Skip to Content

Focal Fields of Study

Working with their advisors, graduate students in History, particularly in the Ph.D. program, are encouraged to develop innovative fields of study tailored to their individual interests. Thematic, comparative, and methodological fields that cut across conventional geographical and chronological boundaries are all possible. Below are the “focal fields” of our doctoral program, areas of study in which our faculty and resources are particularly strong. Admissions are not limited to these fields, however.

African American/African history

The department has had a longstanding commitment to African American history and the history of Africa. Graduate faculty (Malcolm Frierson, Charise Cheney) offer a broad range of expertise in African American history, including the African diaspora, early African American history, free black communities, slavery, resistance movements, the Black Power movement, and popular culture. Still more faculty study comparative slavery (Michelle McKinley, Brett Rushforth) and other forms of unfree labor.

Scholars of Africa (Lindsay Braun, Melissa Graboyes) study colonial and post-colonial history, with a focus on cartography, environment, medicine, and public health. Additionally, UO offers a vibrant African Studies program with more than thirty faculty in anthropology, comparative literature, gender studies, international studies, linguistics, romance languages, and other fields, along with an African Studies Graduate Concentration.

UO’s Ethnic Studies program offers an array of lectures and public programs of interest to students studying African American history.

[back to top]

Asian history

The Department of History offers graduate programs in East Asian and South Asian history. UO’s Asianists collectively cultivate a broad-gauged program in Asian history supported by courses in Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and trans-Asian history. Oregon’s historians of China (Ina Asim, Bryna Goodman, Roxann Prazniak) focus on the late imperial and modern eras, with a special emphasis on popular culture, Confucian social ethics, print culture, gender, and modern urban society. Its historians of Japan (Andrew Goble, Jeff Hanes) focus on the premodern and modern eras, with particular emphasis on the history of ideas, medicine, media culture, political economy, and urban society and culture. Its historian of South Asia (Arafaat Valiani) focuses on the study of organizations, the urban economy, business history, technology, media, health, and social movements in the twentieth century and contemporary period.

In addition to the History department’s core faculty in Asian history, there are some seventy faculty members affiliated with the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, including specialists in anthropology, architecture, art history, business, creative arts, film, international studies, law, linguistics, literature, planning, political science, and sociology, among others. In recent years, the Center has held institutional grants from the Asia Society, the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, the Freeman Foundation, the Jeremiah Fund, the National Endowment for the Humanities, USIA, and other prestigious sources. Additionally, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies awards Foreign Language and Area Studies grants on a competitive basis. Students can take all levels of classical and modern Japanese and Chinese through the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. The University Library’s East Asian Collection contains approximately 85,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean materials.

[back to top]

Environmental history

UO offers particular strengths in environmental history, the discipline’s fastest growing field according to the American History Association. Our program is wide-ranging, including the environmental history of the U.S. (Steven Beda, Marsha Weisiger), the Pacific World (Ryan Jones), and Africa (Lindsay Braun). Their specific research expertise encompasses the U.S. West, the Pacific Northwest, Native Americans and indigenous peoples, labor, glaciers and climate change, marine mammals, countercultural movements, environmental politics, the history of science, and the history of cartography.

Additionally, UO historians co-organize the Cascadia Environmental History Collaborative, which holds a three-day retreat that brings together graduate students and faculty from across the Pacific Northwest. Due to the generosity of a donor, UO students participate in this event, held just before the beginning of the fall term, free of charge.

Beyond the department’s strengths in environmental history, UO’s Center for Environmental Futures brings together faculty and graduate students in the environmental humanities and allied fields, which offers regular gatherings to listen to works in progress, a “field school” that conducts research on Oregon’s public lands, dissertation fellowships, and postdoctoral fellowships for UO graduates, as well as a variety of public programs. UO also offers a nationally renowned Environmental Studies Program, with more than 125 core and affiliated faculty from across the university.

[back to top]

Indigenous Peoples/Native American history

UO has long had strengths in the history of indigenous peoples. Our graduate faculty’s expertise is especially strong in the history of the indigenous people of North America from the seventeenth century to the present (Jeffrey Ostler, Brett Rushforth, Marsha Weisiger). Our faculty also focus in part on the history of the indigenous people of the Pacific World (Ryan Jones) and Africa (Lindsay Braun). Affiliated faculty support studies involving decolonizing methodologies (Jennifer O’Neal) and contemporary Native American culture and history (Brian Klopotek).

UO’s Ethnic Studies Program and the Many Nations Longhouse offer an array of lectures and public programs of interest to students of indigenous/Native American history.

[back to top]

Latin American history

The research and teaching interests of Latin American faculty range from ethnohistory and the early interactions between indigenous peoples and Spanish religious, military, and colonial authorities (Robert Haskett, Stephanie Wood), to intellectuals, political cultures, crime, punishment, slavery, and legal institutions in the colonial and modern periods of Latin American states (Carlos Aguirre, Michelle McKinley, Reuben Zahler), to migration between Latin America and the United States (Julie Weise).

In addition, the Latin American Studies Program has more than forty faculty members in anthropology, cinema studies, ethnomusicology, geography, international studies, literature, philosophy, political science, romance languages, sociology, and other fields. The Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies supports graduate students with research grants and Tinker Foundation grants for pre-dissertation research. Academic and cultural activities on campus (lectures, conferences, international events) contribute to the growing visibility of Latin American Studies at the UO.

[back to top]

North American West/Borderlands history

The U.S. West has long been a major focus of the UO history graduate program. Our faculty’s interests span the history of the North American West (Jeffrey Ostler, Marsha Weisiger) and the U.S.-Canadian and U.S. Mexican borderlands (Brett Rushforth, Julie Weise). Their interests and expertise overlap with the histories of the environment, immigration, labor, Native Americans, popular culture, race, settler colonialism, and slavery. Faculty in English, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Geography also offer courses of interest to scholars of the North American West/Borderlands.

[back to top]

Transnational history

An emerging field, Transnational history examines the circulation of peoples, ideas, technologies, institutions, and nature across political boundaries and frequently intersects with environmental and social history and the history of settler colonialism, slavery, and human rights. A number of our faculty (Annelise Heinz, Ryan Jones, Brett Rushforth, Julie Weise) study transnational history as it relates to the histories of climate change, consumer culture, immigration, the Pacific World, slavery, the U.S.-Canadian borderlands, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and women.

[back to top]


The UO history department offers wide-ranging expertise in the history of women, gender, and sexuality, as well as the history of social sciences and the family. The history of U.S. women, gender, and families is the major focus (Annelise Heinz, Ellen Herman, Marsha Weisiger, Tim Williams), but our graduate faculty also study gender in China (Ina Asim, Bryna Goodman, Roxann Prazniak), and medieval Europe (Lisa Wolverton).

In addition, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program (WGS) has more than forty core and affiliated faculty, and the Center for the Study of Women and Society (CSWS) offers research and conference-travel grants, as well as dissertation fellowships, to graduate students. Both WGS and CSWS sponsor a wide range of speakers and events throughout the year.

[back to top]

Additional areas of study

Beyond our department’s focal fields, we provide comprehensive programs in European and United States history, which are particularly useful for M.A. students seeking to deepen their understanding of history and historical methodologies in order to prepare for Ph.D. programs elsewhere. Particular areas of emphasis include: European political culture from the Middle Ages to the present (Lisa Wolverton, David Luebke, George Sheridan, Julie Hessler), European intellectual history and the history of science (Vera Keller, John McCole, Ian McNeely, Daniel Rosenberg), European religious thought (David Luebke, Lisa Wolverton), European social change (David Luebke, Julie Hessler), and European economic history (Julie Hessler, George Sheridan). Labor history (Steven Beda, Bob Bussel, George Sheridan, Marsha Weisiger, Julie Weise), legal history (Michelle McKinley), Russia (Julie Hessler, Ryan Jones), and urban history and the built environment (Ocean Howell, George Sheridan, Marsha Weisiger) are also potential graduate fields of study.

In addition to these core faculty, students may benefit from a number of related interdisciplinary programs, which offer certification at the master’s level: European Studies, Judaic Studies, Russian and East European Studies, and Medieval Studies.

[back to top]