Master of Arts in Comparative History (2 years)


The program provides a systematic introduction to theories, methods, and research skills in history and related disciplines. The program’s regional setting and international faculty allows students to better understand European (with a focus on Central and Eastern), Middle Eastern, Eurasian, and global historical processes in a comparative perspective, from the early modern period to the present time. 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.

Who should apply?

The two-year MA program is as demanding as its one-year alternative, but its pace and substance are designed to meet the interests of students who may need more work on the basics of historical scholarship. It is specifically intended for applicants with a three-year BA (“Bologna type”) degree in history, archaeology, literary history, Classical languages, art history or other related disciplines or students who may have completed four or even five years of undergraduate education, but in a social science or humanities discipline other than history. Holders of four- or five-year undergraduate degrees in history are advised to apply to the one-year program (although they may be directed to the two-year program upon the examination of their individual backgrounds). 


Entry requirements

In addition to meeting the general CEU admissions requirements, applicants must provide a 500-word research proposal for the MA thesis (see sample proposal 1 and sample proposal 2), which will be weighted heavily in the admissions decision. The topic is expected to fall within the broad thematic focus of the department, and should be delimited and set out with the greatest possible clarity. Previous work on the subject should also be indicated.

Applicants should also upload a brief, supplementary statement of purpose that explains their interest in our Department. In the statement of purpose applicants can indicate which courses, professors, and research areas they see as especially relevant to their interests. Applicants who consider pursuing one of the specializations and advance certificates offered by the department should also indicate this in the statement of purpose.

Program Structure

In accordance with the CEU academic calendar, 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 good training in methods and theoretical basics as well as languages and other skills.

The Pre-Session and Zero Week are designed to accommodate students to the CEU environment. The program includes an excursion, introductory sessions for students about resources both within CEU, course introductions, and getting acquainted with the available archival and library resources.

The first term comprises several mandatory courses, while other courses are selected from a set number of mandatory fields (“elective” or “topical survey” courses). Some courses are separate electives for medievalists and modernists.

In the second term the number of common courses decreases and the choice of electives increases (but they are still open for both Medieval Studies and History students). The number of special courses for each group is larger and preparations begin for the second year. A thesis prospectus is submitted and defended at the end of the academic year. Students start to work on the prospectus  under the guidance of a supervisor in the MA thesis planning seminar during the winter term, to be continued in the thesis workshops offered in the month of May. The three-week research break in April serves for students to explore possible archival and other sources at home or elsewhere. The university provides modest grants to assist students in conducting their research. Information is made available about the application procedure for these grants in early February.

The year ends with a spring session starting in the last week of April. Medievalists have a one-week field trip (prepared for during the Fall Term by a field trip seminar) to sites and areas offering insights into the medieval civilization of the region, and “modernists” go on an educational trip of several days to one or two cultural capitals of the region. This is followed by the Spring Session that provides further guidance towards authoring the MA prospectus.

At the History Department students present and discuss the results of their research done in April with their peers and faculty members in the above mentioned thesis workshops. At the Medieval Studies Department the Spring Session primarily consists of a 3-week seminar period when elective courses provide further guidance towards writing the MA theses. 2 single-credit seminars have to be selected from 4 offered options.

In June, the prospectus defenses of the first-year students take place in the same period as the MA Thesis defenses of the second-year students. Approval of the prospectus by a committee of the relevant department is a condition for continuing studies. Specific research tasks for the summer break are also planned.

In the third term (the fall term of the second year) students take specialized seminars and advanced research methods courses. The fourth term and the spring session of the second year are almost fully devoted to thesis-related tasks (writing the thesis, attending thesis-writing workshops, and supplementing research results when needed).

Workload and Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate, two-year MA students must have earned 60 US credit points, which equal 120 credit points of the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System), one US credit being counted as 2 ECTS. Out of these 60 US credit points, 51 are obtained through class work and 9 points by a successfully defended thesis. One US course credit corresponds to one hour (50 minutes) of classroom attendance a week over a 12-week long academic term.

The curriculum is organized in five modules. The first module consists of mandatory classes in historiography and historical methods. The second module offers surveys on particular historical topics and regions. Topical surveys include classes on "Empires and Nations," "Religion and Science," "Gender History," "Urban History," among others while the regional surveys introduce into the "Grand Debates" in Central, Eastern and South Eastern European, as well as Eastern Mediterranean history. The third module includes the classes and colloquia that guide the students in their own research and thesis writing. The fourth module contains mandatory classes in Academic Writing. The fifth module is filled with topical classes from the elective program, possibly including credits from language classes and courses from other CEU departments.

Of the 51 class credits that students have to earn over the two years, 17 must be acquired in mandatory or mandatory elective courses (modules 1-4), and the remaining 34 should be collected from elective courses.

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.

The MA Thesis

Each student is required to write a 18,000-22,000 word thesis based on original research in primary sources, whether archival documents, prospective interviews and fieldwork, or periodical collections. Students are expected to indicate their proposed thesis topic in their application but this topic can be refined and developed during the coursework. Detailed information concerning the thesis is provided in the latest MA Thesis Guidelines.

Learn more about this program on the CEU Course hub and from the program Handbook below.


As of 2008, a two-year MA degree in Comparative History was introduced at CEU as a joint initiative of the Department of Medieval Studies and the History Department. It consists of two tracks: Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies and the Comparative History from 1500 till present time.

During eleven years, this MA program was taught successfully in Budapest. In reaction to Hungarian legislation against CEU, the program was taught from 2019 in a bicampus mode in Vienna and Budapest; since 2020, it is entirely located in Vienna. The MA program is accredited both in the United States and in the European Union. The program is registered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York (US) on behalf of the New York State Education Department. The 2008 registration of the degree program by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee made it also into a European-accredited degree. As CEU reinstalls its teaching activities in Vienna, the accreditation process by the independent board AQ Austria (Agentur für Qualitätssicherung und Akkreditierung Austria) has been completed in July 2020.