Areas of Specialization

African-American History

Race is a social construct which has influenced the shaping of history, the formation of classes, the creation of law and policy, and the evolution of gender issues, problems, and perspectives. The African American history field enables students to  concentrate on the social, political, economic, and cultural dimensions of African American life from pre-colonial Africa to the twenty-first century. Through an array of courses on slavery, civil rights, black power, and religion, this field offers students an integrative understanding of the African American experience.

Digital History

The Collaboratory for Research in Computing for Humanities (RCH) was founded at the University of Kentucky in 1999. The mission of the RCH is to promote Digital Humanities research at UK, providing assistance with project conceptualization, professional contacts and networking, grant writing, physical and computational infrastructure, and technical support.   The RCH encourages interdisciplinary projects among individuals and groups from UK and around the world and at present is supporting research on Russian folklore, Carolingian canon law, colonial American history, endangered Pamir languages, and Kentucky's Hispanic heritage, with international partners from Germany, Siberia, and Tajikistan.

The Department of History is an Affiliated Department of the RCH and as such engages in collaborative activities and projects utilizing the resources of the RCH. Members of the Department's faculty (Professors Abigail Firey, Jane Calvert, and Amy Taylor) are actively engaged in digital research projects that take advantage of the RCH's facilities and resources, and some serve as advisors to the RCH on issues of Digital Humanities research.

Early Modern History

Early modern faculty work closely with their fellow pre-modernists in teaching and advising graduate and undergraduate students. Law and culture play a large role among early modernists at Kentucky, including Erik Myrup’s work on political culture in colonial Brazil, Gretchen Starr-LeBeau’s research on early modern inquisitions, and Scott Taylor’s analysis of legal resolution of honor cases in court, and, more recently, his work on early modern understandings of addiction. Early modern faculty at Kentucky are committed to helping train students understand this critical time, in an age balanced between the pre-modern and modern worlds, distinct from what came before and after and yet sharing qualities with both. So, too, our training requires students to collaborate with faculty in related pre-modern and modern fields.

In studying this key period, students are required to know the necessary primary source languages, to learn to read and analyze wide variety of written records left to us from that period, and to grasp key theoretical and analytical concepts useful for making sense of this historical era. Students are also encouraged to embrace comparative approaches, either through work in other disciplines or through work in other historical times and places. Graduate students and faculty in early modern history are enthusiastic participants in HIS 705, the annual spring pre-modern colloquium, in which advanced graduate students and faculty from a variety of disciplines and institutions share pre-circulated works in progress.

East Asian History

Gender History

International History

The field of International History / U.S. in the World is one of the fastest growing in the historical profession. Scholars in this field are united in their desire to expand their research beyond the boundaries of any one nation state and, generally, beyond any one region.

At the University of Kentucky, faculty members in this field focus on the the role of the United States in the world and the history of international relations. This includes the transnational flow of people, goods, and ideas as well as diplomacy, war, and issues of security. Above all, the faculty seek to understand U.S. history in a global context. This equates to an effort to approach the United States not as a nation unto itself but rather as part of a larger world and as one participant among many on a global field.

Students who choose to focus on this field are encouraged to develop language skills and area studies specialty in one or more regions beyond North America.

Latin American History

Students who choose a field in Latin America can specialize in Colonial or Modern Latin America or Atlantic World. The program is particularly strong in the histories of Colonial Latin America, Mexico, and Brazil. Thematic fields include colonialism/postcolonialism, imperialism, government, women and gender, religion, race and ethnicity, and slavery. This field endorses comparative history, the crossing of geographical as well as disciplinary boundaries. Accordingly, students are encouraged to take related courses in other departments such as Anthropology and Hispanic Studies, and programs such as Latin American Studies, Gender and Women´s Studies, Africana Studies, and Social Theory

Modern Europe History

Faculty members in European and Russian History are engaged in research and writing on a wide variety of national topics as well as on transnational and colonial history. They specialize in cultural, educational, gender and women’s, legal, media, political, and social history and they are active in the department’s thematic fields of concentration: Culture, Ideas, and Society,  and Women’s and Gender History, as well as in UK’s interdisciplinary Committee on Social Theory.

The field of Modern European and Russian History is defined geographically to include both Eastern and Western Europe and chronologically to include historical developments from the eighteenth century to the end of the twentieth century.  Students who elect Modern European and Russian History as an outside examination field are trained broadly so that they will be able to teach European survey courses.  Within this breadth, they often highlight particular themes related to their areas of research interest such as military history or agricultural history, for example. 

Those who elect European History as their area of primary research are usually examined in two European fields, a major field that is chronologically defined, and a second field that has chronological and topical breadth. Often the second field is defined comparatively and co-directed by at least two members of the European faculty.  Students in European History are also examined in an “outside” field that differs from the others chronologically, geographically, or by discipline. 

Modern Jewish History

The field of Modern Jewish History offers a wealth of possibilities for graduate study.  Not limited by geographic boundaries and benefitting from a wide temporal scope, students of Modern Jewish History are able and encouraged to pursue a variety of topics, from the local to the transnational level.  This field examines the major developments in modern Jewish history, including issues of nationality, citizenship, and emancipation and the contemporaneous developments of assimilation, integration, and the evolution and conflicts associated with hyphenated Jewish-national identities.  These concepts of identity come into focus again during the turbulent 20th century, during such dramatic experiences as the Holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel.  At the same time as receiving training in the Modern Jewish History field, students are also trained broadly in a variety of subfields, not restricted to Modern Europe, and are encouraged to engage with other Jewish Studies faculty.  Faculty members in Modern Jewish History are pursuing research various aspects of this rich and complicated era, including Europe and North Africa, and in national, colonial, and transnational perspectives.

Pre-Modern History - Ancient, Byzantine, Medieval

Advanced study in the fields of ancient, classical, early Christian, late antique, Byzantine, and medieval history is a strength of the history department, and is directed by faculty with international stature. The “pre-modern” cluster of graduate faculty is especially oriented around research into the relationships between religion, culture, and law. Daniel Gargola works on Roman law and religion; our endowed Chair of Catholic Studies, David Hunter, works on the nexus of patristic writings and social practices; David Olster studies the place of religious rhetoric within the socio-political discourse of late antiquity; Abigail Firey studies medieval legal history (especially canon law) and its relation to cultural and intellectual developments.

We encourage interdisciplinary investigations, and most graduate committees include faculty from other departments. It is possible to study classical, post-classical, and spoken Latin, Greek, manuscript cultures and paleography, art history, musicology, philosophy, Old English and other vernacular languages, Judaica, and a number of individually-tailored topics.  Library holdings are excellent in the pre-modern fields, and include some manuscript, archival, and early printed materials in Special Collections.

Faculty in the Pre-Modern fields accept applicants for graduate study only after careful consideration of their prior preparation, likelihood of success, and proper dovetailing of their interests and faculty competencies. Because of the special needs for adequate preparation in foreign languages in order to conduct research in the pre-modern and early modern fields, we expect applicants to enter the program with some preparation already completed, and expect them to continue their language studies while in the graduate program. Plans for language study are best discussed on a case-by-case basis with supervising faculty.

Scholarly engagement and exchange among the pre-modern scholars at the University of Kentucky is given special institutional support in History 705, the Colloquium in Pre-Modern History, at which invited speakers present work-in-progress to faculty and graduate students drawn from a number of departments and other institutions. This colloquium is a required course for all History graduate students pursuing pre-modern studies.

United States History

Thirteen of the department’s full-time faculty members specialize in American history.  Their interests and fields of specialization range from the 18th century to the 21st century and encompass diverse approaches and methods.  These interests and fields of strength include African American, race, and racial identity; social and cultural; political and policy; political ideas and thought, diplomatic and international, and southern.  Students and faculty who concentrate in U.S. history benefit from the rich collections of the UK libraries.    

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