PhD programme

Our programme offers you the ideal setting to further your own interests and broaden your field of knowledge alongside developing your research skills and preparing for the future.

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Training the next generation of historians is a core part of our Departmental research strategy and culture.

As part of our active research environment you will receive outstanding supervision from talented academics producing intellectually rigorous and leading research in their respective areas.

You will also be joining a vibrant postgraduate communitee offering a stimulating, friendly and supportive study environment.

This combines to offer you the ideal setting to further your own interests and broaden your field of knowledge alongside developing your research skills and preparing for the future.

We have over 40 members of academic staff specialising in history from the ancient period to the modern-day with options encompassing the history of Britain and Europe to America and the wider world.

Key areas of specialism include:

  • Late Antique and medieval history
  • Early modern England and Europe
  • The history of pre-colonial, nineteenth- and twentieth-century America
  • The history of Britain and of Europe from the nineteenth century to the present day
  • Global, international and imperial modern history
  • Social, religious, cultural, gender and political history
  • Medical humanities
  • The history of enslavement

How does the PhD work?

A PhD is likely to be the most challenging type of academic work you have ever done, but it will also be the most rewarding. It's an independent piece of research and writing that presents an original contribution to existing historical knowledge.

The key feature of the PhD is that it is yours: the topic, planning, motivation, and thinking come from you. In other words our research degrees offer a truly exciting opportunity for you to push forward the boundaries of knowledge, and to become an authority in your chosen field.

You will be supported by your supervisor who facilitates your progress along the way. During the course of the PhD, you will pursue a course of research training which will helps you to shape your research, writing and how you deliver your findings to a wider audience.

The PhD is usually examined by a thesis of around 75,000 words, the research and writing of which usually takes three to three-and-a-half years depending on your funding provider. Your work will culminate in an oral examination (a viva) on your research.

Our PhD programme is available both full-time and part-time. Part-time students will usually have twice as long to complete their research and writing.

We are also able to consider applications from students who wish to undertake their research away from Sheffield.


You will normally have a supervisory team made up of a primary and secondary supervisor. Your supervisors will guide you in your research, helping you to plan your work and make sure that you have the skills that you need to succeed. 

Find a supervisor

Training and development

As a PhD student you’ll have access to a range of training and development opportunities to help you get the best out of your research and develop professionally. The Department aims to create a research culture where your ideas can develop and flourish, and provide you with the facilities and support to complete your research project successfully.

How we support you


The Western Bank Library is the main library for research students and houses a number of outstanding bodies of research materials. These include several collections on modern British History, such as the wide-ranging holdings on fascism and anti-fascism, and the National Fairground Archive covering many aspects of popular entertainment.

The Professor Sir Ian Kershaw and William Carr collections provide extensive materials on German history, and the library also has substantial microfilm holdings covering areas of US and European history.

The Library contains complete runs of medieval sourcebooks in nineteenth-century editions, as well as the papers of Samuel Hartlib, the seventeenth century educationalist and natural philosopher. 

Study space for PhD students

In addition to the over 4,000 study spaces in our three main libraries, the Department has its own dedicated PhD student workspaces with hot desks and access to networked computers, or the option to use your own laptop, and printers.

The Dainton Graduate Research Centre also offers additional dedicated and bookable workspace for PhD students.

A vibrant research community

The Department is a thriving research community and we actively encourage our PhD students to make the most of their time at Sheffield by getting involved in our research activities and events, as well as organising their own through the Postgraduate Forum.

This vibrant research culture and postgraduate community helps to disseminate research-led findings and facilitate lively and exhaustive historical debate.

Our postgraduate community and research culture

Entry requirements, applying and your research proposal

Visit the links below:

How to apply and write your research proposal

Find a supervisor

*Additional information: course codes, time limits and funded periods

The exact length of your degree will depend on your funding source, this may also affect the course code that you register on. Students funded through Arts and Humanities or Hossein Farmy scholarships will usually have a funded period and time limit of 42 months. Students funded through WRoCAH will usually have a funded period and time limit of 40 months in the first instance (this may vary depending on your engagement with the WRoCAH training programme).

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.