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Department of International History
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London
WC2A 2AE

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Tel: +44 (0)20 7955 6174
Fax: +44 (0)20 7831 4495

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Research Programme

  • Why should students study at LSE?
  • What are the benefits of studying in London?
  • What skills does a history research degree provide students with?
  • What opportunities are open to history graduates?
  • Why did you want to study history?

The Department of International History at LSE is one of the UK's leading centres of historical research. With its emphasis on the international context of historical developments, it provides a supportive, but challenging environment for those individuals interested in undertaking a research project leading to a PhD in international history. The department currently has about 20 faculty engaged in innovative research who are ideally placed to supervise research students on a wide range of subjects. The Department of International History at LSE can offer a comprehensive range of special areas for research, ranging from the early 16th century to the late 20th century.

Proposals on all aspects of historical research from c.1600 onward are welcome, although more details on the department's particular areas of expertise are available on the Who's Who| section or by looking at the publications listed on the LSE Experts service|. Each year we receive a large number of applications from prospective PhD students from all over the world. The department currently has around 50 graduate research students in the department, from virtually every corner of the world, which provides a vibrant and friendly community at the heart of the PhD process. Our graduates teach in some of the best university departments in Britain and overseas, or work in the media, civil service or private and voluntary organisations. More details on the research degree programme and the department's research seminars can be found in the links at the side of this page.

Please note that we do not offer an online PhD degree.

London and LSE has much to offer anyone studying for a higher degree in history. The LSE International History Department is one of the leading history departments in the UK, and the main European centre for the study of international history. Working as part of the world's premier institution for social science research, the staff and students in the Department come from many different countries and continents, and contribute to the unique cosmopolitan experience of studying at LSE.

In London you will find important archives and libraries for international history, such as the Public Record Office|, the British Library|, and the libraries of the specialised schools of the University of London, such as the Institute of Historical Research|, the School of Oriental and African Studies|, and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies|. The LSE Library| is one of the leading collections of materials for social science research, with substantial holdings in most of the key European languages.

 

All research students admitted to the International History Department are initially registered for the MPhil degree in their first year. After eight months of study, students who want to be registered for a PhD have to submit the materials required for the upgrade. Most of the work the students undertake with their supervisors during the first year of study is geared toward passing the upgrade exercise.

Students registered for the MPhil/PhD in International History are required in their first year to attend the Department's research training programme which has four components:

  1. HY501 - A series of seminars organised by members of the Department on writing a thesis, historiography, and research methods
  2. The appropriate seminars and lectures offered by the Methodology Institute
  3. A course in historical methods and sources run by the Institute of Historical Research: Institute of Historical Research (IHR) home page
  4. A short course on sources at the Public Record Office given by an archivist:

Students are also advised to attend relevant seminars organised within the School or in other colleges of the University of London.

As said above, in order to be upgraded from MPhil registration to PhD, you must prepare a dossier comprised of the following items:

  1. the provisional title of your thesis, together with the provisional titles of your chapters and a brief description of the contents of each chapter; at a maximum, this should fill no more than two sides of an A4 sheet;
  2. a brief outline of your historic hypothesis with an indication of how you propose to test it, this is particularly important as it will indicate the main aim of your research.
  3. an historiographical essay, in which you (i) evaluate the contributions to your topic of the most important memoirs, monographs, journal articles and other published or unpublished accounts; and (ii) explain how your own thesis will contribute to the topic; since the amount of source material may differ greatly among theses, no precise length is specified, but in most cases the Department would expect an essay of 4,000 to 8,000 words;
  4. a draft of one of your chapters: this must be based mainly upon primary sources and should be approximately 10,000 words in length (including footnotes).

The deadline for submitting your dossier (three hard copies) is Wednesday, 18th June 2014 (week 8 Summer Term) of your first year of study, if you are a full-time student starting in the Michaelmas term, 1 March in second year if you are a part-time student who started in the Michaelmas term. But it is essential to have your dossier ready well before the deadline, to allow your supervisor time to review the upgrade material and to incorporate his/her advice in the final draft. You should seek the approval of your supervisor for the contents of the dossier, although the final decision to submit it rests with you. You may apply for a postponement of your submission to the Doctoral Programme Director in the event of unforeseeable difficulties in your research or for health or compassionate reasons. The request must have the formal support of your supervisor.

The submission will be read by three members of the Department which comprises of the supervisor, the advisor and one senior member of the Department. Each of the readers will read your dossier; students will be required to undergo a 20-30 minute viva which will take place in week 10 of the Summer Term. The viva panel will submit a written report and make its recommendation to the Doctoral Programme Director who will inform you of the outcome.

If it is less than satisfactory and you do not pass the viva, you will be asked to make changes in line with the joint report and to resubmit your upgrade dossier the following March. Please note that you will not have another viva.

The review process is designed to determine whether the student will be able to meet the requirements of a PhD, and whether the chosen topic will be suitable for a doctoral dissertation. The Department uses the School's Code of Practice| as a determinant of the general responsibilities of research students and their supervisors. All students should make an effort to familiarise themselves with its contents.

After the first year, the Department requires students to report formally on their progress at least twice a year. If their progress is deemed unsatisfactory by the Doctoral Programme Director or supervisor their position will be assessed and you will not be allowed to continue in the programme.

The Department expects that research students will submit their theses within four years and the reviews of student progress are geared to achieving that goal.

If your application is accepted by the School, you will be assigned an academic supervisor within the Department. The teacher who will be assisting you is responsible for providing advice on selecting a topic, on the use of historical sources, on the writing process, and on how to successfully complete a thesis in history. Your supervisor is your first port of call on academic matters throughout your time in the Department, although he or she may advice you to consult other members of staff or members of other departments within the School for specific queries. The Research Student Advisor in the Department, who heads the research student programme, may also be consulted by all research students on questions relating to their programme.

For a list of potential academic supervisors please see the Who's Who| section.

The doctoral thesis is the core of the training at the PhD level. For most students, the thesis is the first major piece of writing you have put together, and it takes much preparation to complete successfully. You need to learn, first of all, about the ways historians interpret the past, and about how to find your own voice within the profession. You also need practical knowledge about how to prepare and organise for such a substantive undertaking as writing a thesis in history is. You have to learn about how archives work, and about how to carry out research in them. And, perhaps most important of all, you have to learn how to construct and argue for the key hypotheses of your work based on your original research, so that the thesis becomes an important addition to academic knowledge in the field.

The Department has developed a well-functioning framework in order to guide you through to the completion of your thesis within three to four years of your arrival here. While the supervisor will be your main guide throughout the process, there are a number of seminars available in the Department, at LSE, and in the University of London Institute for Historical Research that will be relevant to your work, from sessions on how to write a thesis to seminars that discuss overall historiographical developments in specific areas of international history. The PhD programme at LSE includes a international history workshop (compulsory for 1st year students), which helps prepare you for the research and writing process and introduces key methodological and historiographical topics. We also strongly encourage you to make use of the many opportunities that exist within the school and in London to receive further specialist training and to discuss your work and your interests with renowned experts in the field.

 

Further information:

For more details on the MPhil/PhD, please consult the relevant sections of the LSE Calendar|.

Interested in postgraduate study at LSE? Come along to our next Graduate Open Evening|.

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