PhD Focal Fields

Working with their advisors, graduate students in History, particularly in the PhD program, are encouraged to develop innovative fields of study tailored to their individual interests. Thematic, comparative, and methodological fields that cut across conventional geographical and chronological boundaries are all possible. Below are the “focal fields” of our doctoral program, areas of study in which our faculty and resources are particularly strong. Admissions are not limited to these fields, however.

African History

Scholars of Africa (Lindsay Braun, Melissa Graboyes) study colonial and post-colonial history, with a focus on cartography, environment, medicine, and public health. Additionally, UO offers a vibrant African Studies program with more than thirty faculty in anthropology, comparative literature, gender studies, international studies, linguistics, romance languages, and other fields, along with an African Studies Graduate Concentration.


UO offers particular strengths in environmental history, the discipline’s fastest growing field according to the American History Association. Our program is wide-ranging, including the environmental history of the US (Steven Beda, Marsha Weisiger, Lissa Wadewitz), the Pacific World (Ryan Jones and Lissa Wadewitz)), and Africa (Lindsay Braun).

Additionally, UO historians co-organize the Cascadia Environmental History Collaborative, which holds a three-day retreat that brings together graduate students and faculty from across the Pacific Northwest. Due to the generosity of a donor, UO students participate in this event, held just before the beginning of the fall term, free of charge.

Beyond the department’s strengths in environmental history, UO’s Center for Environmental Futures brings together faculty and graduate students in the environmental humanities and allied fields, which offers regular gatherings to listen to works in progress, a “field school” that conducts research on Oregon’s public lands, dissertation fellowships, and postdoctoral fellowships for UO graduates, as well as a variety of public programs. UO also offers a nationally renowned Environmental Studies Program, with more than 125 core and affiliated faculty from across the university.

Indigenous Peoples/Native American

UO has long had strengths in the history of indigenous peoples. Our graduate faculty’s expertise is especially strong in the history of the indigenous people of North America from the seventeenth century to the present (Brett Rushforth, Marsha Weisiger). Our faculty also focus in part on the history of the indigenous people of the Pacific World (Ryan JonesLissa Wadewitz) and Africa (Lindsay Braun).

UO’s Ethnic Studies Program and the Many Nations Longhouse offer an array of lectures and public programs of interest to students of indigenous/Native American history.

North American West/Borderlands

The US West has long been a major focus of the UO history graduate program. Our faculty’s interests span the history of the North American West (Marsha Weisiger, Ocean Howell, Steven BedaLissa Wadewitz) and the US-Canadian and U.S. Mexican borderlands (Brett Rushforth, Julie Weise). Their interests and expertise overlap with the histories of the environment, immigration, labor, Native Americans, popular culture, race, settler colonialism, and slavery. Faculty in English, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Geography also offer courses of interest to scholars of the North American West/Borderlands.

Women/Gender/Sexuality History

The UO History department offers wide-ranging expertise in the history of women, gender, and sexuality, as well as the history of social sciences and the family. The history of US women, gender, and families is the major focus (Annelise Heinz, Ellen Herman, Marsha Weisiger, Tim Williams), but our graduate faculty also study gender in China (Ina Asim), and medieval Europe (Lisa Wolverton).

In addition, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) has more than forty core and affiliated faculty, and the Center for the Study of Women and Society (CSWS) offers research and conference-travel grants, as well as dissertation fellowships, to graduate students. Both WGS and CSWS sponsor a wide range of speakers and events throughout the year.


European history, from the middle ages to the present, is a strength of the UO history department.  Particular areas of emphasis include: European political culture from the Middle Ages to the present (Lisa Wolverton, David Luebke, Julie Hessler), European intellectual history and the history of science (Vera Keller, John McCole, Ian McNeely, Daniel Rosenberg), European religious thought (David Luebke, Lisa Wolverton), European social change (David Luebke, Julie Hessler), and European economic history (Julie Hessler).

Additional Areas of Study

Additionally, faculty in the UO History Department can supervise students in labor history (Steven Beda, Marsha Weisiger, Brett Rushforth, Julie Wise, Lissa Wadewitz), urban history and the built environment (Ocean Howell, Marsha Weisiger), history of science (Vera Keller, Melissa Graboyes), post-colonial history (Arafaat Valini, Reuben Zahler), and many others.

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