Category: PhD Program

Indigenous Histories of Turtle Island

The Tri-University Graduate Program in History has one of the largest concentrations of graduate faculty in Indigenous history in the country, offering expertise on gender, environmental history, health and wellness, cultural performance, public history, Indigenous-settler relations, resource and urban development disputes, Indigenizing/Indigenized identities and activism, histories of settler colonialism, Anishinaabe feminism, and Indigenous research methodologies, pedagogies, and decolonizing practices.

Indigenous Histories of Turtle Island covers the history of Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada and the United States. The term Turtle Island signals an Indigenous label for this geographical place. It also highlights Indigenous historical understandings and is culturally relevant to the Indigenous peoples—Neutral, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee—on whose traditional territories all three universities involved in the Tri-University Graduate Program in History are situated.

World History field

The Tri-University Graduate Program’s World History Ph.D. field draws upon the expertise of a wide range of scholars and their research in our program. World history differs from other historical studies in addressing a wider range of topics, specifying previously neglected connections among arenas of human experience, tracing broad patterns in the past, and clarifying relationships among different scales of the world’s events and processes. World history studies aspects of historical change that transcend single nations or regions, including the environment, religion, ideology, labour, migration/diaspora, industrialization, colonialism and imperialism, social movements, slavery, racism, human rights, class, gender, science and technology, popular culture, trade and finance and demography.

War and Society field


The Tri-University Program is one of the few doctoral programs in Canada offering specific supervision on topics relating to war and its impact on the wider society. The field combines the research of leading scholars in military history with a large faculty group interested in the ways in which armed conflict and insurgencies alter society. The field involves historians in Canadian, American, modern European, African and Asian history.

The Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS), which is affiliated with the program, adds further depth to our scholarly activity. The Centre’s interests are multi-disciplinary, emphasize the Canadian experience, and support scholarship relevant to strategic and operational studies, arms control and international negotiation.

Scottish field

Map of Scotland

Tri-University faculty have a wide variety of interests in the history of Scotland itself and in the history of the Scots in Canada. Their research spans the period from the late Middle Ages to the early twentieth centuries. Faculty in this field are committed to interdisciplinary work and students can benefit from the expertise of members of other departments who are part of the interdisciplinary Scottish Studies program at Guelph.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in the production of an academic journal, The International Review of Scottish Studies, and give papers at the semi-annual conferences organized by Scottish Studies. The University of Guelph Library has an excellent collection in Scottish history and this is complemented by some superb archival holdings.

Modern European field

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

“The Tri-University Program benefits from wide-ranging faculty expertise in German, French, Russian, Polish, and British and Irish history.  Particular faculty research interests include Nazism and the Holocaust, Cold War Germany, family and gender history, international relations, tourism, military history, the history of medicine, the history of crime, and the history of sexuality.”

Medieval field

Since 2010, the Tri-University Graduate Program in History has offered a field in Medieval History. The European Middle Ages has long attracted the interest of graduate students in history. This universal trend is particularly visible in the three Tri-University Graduate Program. The central research focus of the medieval historians in the Tri-University is the latter portion of the Middle Ages. This fits with a fairly recent trend in medieval historiography to explore a previously neglected era. For a long time, and with the exception of Italy, the late Middle Ages was wrongly perceived as a period of decline. For this reason, the Tri-University Program is particularly well equipped to supervise doctoral students interested in the latter portion of the Middle Ages. By focusing doctoral supervisions on a particular era within the Middle Ages, the Tri-University History Program Medieval Field is distinct from other broad Medieval history programs.

Early Modern European field

The research interests of the faculty range over the entire spectrum of social, political, intellectual and cultural history of the period, including: family history, explorations, women and gender issues, urban history, power and authority, peasant uprisings, popular culture, religious dissent and the theological and ideological debates of the Reformation.

The library holdings are especially rich. The University of Waterloo and Conrad Grebel University College libraries have some of the most substantial ‘radical’ Reformation holdings in Canada. The Laurier library has an excellent collection in Lutheran and Humanist studies, while Guelph has a special Scottish collection for this period.

Cold War History

Red Army Chorus

The Tri-University Program is one of the few graduate programs in North America with a field in Cold War History. The Cold War era has the benefit of comparatively crisp opening and closing dates, and a defining core conflict. The new history of the Cold War is a fascinating example of how experts – often working across national and disciplinary boundaries – are able to use newly available information to refine, or in some cases overturn, old images and interpretations. Not surprisingly, it has become one of the chief areas of interest for history students today.

The Tri-University faculty includes scholars in post-1945 US and Soviet history, Canadian foreign relations in the cold war era and communist era Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This makes our major field in Cold War history unique in North American graduate programs.

Canadian History

At the center of the Tri-University Program is one of the largest complements of Canadian historians in the world. Our faculty’s work covers a vast range of topics from pop culture to the geological survey, from immigration and the contribution of ethnic minorities to the urban and rural experience, from women and children to foreign relations, from public health and medicine to military history.

Financial Assistance for PhD Students

All three universities in the Tri-University program have adopted a guaranteed minimum stipend for their doctoral admissions. The financial package offered by the Graduate Officer at the campus to which the student is admitted will normally consist of Graduate Teaching Assistantships, internal scholarships, and other funding. The level of support that a student can expect will be explained to the applicant at the point when the Program recommends their admission. More information on graduate funding can be found by clicking on the links below.

All applicants are expected to apply for outside funding, such as the OGS or the SSHRC doctoral fellowship, or other appropriate awards. In the past, our students have been very successful in winning these and other competitive awards. Winning such awards is also an important step in building a strong curriculum vitae.

Graduate funding by campus

For other funding information, consult with the university where you are registered:

Conference Travel Funding

“The Tri-University Program provides travel funding for students making conference presentations.  To apply for funding, please fill out the form below and forward it to the Tri-University Program Director.  Funding is subject to availability and submission of this form does not guarantee funding.”

Travel Funding Application (PDF)

PhD Program Information

The Tri-University’s PhD program in History is innovatively designed so that it can be completed in four years of full-time study. Students generally participate in three field seminars in their first year and sit their major field exam in their fourth registration term.

The fields serve to provide students with teachable areas and to advance them on their dissertation research. Because students are able to move through the field completion phase of their degree in one year, they can devote the majority of their studies to their own research, teaching, and writing. In this way, the program succeeds in combining solid field training within a four-year completion structure without compromise to the student’s research, professional development or writing.

Other innovative features of the program include the presentation of a portion of the dissertation in a colloquium setting, a first year professional development seminar and a fourth-year teaching practicum. The teaching practicum gives each eligible doctoral student the opportunity to teach a course of their own with the advice of an academic mentor. For more information on the program, please consult the most recent PhD Handbook.

Professional Development Seminar

The Tri-University Professional Development Seminar is designed to guide students through doctoral studies in history and to prepare them for the their future careers. The course will examine different aspects of the historian’s work in applied ways. Faculty from the three participating departments will introduce students to the various aspects of the historian’s work and offer tips for students looking to enhance their teaching and publishing record, and help increase their odds at securing funding and being hired.


Past Professional Development Seminar Content

Professional Development Seminar 2011-12 (.doc)

Professional Development Seminar 2010-11 (.doc)

Professional Development Seminar 2009-10 (.doc)

Professional Development Seminar 2008-9 (.doc)

Professional Development Seminar 2012-13 (PDF)

Important Dates

January 15th

Laurier M.A. and Ph.D. applications for September entry are due today

February 1st

Waterloo and Guelph M.A. and Ph.D. applications for September entry are due today


Conference Travel Award submissions for Doctoral students


Doctoral Student Spring Advisory Committee Meetings


Orientation for new students

Submissions invited for Best Historiographical Paper (awarded to the student receiving the highest mark for a historiography paper written for a field seminar in the previous year)

Submissions invited for Best Conference Paper Presented or Article Accepted by a Scholarly Journal


OGS and SSHRC applications due

Doctoral Student Comprehensive Examinations

Major Field Exams (Doctoral students)


Tri-University History Conference


Doctoral Student Advisory Committee Meetings

PhD Application Information

Application Process

Students must apply to the Tri-University Program on-line through one of the three participating universities: University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University. Because all applications are processed by a single Tri-University admissions committee, it does not matter which university’s application system you use. However, PhD applicants should use the system of the university of their preferred supervisor as you are expected to be enrolled at the same campus as your supervisor. If your preferred supervisor is unable to accept new students, the admissions committee may recommend that you be admitted to one of the other two universities with a different supervisor.

All inquiries and applications concerning this program should be addressed to the Tri-University Graduate Program in History. The Tri-University Graduate Program uses a self-administered application process in which the onus is on the applicant to collect and submit all required documentation and material.

Applicants to the University of Waterloo

Please follow the regulations for applying as specified for the University of Waterloo online system. The online system is complete and requires no additional forms from the Tri-University Program

Applicants to the University of Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier University

Please follow the applications procedures for the University of Guelph or the Wilfrid Laurier University.

In addition, please fill in the preference form and include it in your application package. On this form, applicants to the PhD program can suggest a range of supervisors and fields. The admissions committee will use your application form together with your preference form when determining the department to which it will recommend your admission.

PhD Student Preference Form (PDF)

Instructions for Applicants (PDF)

Application Deadline

To be considered in the first round of admissions, applications must be received by 1 February. The admissions committee will, however, continue to review applications received after that date.

General Admission Requirements

Applications are considered by the Tri-University Graduate Program’s Admissions Committee and a recommendation for admission or rejection is forwarded to the dean of Graduate Studies at the proposed home university. Only students who are graduates of accredited universities and colleges are eligible for admission. Students will be admitted only after they have obtained an MA with at least an A- (80%) standing.

Since not all applicants can be admitted, close attention is paid to samples of applicants’ written work, applicants’ transcripts and past record as a whole, and to their statement of research interests. Applicants from outside Canada whose previous education cannot be assessed readily may be required to demonstrate their knowledge by other means such as the Graduate Record Examination.

Language Requirements

After acceptance, doctoral students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of a second language. If no specific language is required for the student’s research (as authorized by the student’s advisory committee), the second language will be French. The determination of the second language will be made by the student’s advisory committee in the first term of the student’s registration in the program. During the first term of the doctoral program, a scheduled language exam will to evaluate the candidate’s reading knowledge of a second language, but it is not to be understood as a test of fluency. The use of a dictionary is allowed during the exam. Please see the PhD Program Handbook for more information on the exam.

Candidates for admission to the PhD program in history whose chosen area of research requires a language other than English must demonstrate sufficient language skills prior to admission. This is normally the equivalent of the skills acquired in a 200-level university course.

Non-Canadian applicants whose first language is other than French or English are required to submit evidence of proficiency in the English language or pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A net score of at least 600 is required. Please instruct the testing agency to forward official test results directly to the Director of the Tri-University Graduate Program in History.

PhD Program Handbook

The PhD handbook provides a complete description of the program and its regulations. Students are advised to read the handbook carefully so as to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the doctoral program.

PhD Handbook 2014-15


Field Seminars

Major Fields

All Major Field Seminars are offered by the program each year. The seminars are designed to prepare students for teaching and research in the area of the major field. Students choose one major field seminar in their first year of study. Major fields are completed by a qualifying exam, in the same subject as the major field seminar, taken in the fourth term of registration. Teaching of the seminars rotates among the campuses each year. Students should select their campus of application not on the basis of the location of the major field seminar, but on the basis of the location of their preferred thesis advisor.

Immigrants enter the United States at Ellis Island, NY in this 1908 photo by Lewis Hine

Major Fields

Minor Fields

The minor fields represent each student’s secondary areas of concentration; they are designed to provide students with a supplementary teaching area and a comparative understanding of works in their dissertation research area. Students fulfill their minor field requirement by successfully completing two minor field seminars, normally in their first year of study. The topics of the seminars are established in consultation with the student and every effort is made to provide students with a list of the minor field seminars prior to their acceptance of an offer of admission. Successful completion of the seminars constitutes completion of the fields as there are no minor field examinations in the program.

Examples of Minor Field Seminars Offered in the Past

  • Sports History
  • Medieval History
  • International History
  • Economic History
  • Family & Gender History
  • Modern American History
  • Film & History
  • Legal History
  • Indigenous History
  • French Revolution
  • History of Science
  • Canadian Rural History
  • Mennonite History

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