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PhD programme


Course code (History): HSTR31 (full-time) | HSTT21 (part-time) *
Course code (Sheffield Institute for Biblical Studies): HSTR09 (full-time) | HSTR10 (part-time)
Duration: usually 3-3.5 years (full-time) | 6-7 years (part-time) *

Entry requirements and applying

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 is 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, what our research degrees offer is 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 student who wish to undertake their research away from Sheffield. See our common questions webpage for more information.


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. 

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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.

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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. 

The Library Special collections

Study space for PhD students

In addition to the over 4000 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.

The Department has its own research seminar series, which runs regularly during semester-time and covers a huge range of topics. There are also a range of research centres and networks many of which are interdisciplinary or focus on cross-cutting research themes. These include the Medieval and Ancient Research Centre, the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies; the Cultures of the Cold War Network; the Centre for Contemporary and Modern History; and Medical Humanities Sheffield. These centres all have their own seminar series and often incorporate postgraduate-led events such as the Late Antiquity Reading Group and the Early Modern Discussion Group. Students also run a number of additional discussion groups including the Sheffield Modern International History Group and the Gender History Discussion Group.

Departmental research culture Postgraduate community

Entry requirements

Students wishing to take our PhD programme should normally have a suitable MA in History, or a related discipline, with a research-training element. The quality of performance at MA level will be taken into account when considering potential for PhD study. Applicants are also expected to have achieved a 2.1 or equivalent in a Bachelors degree in history or a related subject (i.e. English, languages, politics, philosophy, archaeology or journalism) from a recognised UK or overseas university.

If you are an international student, you need to provide proof of English Language proficiency with a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 with no less than 6.5 in each component (or equivalent).


You can apply for our PhD programme using our online application form. There is no formal deadline for applying and we can usually accept applications until mid-August for entry that October. However, if you are planning on applying for funding you will need to submit your application in advance of the funding deadline. 

We encourage you to contact the member of staff that you would like to work with before you complete an application form. If you are applying for funding, it is particularly important to start discussions with your potential supervisor as early as possible, giving you plenty of time to work on your ideas for the research project and get their advice on how to shape it into a strong proposal.

English qualifications English support

Find a supervisor Research proposal Applying Common questions

If you have a question about applying, or would like to discuss your individual qualifications, just get in touch.

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* 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).


Please note that the course details set out here may change before you start, particularly if you are applying significantly in advance of the course start date. The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.