Doctoral Program in Comparative History

The PhD in Comparative History offers doctoral education matching the highest international standards for prospective scholars and teachers. A particular - indeed unique - feature of the program is that it focuses on the comparison, interconnectedness, and entanglements of distinct geo-cultural regions: Central, Southeastern, and Eastern Europe, and the Eastern Mediterranean, in close relation to the history of other historical regions, most notably with Western Europe and the Middle East. 

Comparative history is often preached and seldom practiced in advanced historical studies. When it finds its way onto the agenda of Ph.D. programs, the emphasis falls mainly on distinctive regional-national fields with no connecting tissue. This PhD program seeks to root the comparative dimension in the historical experience of the four distinct geo-cultural regions of Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe, and the Eastern Mediterranean area. We acknowledge that these regions are themselves constructions representing symbolic as well as physical and human geographies. But we endeavor to find the loci of these representations in both intra-regional and extra-regional perceptions. We seek to avoid the dual methodological trap of seeing the region only from the outside as something "other" than the higher cultural level and material development of the West or alternatively only from the inside as a unique and therefore incomparable expression of indigenous factors. In this way, the comparative program will come to grips with one of the abiding intellectual and methodological problems of writing the history of these regions: namely, the tension between "Westerners" or externals and nativists or internals, between the conflicting metaphors of orientalism and nationalism. 

A comparative study of the four regions poses several methodological problems for historians. The political domination of the region by multi-cultural empires employing hegemonic languages (German, Russian and Ottoman Turkish) facilitates cross-cultural comparisons, particularly of institutional structures and treatments of subaltern ethnic groups. The rise of nation states, first in southeastern Europe in the nineteenth century, then in Central Europe in the twentieth century and finally in Eastern Europe after 1991 increases the complexity of the comparisons. Currently, comparative perspectives for the modern period offered in the department focus on theories of fascism and communism, methodological approaches adapted from modernization and development theories, and cross-disciplinary approaches from anthropology and sociology that allow for innovative approaches to the problems and legacies of the communist era in the region. 

In sum, the goals of the program are to build upon a unique approach to comparative history, multidisciplinary methods, an ideal geographical location, a highly diverse student body, an international faculty, and up-to-date facilities and resources in order to provide new ways of investigating the historical problems of these key regions in world history. The research being undertaken by our current PhD studentsand the successful dissertations already defended give the best idea of what is possible in the CEU History doctoral program. 


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Doctoral students receive tuition and a living stipend for four years, with opportunities to apply for additional research funds. The department also supports study abroad in the form of exchange agreements with other universities and through supporting students applying for external scholarships in European and American universities and research centers for non-degree study. Students from the Department of History have been awarded competitive grants from outstanding institutions, such as the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Harvard, Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Toronto, and the Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz. 


Entry Requirements

Applications are welcome from candidates with a Master’s or equivalent degree in a relevant field of research. In addition to meeting the general CEU admissions requirements, applicants should submit: 

  • CV listing academic qualifications and accomplishments as well as relevant work and research experience. Importanly, applicants should list their langauge skills and indicate levels of proficiency (both active and passive). 
  •  Research Proposal (1000-1500 words not counting the bibliography), including the presentation of an original research question, a note on relevant source materials, and a brief discussion of the project’s contribution to the existing literature. Applicants should provide a short bibliography. Applicants may also describe their motivation to study at the department (professors, expertise, research environment, etc.). The Proposal should also include a statement about the applicant's demonstrated proficiency in source and research languages relevant to the proposed project or any other qualifications and experience relevant to their work. (See sample proposal1 and sample proposal 2). 
  •  Academic Writing Sample of 10 to 25 pages in the English language. This may include a summary of the MA thesis, previous course work in English, a translation of a research paper originally written in another language, etc. 
  • Two letters of recommendation 


Applicants interested in Nationalism Studies or Jewish Studies at the doctoral level can apply for a Ph.D. in Comparative History and should follow the general admissions requirements; a joint committee reviews applications. The degree received will be a Ph.D. in Comparative History. 


Program Structure

The first year of the program concentrates on coursework and preparation for the comprehensive examination, which focuses on major topics in the comparative history of two of the three regions mentioned above. A detailed, extensive research dissertation proposal is also prepared, and discussed as part of the comprehensive examination. The second year is devoted to research in relevant archives and libraries. The third year is spent in residence at CEU presenting results in the PhD research seminar, and fulfilling teaching assistantship duties. Students may also apply for support for spending a semester during the their studies at one of the leading international universities or research centers. The dissertation must be submitted within 5 years from enrolllment in the program. 


Professional Training and Career Preparation

From the moment of entering the doctoral program, PhD students are involved in professional research projects organized by faculty and by external institutions. Pasts, Inc., the research institute associated with the Department, sponsors several annual conferences and various other forms of academic socialization, as well as the journal Journal of East Central Europe. This journal and the European Review of History also secure for our PhD students in-house internship opportunities in academic publishing. In addition, our department initiated (in 2007), and still runs cooperation with the European University Institute in Florence, the University of Oxford, and the University of Vienna, the series Graduate Conferences in European History (GRACEH). 

For more information see the Doctoral Program Regulations. 

For further questions, see the list of Frequently Asked Questions and/or contact us.