French Studies and History (PhD)

Department Website

Program Description

The joint PhD Program in French Studies and History allows students to blend rigorous training in historical craft with a broad, multi-disciplinary exploration of the French and Francophone worlds. Housed at both the Institute of French Studies and the History department, students chart their own course between both units, exploring ideas and devising their specific research projects with a wide array of faculty and graduate students. These opportunities — as well as a program of courses and events conducted in both English and French — make our program truly unique in the field.

From year 1, students attend advanced seminars in historical methodology, conduct original research, and take courses in other disciplines of their choice, including sociology, anthropology, media studies, and gender studies. Working closely with advisors at the IFS and the History department, they explore new ideas while working toward a dissertation prospectus (to which they turn in earnest during the summer following year 2). In the History department, students take courses with faculty whose domains of expertise include the Atlantic World, European studies, gender and sexuality, Empires, capitalism, and race. At the IFS, they delve deep into French and Francophone history while working with faculty whose research revolves around the Caribbean and post-colonial circulations, education in the Maghreb, family history and new modes of historical writing, and anti-Semitism.

Because of the program’s small size (2-3 incoming PhD candidates per year), faculty provide close mentorship as students devise their research questions, prepare for their qualifying exams (end of year 2), apply for grants, begin publishing and presenting at conferences, conduct research abroad, and then write up their dissertation. Beyond a few core requirements, students also have tremendous flexibility in devising their own program. They typically take one-on-one individual studies with faculty, sign up for courses at Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers, and other universities in our Consortium, and, if they so wish, learn languages (Arabic, Wolof, Haitian Kreyol, etc.) that will open new research domains. Students also participate in weekly workshops with their IFS cohort and faculty, and a monthly doctoral seminar, during which students obtain feedback on their own writing.

Most joint students spend one summer at the IFS’s program in Paris, taking courses with French scholars and conducting archival research. Many take advantage of our exchange program with the Ecole Normale Supérieure, spending at least a semester within its walls. In New York, they may teach in the History and French departments and also at the Lycée français de New York. Through our in-house journal French Politics, Culture & Society and the leadership of its editor Liz Fink (a specialist of Western Africa and a graduate of the joint program), they benefit from Public Humanities initiatives that prepare them for careers within and beyond academia (writing, cultural diplomacy, secondary teaching, etc.)

The faculty are committed to building a diverse, supportive community of students from multiple backgrounds and disciplines The application process requires a single dossier, which is read by faculty from the IFS as well as the History Department. Strong French language skills are required (though no GRE). Some students enter our program with a B.A. while others already have an M.A

More information on specific requirements can be found on the NYU GSAS Bulletin.


All applicants to the Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) are required to submit the general application requirements, which include:

See French Studies for admission requirements and instructions specific to this program.