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Public History

General Information

Public History began at Santa Barbara in 1976. Since then, over 100 students have trained in UCSB's program to apply their historical skills, knowledge and insights in public settings -- in museums and heritage sites, businesses, public agencies, non-profit groups and private foundations, and myriad other places. To meet the wide range of opportunities presented by the always-changing array of publics, the UCSB program prepares historians as historians, as broadly-trained scholar-professionals fully versed in the literature, methods, and interpretive debates of the venerable discipline, but also especially conscious of and practiced in the special challenges and resources distinctive to the public practice of History. The program offers concentrations in four areas: public policy, community, and business history, and public memory and history presentation. Other areas of research interest are supported by individual faculty, interdepartmental, and intercampus committees. Public History students regularly take advantage of the History Department's large and distinguished faculty to integrate their particular research and reading interests into their program. The formal course of study for the Ph.D. degree is further enhanced by opportunities to:

  • participate in the editing and production of The Public Historian, the quarterly history journal jointly published by our program and the National Council for Public History;

  • spend research or internship quarters in residence at the UCSB Washington D.C. Center, with research grant and teaching assistantship support available;

  • meet and discuss the field with prominent visiting public historians in the program's speaker series; and

  • (since 1999-2000) undertake coursework, research, and internships in the state capital, Sacramento, with the Public History Program's joint doctoral program at California State University, Sacramento.


Joint Ph.D. Program with Cal State Sacramento

The joint Ph.D. program combines faculty and resources with the Capital Campus Public History program of CSU Sacramento in a venture unique in the nation. Students in the joint Ph.D. will be able to take courses and participate in public history research projects at both locations and from the joint faculty, no matter location, through distance learning technology.

Students with the M.A. in public history or equivalent graduate training and experience may apply directly to the Ph.D. program. Those with other training are encouraged to contact the program director to discuss M.A. or preparatory graduate work for entry to the Ph.D. program.


Core Courses and Requirements

All entering public history Ph.D. students will complete the core of courses and requirements at follows:
at least six quarters of research seminars, two of which may be fulfilled by research seminars completed in M.A. studies

  • the History 292 A-B-C series (Foundations of U.S. History to 1846; 1846-1917; 1917-present)

  • History 206 (History and Theory: Public History), History 207 (Historical Methods)

  • a public history internship involving research and a report, which may be fulfilled by an internship completed in M.A. studies

  • a graduate course in each of the four examination fields

  • pass examinations in four fields chosen as follows:


    • a general field (often U.S. history)

    • a specialized field within the general field

    • a third field encompassing the dissertation topic

    • a cognate field outside the department (e.g. art history, anthropology, political science)



The first three of these field examinations will be written and oral; the fourth will be covered by oral examination only. Additionally, Public History Ph.D.s must:

  • pass one foreign language examination

  • complete a dissertation

  • serve as a research assistant or teaching assistant



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