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Europe: Medieval to Modern Times

The European history division offers students the opportunity to engage in the study of both Western and Eastern Europe from the early modern period through the twentieth century.

Europe 1450-1789, or Early Modern Europe, covers a period that spans the dramatic European expansion associated with the Renaissance--economic, political, imperial, and above all cultural transformations--and the crisis of the Old Regime that culminated in the French Revolution. Graduate students may pursue specializations in national histories as well as comparative and thematically-organized transnational programs. The research interests of the early modern faculty are varied and wide ranging. Possible topics for graduate research and teaching include Renaissance and Counter-Reformation Italy; the social history of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations; the expansion of Renaissance Europe; the European encounter with the Americas and the Ottoman Empire; early modern globalization; the Scientific Revolution; the Baroque court; urban history; social and cultural history; political culture.

Graduate study in Early Modern European history is supported by our close relationship with other programs at the University of Washington, including the Center for West European Studies and other regional programs of the Jackson School for International Studies. Early modernists from across the humanities and social sciences also convene regularly under the auspices of the Early Modern Research Group, an interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students that hosts visiting lecturers and conferences and serves as a campus-wide forum for scholarly exchange.

Modern Europe concerns European history in its global context from the crisis of the European old regime to the present. Graduate students may pursue specializations in the national histories of Britain and France as well as in comparative and thematically-organized transnational programs of study. University of Washington faculty specializing in the history of Modern Europe pursue a variety of themes in their teaching and research, including empire and migration, ethnicity and nationalism, history and memory, modernity and globalization, religion and political culture, the rise of consumer culture, the social consequences of industrialization, violence and terror, war and revolution, and women and gender. They also participate in the History of Science and Comparative History divisions.
Graduate study of Modern Europe at the University of Washington is supported by close relationships with the Center for West European Studies, the European Union Center, and the program for Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies (REECAS), as well as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Professorship.

The East European history component of our program covers the history of the various peoples of East Central Europe from 1780 to the present, in particular the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and Slovaks, along with the peoples and states of the Balkans. Students also have the opportunity to pursue fields in the history of the history of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Graduate study in East European history is supported by our relationship with other programs at the UW, including the Russian, East European and Central Asian Program (REECAS) in the Jackson School of International Studies, the European Union Center, and the Baltic Studies Program in the Department of Scandinavian Languages and Literatures. REECAS sponsors a yearly conference for faculty and graduate students in the Pacific Northwest. Usually held in April, the event features a distinguished keynote speaker. The REECAS program also sponsors the publication of the Donald W. Treadgold Papers in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, a nationally and internally recognized series of occasional papers featuring current scholarly research on the regions that the title indicate. Of special importance is our relationship with the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, which offers 1st and 2nd year courses in Polish, Czech, and Croatian/Serbian. Bulgarian and Romanian may also be offered at times. In addition to the History Department’s funding opportunities, students East European history are eligible for FLAS fellowships, the Jackson Foundation fellowship, and several smaller grants and opportunities specific to the region.

The University’s graduate library has outstanding collections pertaining to East European history. The library’s Slavic and East European Section actively acquires books, periodicals, newspapers, microfilms, maps, photographs, video-, DVD and CD recordings, CD-ROMs, and commercial Internet resources to build versatile, rich, and coherent research collections pertaining to the Russian, East European, and Central Asian area. At present, the collection totals over 400,000 books, 10,000 periodical titles, and thousands of microforms.

Associated Faculty

Jordanna Bailkin
Professor, Jere L. Bacharach Endowed Professor in International Studies
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Students may work with Professor Bailkin in modern British history. A field in British history would include the social, political, and cultural history of Britain (including Ireland) and Empire from the eighteenth century to the present. Students will develop subfields on major historiographical questions such as the development of the welfare state, race and immigration, urban identity, gender and the family, "four nations" approaches to British history, and the impact of decolonization on the metropole.

    Required course work for a first field in modern British history includes completing HSTRY 590 as well as two supervised directed readings.

    For those selecting modern Britain as a second field, HSTRY 590 is required, plus one supervised directed reading.

    For those selecting modern Britain as a third or fourth field, HSTRY 590 is recommended. Depending on research and training needs, a directed reading may be substituted.

    Division: Comparative History (Comparative Colonialisms)*

    Students pursuing a field in Comparative Colonialisms will examine a variety of colonial histories: typically, British, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and American. We will consider the relationship between "white" and "non-white" colonies as part of the larger racial politics of colonialism. Although the emphasis is usually on European colonial histories, I have worked with a number of students who are interested in U.S. imperialism, and can tailor the field accordingly.

    Students who are selecting Comparative Colonialisms as a second field are required to take HSTRY 590 when available, plus one supervised directed reading.

    Students who are taking Comparative Colonialisms as a third or fourth field are strongly encouraged to take HSTRY 590, and required to undertake one supervised directed reading.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.

    View Jordanna Bailkin's complete profile

Professor George Behlmer
Professor Emeritus
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Graduate study in the "Modern Britain" field will focus on the social, cultural, and political dimensions of British history from the advent of industrialization (circa 1760) through the Second World War. Within this broad time period, students will develop expertise in several historiographic themes. These themes, in turn, will be established through negotiation between the student and the field supervisor. Examples of themes negotiated with current and former graduate students include the following: the Victorian missionary movement; law and working-class culture; the authority of medicine; feminism and militancy; the policing of manners; and British responses to Irish revolutionary challenges.

    Division: Comparative History (Comparative Colonialisms)*

    This field will focus on the process by which Great Britain acquired and subsequently relinquished the world's most extensive colonial empire. The chronological focus here is from 1781 through the 1970s. Its territorial focus will be on British colonial policies in the Pacific and the Caribbean, as well as on the tortured colonial relationship with Ireland.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.

    View George Behlmer's complete profile

Professor James Felak
Professor, Newman Center Professor in Catholic Christianity
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Students choosing East European History as their primary area of study will cover the lands and peoples of the region roughly comprising today's Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia from 1780 to 1989, and the Balkans from 1804. Students are required to take a graduate field course on Modern Eastern Europe, a 400 level survey on the history of Eastern Europe, and at least one quarter of directed readings. Such students must also acquire a reading knowledge of two European languages pertinent to their study, one of them an East European language not including German or Russian.

    Students doing East European History as a secondary area of study may choose one of the following:

    • East Central Europe from 1780 to 1989
    • the Balkans from 1804 to 1989
    • Eastern Europe in the 20th Century
    • Poland from 1772 to 1989
    • Nationalism in Eastern Europe
    • Communism in Eastern Europe
    • Religion in Eastern Europe

    Such students must take a graduate course on Modern Eastern Europe and a 400 level survey on the history of Eastern Europe.

    It may be possible to negotiate additional sub-fields as they suit student needs and interests.

    View James Felak's complete profile

Raymond Jonas
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Europe and the Modern World

    This field aims to provide a familiarity with some of the great themes, problems, and events in the history of modern Europe, including but not limited to Europe’s larger global engagements. It offers a foundation for advanced study of a thematic or regional nature, a basis for comparative historical study within Europe and beyond, and preparation for the teaching of entry-level and advanced undergraduate surveys in the field.

    Course work for a primary field in Europe and the Modern World includes HSTEU513 and at least two graduate level courses or directed readings under my supervision, along with appropriate language training.

    Course work for a field in Europe and the Modern World that is not a primary field includes HSTEU513 and at least one graduate level course or directed reading under my supervision.

    View Raymond Jonas's complete profile

Associate Professor, Jon Bridgman Endowed Professor of History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    A note to prospective graduate students: Thanks for your interest in our program. I am reading applications for this year. Faculty have different preferences in terms of whether prospective applicants should informally reach out to them over email prior to the application process. I prefer that interested people just apply and not email me beforehand to say hi, unless they have a specific question. FAQs pertaining to my view of this process:

    • I am qualified to train PhD students in modern German history or modern European history (including empire) and the history of sexuality in the modern era, in Europe and its empires. I am not qualified to be the advisor of a dissertation on American history. I am only qualified to advise a dissertation in modern European history. There's a slim possibility I'd change my view on that, if the dissertation in question were in trans history for example, but if you want to do queer American history, I could be a committee member, not the main advisor.
    • Usually we don't let people write comparative dissertations. I'd want you to specialize in one country.
    • Students with a BA are encouraged to apply to our MA program, which feeds into our PhD program. You do not need an MA already to apply here.
    • Generally, admits to a Phd or MA program in modern German history have some German. Two years is ideal; one year is probably the minimum. Studying the language on your own (such as with a computer program) without formal instruction is probably not sufficient.
    • Strong applications include a writing sample that showcases the applicant's ability to analyze primary sources to make an original argument. Ideally some of those primary sources would be in German though that's not strictly required. You must however be analyzing primary sources in your writing sample. Don't send a sample that doesn't show you can do that well.
    • Admission here is selective. We do not accept the vast majority of our applicants.
    • Successful applications show how the student excelled in their program to date (BA or MA) -- GPAs should be at the top for example -- and have an exciting direction for their research, one that aligns with the prospective dissertation supervisor's own interests and expertise.
    • A history PhD program isn't great preparation to then get a very lucrative job afterwards. Most history PHDs never become tenured professors. Grad school is very fun (or at least I thought so!) but also very challenging and poorly remunerated. I hope that prospective applicants to a graduate program in history will take note of the fact that completing such a program no longer guarantees one a job in academia as the number of teaching jobs continues to be far smaller than the number of Phds awarded each year.

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Students preparing this field with Professor Marhoefer will study the social, cultural, and political history of Germany, German-speaking Europe, and Germany’s global colonial empire from the late eighteenth century to the present.

    Division: Comparative History--Comparative Gender & Comparative Ethnicity and Nationalism*

    A field in comparative gender directed by Professor Marhoefer will examine the transnational histories of gender and sexuality, as well as the closely related histories of class, race, and empire, especially within modern Europe and its colonies.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.

    View Laurie Marhoefer's complete profile

Devin Naar with Ladino artifact
Associate Professor, Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies, Sephardic Studies Program Chair, Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies
Mary O'Neil
Associate Professor Emeritus
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Professor O'Neil offers fields in Renaissance Italy, the Counter Reformation, and the Social History of Early Modern Europe, including Society and Religion in the Reformation. She will also offer European Witch Trials as a topic, though not as a separate field.

    View Mary O'Neil's complete profile

Benjamin Schmidt
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Professor Schmidt offers a field covering the social, political, and especially cultural history of Europe from around the mid-fifteenth century through the mid-eighteenth century. Topics vary from year to year, and students tend to play a considerable part in shaping their own programs of study. Recent graduate seminars have examined courts and court culture; habits of collecting and the practice of early modern "science"; Europe's encounter with the Americas; the expansion of early modern geography and the culture of curiosity; the history of reading, literacy, and the book; visual culture in early modern Europe. Europe's engagement with the non-European world is also included in the field: early modern expansion, colonialism, and globalism.

    Division: Comparative History (Comparative Colonialisms)*

    Students may work with Professor Schmidt to develop a field in Comparative Colonialisms that focuses on the early modern world.  This field might focus on the West--the history of the Atlantic World and the colonial (and imperial) enterprises that commenced from ca. 1492--or the to the East, in the latter case considering how European interventions in Asia fit into broader, early modern colonial and imperials trends.  This field would be done from a European perspective, to be sure, yet in a manner that explores how European colonial programs and golbal engagements fit into larger cultural and political developments of the period from ca. 1450-1750.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.

    View Benjamin Schmidt's complete profile

Robert Stacey
Professor, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    Professor Stacey is a specialist in High and Late Medieval history. He is currently serving as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, and thus is not available to supervise graduate study. Consequently, the History Department is not currently accepting applications with primary/first fields in Medieval History.

    Applicants interested in preparing a second, third, or fourth field in Medieval history should contact Professor Robin Stacey to discuss the field before submitting an application to our program.

    View Robert Stacey's complete profile

Professor Robin Stacey
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Europe--Medieval to Modern Times

    The History Department is not accepting applications with primary/first fields in any area of Medieval History - Early, High or Late. The Department is accepting applications with second, third or fourth fields in Early Medieval History under the supervision of Professor Robin Stacey.

    One of the fields available to those interested in the history of medieval Europe is "Early Medieval Europe." This field is generally defined as covering western Europe in the period c. 400-1000. (Often students begin their course of study before 400 or end it after 1000: the chronology given here represents a general guideline rather than a universal requirement.) Students preparing an early medieval field will be asked to prepare reading lists (usually done after taking a field course with the instructor) in three or four "subfields." Two of these subfields are normally "Kingship" and "The Church," although the manner in which students approach these topics varies according to the needs of the student involved. Some students may choose, for example, to focus on the institutional aspects of both king and church; others may concentrate instead on issues of ideology and representation. All such matters are worked out individually with the instructor in accordance with the needs of the student.

    In addition to these subfields, students are asked to prepare one or two other subjects for testing. These are defined according to individual preference. Some students choose to focus on chronological or geographical topics (e.g. the Anglo-Saxons, the Viking Age), while some prefer thematic topics (e.g. law, women, sanctity, historiography, urban life, vernacular literatures, etc.). Again, all such decisions are made by the student in consultation with the instructor. Reading lists approved by both student and instructor then serve as the basis for the written (M.A.) or written and oral (Ph.D.) field exam.

    Most field exam reading lists include secondary sources only. A knowledge of the basic primary sources of the period is presumed, but is not generally tested at the exam. Students doing a medieval field might expect that some of their reading will be in foreign languages (usually French or German). However, this is not always the case, and there is no foreign language requirement for completion of the field.

    View Robin Chapman Stacey's complete profile