History Graduate Program

The William P. Clements Department of History at Southern Methodist University, in conjunction with the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, offers an innovative Ph.D. program. The course of study explores American historical experiences in global and comparative perspectives, with special emphasis on advanced-level work on the American Southwest and Mexico. It is built around three fields: a major field in American history, a second in the history of the Southwest and Mexico, and a third in global and Comparative history. The program is enhanced by several unique University resources, most significantly, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, which promotes research in a variety of fields related to the American Southwest, and the DeGolyer Library, which is devoted to Western Americana, Texana, and the Spanish borderlands.


Historiography (3 credits)

In the first term, students will take History 6300 (3 credits), a historiography course that introduces them to the professional study of history. Readings vary from year to year, but cover a broad range of methodologies, perspectives, and topics. The course also addresses historical writing, research techniques, and historical sources.

American History (24 credits)

During the first two years, all students take a sequence of four courses based upon intensive readings in American history (12 credits) from the era of Indian-European contact to the present, in order to acquire a mastery of the historiography of the field. These colloquia emphasize new problems, interpretations, and debates vital to the study of American history. In addition, students take four specialization courses (12 credits) that may vary in both content and method; these take the form of graduate courses, graduate/senior-level reading seminars, and/or individual directed readings. According to individual interests and requirements, one or two of these courses may be taken in another department.

The Southwest and Mexico (12 credits)

Students also will develop a field in Southwestern/Mexican History by taking a minimum of twelve credits of coursework. A research seminar (3 credits) and a colloquium (3 credits) on the Southwest or Mexico comprise half of the field. The remaining courses (6 credits) should be chosen in consultation with the student’s adviser. Students who have completed their seminar and colloquium on Mexico might take these six hours in Southwestern history (including Mexican-American history); whereas, students who have completed their seminar and colloquium in the Southwest might take these six hours in Mexico. Students may also wish to enrich their historical understandings of the region by taking courses in other fields such as anthropology, literature, or religious studies. Then, too, the program offers unusual opportunities for students to broaden and deepen their knowledge of this dynamic field of inquiry. The resources include the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, with its symposia, research fellows and distinguished visitors; SMU’s DeGolyer Library, a repository for a remarkable collection of books and manuscripts on Mexico and the Southwest; and the Meadows Museum of Art, which houses perhaps the world’s finest collection of Early Modern Spanish art outside of Spain.

Global and Comparative History (12 credits)

The third field, in Global and Comparative History (12 credits), places the American experience in larger contexts by introducing students to the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that have guided advanced research in recent decades. The field also provides interdisciplinary perspectives on particular topics of global significance. Students begin this field of study by taking a colloquium (3 credits) that explores influential methodologies and theoretical perspectives in global and comparative history, including the Annales school, world-system and dependency analysis, cross-cultural approaches, ecological history, post-colonial, and comparative methods. These are followed by three specialized courses (9 credits) that treat individual topics and themes in comparative contexts. Topics and themes include urbanization, migration, industrialization, revolution, slavery, and gender roles.

Research Paper Requirement. Students will take two courses during the first two years of study designated as research courses. The goal is to produce significant work based on primary sources and of a quality comparable to an article in a scholarly journal.

Qualifying Examination. An oral examination on the aforementioned three fields will be taken in the middle of the third year.

Dissertation (3 credits). A formal defense is conducted upon completion of the dissertation.


Learning to be an effective instructor is a vital part of our Ph.D. program. The centerpiece of teacher preparation, to occur in the fourth year, is a mentoring program tailored to the interests and the needs of each student. Students will work closely with professors in the planning and teaching of an individual course. They also will meet with professors in informal or formal seminars to discuss topics related to teaching; attend the classes of various professors to observe technique and style; and participate in a seminar offered by SMU’s Commission on Teaching and Learning and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.


The History Department will award fellowships to all students accepted into the Ph.D. program. Funding is guaranteed for a period of five years for those who continue to work at the highest levels of excellence. Fellowships include tuition, fees, a $15,000 stipend for the academic year, and assistance towards medical benefits. In addition, the Clements Department of History has resources available for travel to professional conferences and to research archives.


All applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (students from abroad must hold the equivalent degree), a minimum grade point average of 3.00, and must have completed at least 12 advanced hours in history. Applicants must submit Graduate Record Examination scores. If English is not the applicant’s native language, he or she also must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language and score 550 or higher. Students must submit, as well, a statement of purpose, an example of their written work, and official transcripts. Three letters of recommendation also are required. In addition, applicants should possess a foundation in Spanish sufficient to enable them to pass a language proficiency examination in September of the first year of study. Students must submit their applications and all supporting documents by Feb. 1.

For more information, contact the or visit the History Graduate School Home Page.