Master of Arts in Comparative History (2 years)

Please note that we do not accept applications for this program any longer. If you are a prospective student applying for the two-year MA, see the list of our MA programs starting in September 2024.


The program provides a systematic introduction to theories, methods, and research skills in history and related disciplines. The program’s location in Vienna and its international faculty provide students with an inspiring setting to study historical change in action and conduct their own research on a topic of their choice. Successful graduates will write and defend a thesis of original historical research based on a methodologically rigorous employment of primary sources. While it is not expected that students engage explicitly in a comparative project, they are encouraged to engage with fields of scholarship that lie beyond the geographical and chronological parameters of their primary research subject. Some courses will be shared with students taking the degree in the program track "MA in Comparative History: Late Antique, Medieval and Renaissance Studies," offered by the Medieval Studies Department.

Program Structure

The program offerings are divided into a Pre-Session and Zero Week (3 weeks in September), the Fall term (12 weeks from late September to December), the Winter term (12 weeks from January to the end of March) and a Spring Session (10 weeks in April and June).

The first year of the two-year program is integrated to a considerable extent between the Departments of History and Medieval Studies. It is intended to ensure proficiency in methods and theoretical basics as well as languages and other skills.

In the first year, students will take an array of mandatory and elective classes, as well as begin the planning of their thesis projects. In consultation with the program director, students plan their schedules, including relevant language classes and any coursework outside the department. By the end of the winter term they select their thesis supervisor(s) and secondary reader. In the spring term they can take advantage of the April research break, take an array of intensive one-week seminars, or enroll in the master class in historiography. In June they defend their MA thesis prospectus.

The summer between the first and second year offers an important opportunity for students to conduct their primary thesis research in the archives, libraries, or other institutions necessitated by their project. They are eligible for limited departmental travel funding via application.

In the second year students take a variety of elective courses within the department. However, their primary focus becomes the writing of the thesis, which is supported by a number of tailored writing seminars and workshops. Students submit and defend their final theses in June.

Workload and Graduation Requirements

2-Year MA students take common courses in historiography and comparative methods. They also take one thematic survey – on topics like empire, gender, urban history, etc. – and one geographic subfield, such as the “Grand Debates” courses in Central European, Eastern Mediterranean, and Russian and Eurasian history. Mandatory academic writing courses introduce students to common practices of English-language history writing. Starting in the winter semester of their first year, students take a mandatory course sequence designed to assist in the planning, research, and writing of the MA thesis. Finally, more than half of the students’ curriculum is comprised of elective courses, including language courses and classes outside the discipline of history.

Students have significant flexibility to select courses. Supervisors, program directors, and other faculty assist them in making selections that are best suited for both their specific field of research and the program’s aim of interdisciplinary training. The Head of Department and the Program Director will invite each student  at the beginning of the academic year to discuss and design a tentative individualized program.

For details on curriculum and credit structure, see the 2-Year MA handbook and other documents below.

The MA Thesis

Each student is required to write a 18,000-22,000 word thesis based on original research in primary sources, whether they be archival documents, interviews, periodicals, literature, artworks, or other sources. Students are expected to indicate their proposed thesis topic in their application but this topic can be refined and developed during the coursework and the sequence of MA thesis workshops conducted each semester. 

Learn more in the Thesis Guidelines and program Handbook below.

Sample MA theses can be found among the Hanak prize winners and on the CEU library site.