History graduate students take History 3900 in the Fall and then four letter-graded courses each semester of their first two years in the program:

History 3900: Writing History + 2 History Graduate Seminars or, by petition to the Director of Graduate Studies, other History courses in which the writing of a substantial research paper based on primary sources is required. + 4 Additional History Courses +2 Electives = 9 Courses

A grade of B or higher must be received in these courses for it to count toward the degree requirements.

Additional Coursework

Directed Study

In addition to the nine courses in the first two years, students prepare for the general exam by registering for a series of History 3010s, a directed study taken with each member of the general exam committee.

3010 is by default graded as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and does not count toward the required nine courses UNLESS you:

Petition for a Letter Grade:

  • By completing a petition to take 3010 as a graded course, students may simultaneously satisfy the letter-graded course requirements outlined above and prepare for the general exam.
  • A graded 3010 may count as a research seminar, as a history department course, or as an elective, but it may not be used in place of History 3900.
  • The letter grades for History 3010 are held internally by the department, and a supplemental transcript letter may be requested from the graduate coordinator.

History 3920hf: Colloquium on Teaching

Usually taken in the third year, the Teaching Colloquium is a required course for the PhD degree.

The course, which meets several times in both the fall and spring semesters and is led by a senior faculty member and a teaching fellow, is an introduction to teaching both at Harvard and beyond, and helps students gain familiarity with a range of techniques and styles of teaching.


The department strongly discourages students from taking incompletes. If you are considering taking an incomplete, you must first speak with your instructor. Incomplete coursework must be submitted to the instructor by the end of the subsequent term, or the incomplete grade will become permanent.


Use of Petitions:

  1. to have lecture or conference courses count as seminars
  2. To count courses or seminars offered by faculty outside the department toward History requirements

    The acceptance of a petition is at the sole discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies.

    Petitions may be found on the graduate resources site. If you have questions about a specific petition please contact the graduate coordinator.