your questions and list why answering from our discipline would be more interesting/valuable for the field. As @TMP said, it has to do with other elements than historiography, namely methods. A friend of mine studies very recent history and the constant question she got from her advisor is "why is this a history project?". Ask yourself the same thing. Do you have any professor in the history department at your school you could talk to?

Finally, I would suggest you read historiography once you are in. Take that summer before school to cozy some books next to your bed and read. 

Edited by AP
I only quoted the OP and the text was posted! I couldn't even elaborate my response!

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3 hours ago, TMP said:

Your post is coming across as someone who still has no idea what to study in a PhD program.  Your interests are far too broad (ancient vs. modern, very different methodological approaches and contexts!). Becoming informed at this stage it is not about trying to learn everything in Historiography 101 that every student has to take anyway but what's out there in general within your area of research interest.  Your POIs will always know so much more until you actually start writing the dissertation and they do recognize that applicants don't have much knowledge but will draw a line somewhere between ignorant and reasonably informed.

Seriously, don't apply for the PhD this year if you hope to get in on your first try.

I actually do know exactly what I want to study in a PhD program, I wasn't trying to say that my interests for the PhD span both those topics, just that I have historical experience and am not coming into this completely willy-nilly, I'm sorry if I wasn't clear about that. I did an extensive senior thesis that I would like to use as the platform for future research, which is what I'm suggesting in my SOP, not that I want to study both modern and ancient history. 

 

2 hours ago, AP said:

The way to address this is to look at your questions and list why answering from our discipline would be more interesting/valuable for the field. As @TMP said, it has to do with other elements than historiography, namely methods. A friend of mine studies very recent history and the constant question she got from her advisor is "why is this a history project?". Ask yourself the same thing. Do you have any professor in the history department at your school you could talk to?

Finally, I would suggest you read historiography once you are in.

Thank you this is what I was looking for, I appreciate your thoughtful answer. I do feel like I have my own answers about my proposed themes and "why history?" but a lot of the questions you raised to think about are definitely something to consider.  

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There are far better-articulated comments here than I probably could produce, but I thought I'd mention that in some sub-disciplines, it's pretty standard to arrive at the subject from elsewhere (this is especially prevalent in the history of science). For example, one of the doctoral students in the program I'm attending has a background in fine arts.

My two cents.

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35 minutes ago, Neist said:

There are far better-articulated comments here than I probably could produce, but I thought I'd mention that in some sub-disciplines, it's pretty standard to arrive at the subject from elsewhere (this is especially prevalent in the history of science). For example, one of the doctoral students in the program I'm attending has a background in fine arts.

My two cents.

Thanks I assumed that was the case, but again since I'm obviously not currently enrolled in a program and didn't major in history in undergrad I didn't know how much of an expectation there is to come in completely fluent in historiography (which was a concern of mine).  

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If you tell us your topic or research interests, perhaps we can point you in the direction of some good historiographical sources. 

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22 hours ago, KLZ said:

If you tell us your topic or research interests, perhaps we can point you in the direction of some good historiographical sources. 

I'm interested in gender in France in the late 19th early 20th century, particularly the ideas of femininity in relation to consumerism and citizenship. So I guess anything related to gender in France from the 19th and/or 20th c would be appreciated! 

Edited by bigbangdeux

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On 9/25/2016 at 10:53 AM, bigbangdeux said:

I'm interested in gender in France in the late 19th early 20th century, particularly the ideas of femininity in relation to consumerism and citizenship. So I guess anything related to gender in France from the 19th and/or 20th c would be appreciated! 

Do you have a particular monograph / secondary source that is particularly helpful?  Many comprehensive monographs on a particular topic review the historiography in a particular field.  You'll get a good sense of the debates up until now, as well as the current state of the field.  I also recommend reading through published dissertations in your field -- again, historiography is usually discussed when laying down the framework for a new approach to an idea.

If you are looking for more books and articles to read, it is always helpful to look at the bibliography if a book, article, or dissertation that you enjoy.  You'll get a sense of what's really big in your field.  I hope that helps... this was a broad question.

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On 9/25/2016 at 10:53 AM, bigbangdeux said:

I'm interested in gender in France in the late 19th early 20th century, particularly the ideas of femininity in relation to consumerism and citizenship. So I guess anything related to gender in France from the 19th and/or 20th c would be appreciated! 

Dr. Morag Martin at SUNY Brockport is a great match for your interests. Read her stuff: https://www.brockport.edu/academics/history/faculty/martin.html

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I did Classics as an undergraduate and I got accepted to three masters (1 fully funded, 1 half funded, and 1 no funding). But if you did Classics then history won't be to much of a jump. The hardest adjustment I had was moving away from the passive voice and into the active.

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Hi! I've the same problem! I have a BA in art history and a MSc in Architectural History. I've applied both for PhD in history of art and history as my research involves both and it was easier to find a decent fit as supervisor among historians. In particular, I applied at Cambridge department of History and with my surprise, I've been accepted! Now I am quite confused because I don't feel enough prepared for PhD in History... and I fear that I would miss my beloved architectural history and the History of Art department.

My research focuses on the lazzaretti (plague hospitals) in the Mediterranean Region (Italy, Dalmatia, France, Malta, Spain..) during the Early Modern period (fifteenth- eighteenth centuries). I will focus above all on the architecture but also on social and economic history, history of medicine, trade etc. in the Mediterranean area. Any suggestion about books and manuals on this region in the period mentioned? :)

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5 hours ago, MarinaLazarus said:

Hi! I've the same problem! I have a BA in art history and a MSc in Architectural History. I've applied both for PhD in history of art and history as my research involves both and it was easier to find a decent fit as supervisor among historians. In particular, I applied at Cambridge department of History and with my surprise, I've been accepted! Now I am quite confused because I don't feel enough prepared for PhD in History... and I fear that I would miss my beloved architectural history and the History of Art department.

My research focuses on the lazzaretti (plague hospitals) in the Mediterranean Region (Italy, Dalmatia, France, Malta, Spain..) during the Early Modern period (fifteenth- eighteenth centuries). I will focus above all on the architecture but also on social and economic history, history of medicine, trade etc. in the Mediterranean area. Any suggestion about books and manuals on this region in the period mentioned? :)

Before you start reading, I recommend that you define concisely the similarities and differences between art history and architectural history. (Maybe in a physical journal.) This exercise will allow you to understand the differences among those two fields and history.

Then, I recommend that you go to the website for Cambridge's history department, identify the scholars whose areas and interests overlap with yours. Find syllabi of courses they've offered and reads the works that seem important even if they don't appear relevant to your interests. Find works by those same scholars and read them selectively. If you do this task diligently, you will find the "must read" books and monographs as well as the "state of the art" historiographical essays in journals.

You may be tempted to focus on works closely related to your research. I very strongly urge you to resist that urge. Put those works aside for now. Focus instead on works that will allow you to understand the bigger historiographical issues of the past sixty or seventy years.

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