Ph.D.-Training Institutions

The availability of fellowships will do much to determine the number of doctoral candidates in history and their choice of graduate schools.[1] But few doctoral candidates of real promise are drawn to a university that has only money to offer.[2] The reputation of the department (especially in the field of history in which the student wishes to specialize), library resources, the fame of a single professor, and the general prestige of the institution—all these are considered along with the lure of financial aid in determining the choice of a graduate school.[3]

How strong are the existing Ph.D. programs in history? Do they have sufficient capacity to expand to meet the increased needs of the 1960s for history Ph.D.s? Are new Ph.D. programs in history needed? What standards should new programs expect to meet? Directly or indirectly this chapter answers these questions.

Which Institutions Offer the Ph.D. in History?

The 5 most productive universities in the nation awarded half the nation’s annual supply of Ph.D.s (all fields) until the mid1920s, but by the 1950s the top 5 awarded less than one-fourth. That is because new doctoral programs have sprung up, have struggled up, or have been stillborn in every decade since 1900.[4] History has followed the general trend. In the period 1893–1935, 6 universities awarded 54% of all the Ph.D.s in history in the nation. In the period 1948–1958 the output of the 11 most productive institutions had to be added up to account for 54% of national production. The increase in number of Ph.D. programs through World War II can be followed in Table 6-1, which also shows the size of the programs in terms of the average annual output of Ph.D.s in history. The number of institutions with relatively large history programs (at least 30 Ph.D.s in five years) rose from 1 in the period 1916–1920 to 7 in the years 1926–1930, and to 18 in the period 1955–1959.

At the outbreak of World War II, 60 institutions were awarding the Ph.D. in history; almost 80 were doing so by the late 1950s, and well over 80 were offering doctoral training. A little more than one-fourth of them first awarded Ph.D.s in the period 1876–1914. An equal proportion began awarding the Ph.D. only after 1945. Since World War II the South and West have added Ph.D. programs in history more rapidly than other regions; 43% of the programs in the South and 40% of those in the West have been inaugurated since 1945. By early 1960, 88 institutions were reported to be offering Ph.D. training in history—between 4 and 5% of all the institutions of higher learning in America.[5]

Why does the number of programs increase through the years? Explanations are to be found in the prospectus with which one history department inaugurated Ph.D. training in 1959–1960: “Even before the Department began to plan it, applications and inquiries came to it from masters of arts and other graduates. ... Beyond the immediate need, however, there exists an urgent, nation-wide demand for doctors of philosophy in history. ... Moreover, in order to teach the rapidly growing undergraduate classes efficiently and economically, the Department here must have graduate assistants and readers and must provide scholarly reasons to attract them.” Letters of endorsement of the proposed Ph.D. program from distinguished historians were mimeographed and circulated to the graduate faculty in support of the program. One of these letters added yet another justification: “You will have great difficulty in keeping good men at if you do not offer them the opportunity of giving graduate work.”

These quotations will seem familiar to any member of a graduate faculty who has sat through discussions of new doctoral programs in recent years. To them might be added two other factors that are seldom put in the form of written arguments: the pressure of a university administration for initiating a Ph.D. program, and the fear that the School of Education may soon supply colleges with pseudo historians unless the Ph.D. in history is offered locally. The arguments in all their variety usually prove to be locally convincing and, in recent years, convincing off campus as well; the specific proposal noted above earned its institution a number of National Defense Fellowships for its first Ph.D. candidates in history.

There is no way for us to be certain that _____ University should not have inaugurated a Ph.D. program. The company it joins is already large and heterogeneous. Table 6-2 shows the 79 institutions that actually awarded Ph.D.s in the eleven-year period 1948–1958. To these should be added the following 9 institutions, 7 of which have inaugurated Ph.D. programs since 1958: Arizona, Delaware, Florida State, Idaho, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Occidental, Tennessee, and Wayne State.

The institutions involved vary tremendously in output of history Ph.D.s. One-third averaged fewer than one Ph.D. per year in the period 1948–1958. The 38 smallest producers altogether awarded fewer Ph.D.s than did Columbia (which awarded 9% of the national total). Harvard’s production (with Radcliffe’s, 12% of the national total) was greater than the combined production of the 42 smallest producers. Harvard (with Radcliffe) awarded 1 out of 8 of the history Ph.D.s in the nation; Columbia, which gave first place to Harvard in the period 1931–1935, awarded 1 out of 11. Together they awarded more Ph.D.s in history than all the institutions of the South; together they awarded more than all the universities of the West. But they are by no means the only very large programs. The 18 largest producers awarded two-thirds (67%) of all the Ph.D.s in the nation, 1948–1958; the 28 largest awarded four-fifths (81%) of the total. The paradox is apparent: while most of the Ph.D. programs in history are small, most history Ph.D.s are trained in very large ones.

As Table 6-3 shows, the most promising students have tended to enroll in centers that are already large, or that have much prestige. Table 6-3 shows the 56 universities named as first choices for graduate study by Woodrow Wilson Fellows in history, 1958–1960. It might be compared with Table 6-2. An indication of the tendency of large programs to become larger may be seen in the fact that more than one-fourth of the 202 Woodrow Wilson Fellows in history in 1960 named Harvard (including Radcliffe) as first choice. Next most popular as first choices were Yale, Columbia, California, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and Wisconsin. Six of these institutions appear among the top seven in the nation in prestige in a survey of opinion of Ph.D.-training history faculties, undertaken as part of this study in 1959. (Chicago was ranked among the top seven in that survey. Johns Hopkins was rated high, but not among the top seven.)

Faculties and Fields

The institutions offering the Ph.D. in history vary greatly in faculty strength. The seven that are ranked highest in prestige by their peers report (1958–1959) an average (mean) history faculty of 39 persons, of whom 35 have the Ph.D., 31 have three or more years of teaching experience, and 29 actually teach graduate students. On the other hand, almost one-fourth (22%) of all the Ph.D.-training departments in the nation report fewer than 10 historians on their faculties; 5 % only 4 to 5. Small departments are more common in the West and are next most common in the East: 42% in the West, 28% in the East, 15% in the South, and 11 % in the Midwest in 1958–1959 had fewer than 10 history faculty members. The average number of faculty members per department in the East and Midwest is slightly larger than the national average, while the average in the South and West is slightly smaller (see Table 6-4). The average (mean) Ph.D.-training history faculty in the nation included 17 persons in 1958–1959, 15 with the Ph.D. and 13 with three or more years of teaching experience; 13 of the 17 were actually engaged in teaching graduate students.

The hypothetical average (mean) program in the nation in the period 1955–1959 awarded 4 history Ph.D.s per year. In the year 1958–1959 it had 24 Ph.D. (post-master’s) candidates in residence and another 15 not on campus but working toward completion of the Ph.D. The “average” program also awarded 11 master’s degrees (9.4 in 1956; 11.2 in 1958) per year and in 1958–1959 enrolled 41 master’s candidates. The average program thus awarded a total of 14 graduate degrees per year per 65 students in residence, or 1 graduate degree for every 4.6 graduate students.

How large should a Ph.D. program be? It is almost impossible to speak in detail with any authority on this subject. Enough graduate students are needed to provide mutual stimulation and criticism and to challenge the best efforts of the faculty. But a small group of able students is better than a large group of mediocre ones. A program—small or large—is too large whenever a sizable proportion of its students is not capable of development into able Ph.D.s. A program is also too large when its faculty cannot provide graduate students with individual help and criticism in planning their programs, in their research, and in their writing. A survey of Woodrow Wilson Fellows has discovered that those in small departments report satisfaction with graduate training somewhat more often than those in the largest and middle-sized centers.[6] This may mean that instruction is better in the smaller places or—at least as likely—that competition is not as keen.

Should there be any minimum size for Ph.D.-training history faculties? The Ph.D.s of 1958 were asked this question. The variations in their answers were almost as numerous as the variations in size of the training faculties. Thus 38% reported that 9 to 12 historians were needed before a history faculty offered Ph.D. training; 34% thought no minimum number was necessary or named a number smaller than 9, and 28% said 13 or more historians were needed. Two-thirds or more of these Ph.D.s were products of large programs, yet 72% of them would be satisfied to see doctoral training offered by a history faculty no larger than 12 professors. Most historians with experience on graduate faculties probably would not wish to be involved in the education of history Ph.D.s in a department that included fewer than 8 well-trained historians, most of them experienced teachers and active scholars. (As was noted in Chapter 4, the average size of the history faculty in 126 better colleges in 1958–1959 was 8.8 instructors.)

Other characteristics of a faculty are more revealing of its capacity for doctoral training than size alone. Do faculty members hold the doctorate? Are their services best utilized by allowing them to teach in their specialized fields? Are they active contributors to research scholarship? Do those who teach the history of foreign areas obtain firsthand knowledge of these areas through travel and study?

The Ph.D. is almost a mandatory qualification for teaching in history departments that offer doctoral training; in 1958–1959, 6 out of 7 members of these departments held the Ph.D. (82% in the East and South, 91 to 92% in the Midwest and West). Only 4% of these departments anticipate a need in the future to appoint persons who lack the doctor’s degree, notwithstanding expected enrollment increases. Two-thirds say flatly that they do not. The remaining 29% expect to appoint persons who lack the Ph.D. or its equivalent “only as a temporary measure.” Most departments will allow the new faculty members to teach in their fields of specialization: 53% report that “new” faculty members “always” teach in the fields of their graduate school specialization, and the remaining 47% report that they “usually” do so.

The research scholarship of the Ph.D.-training history faculties is impressive, measured in quantitative terms (see Table 6-5). More than four-fifths of the faculty members have published “books or articles in scholarly journals,” and 76% have done so in the last five years. The seven most prestigious faculties publish more (98%; 94% in the last five years).

Members of Ph.D.-training faculties who teach the history of foreign areas are in every part of the nation a well-traveled group. Only 5% of them have never “traveled or studied in the area of their teaching specialty”; 14% were born in the area of specialty. In 1958–1959 two-thirds had traveled or studied in their major areas of interest within the last five years (see Table 6-6).

Should a history faculty have strength in only one field or in several fields of history before offering the doctorate? If in several, which fields? The 1958 Ph.D.s were asked to name any fields they thought must be covered in order to provide “minimum satisfactory Ph.D. training.” Modern European and United States history were rated as “indispensable” by 88% and 85% of the Ph.D.s respectively. Coverage of the following fields was rated as “indispensable” or as “strongly desirable” (percentages of Ph.D.s answering for each field are shown in parentheses) : (a) modern European (93%); (b) United States (92%); (c) English and British Commonwealth (78%); (d) medieval (78%); (e) Russian-East European (70%) ; (f) ancient (63%) ; (g) Far Eastern (61%) ; and (h) Latin-American (47%). Most graduate faculties would probably agree that a desirable faculty strength for doctoral training would include experienced and able faculty members in modern European and United States history plus at least three of the six other fields noted by the 1958 Ph.D.s.

A number of institutions award the doctorate only in United States history, and many others only in two or three fields of history. Tables 6-7 to 6-10 show the number of new Ph.D.s in each of the major geographical fields in the period 1955–1959. These statistics are not complete indices of the fields of history in which Ph.D. training is offered by the various universities but they suggest the degree of activity in each of the major geographical fields. These tables are based upon reports on 1,458 Ph.D.s, 96% of all the history Ph.D.s awarded in the nation during the five-year period 1955–1959. Tables 6-7 to 6-10 show clearly the relativity of size in Ph.D. programs. A department that trains two Ph.D.s a year in United States history is not a large program, but the producer of two Ph.D.s a year in modern European history is among the 11 largest producers in the nation; and not even the largest programs award as many as two Ph.D.s a year in medieval or Asian history.

The fields recent Ph.D.s think must be covered are the ones most often actually taught in the history departments that offer doctoral training, as Table 6-11 shows. These fields are most often taught as “advanced” courses, open to both upper-division undergraduates and graduate students. Courses most often taught exclusively for graduate students include United States, modern European, and English-British Commonwealth history; historiography; methodology; medieval, Latin-American, and diplomatic history.

Expansion since 1948 has been accomplished chiefly in fields already well developed. Table 6-12 shows the types of courses departments most often report as additions or deletions since 1948. It may be supplemented by Table 6-13. (These tables might be compared with college data presented in Chapter 4.) The increases reported in the top two or three fields are in large part accounted for by expansion of existing courses in the ten-year period. Expansion in several other fields reflects the development of new courses and programs, especially in Asian, Russian, and cultural-intellectual history and the history of science. The expansion that is contemplated in the decade after 1960 parallels rather closely the expansion that has actually been accomplished in the past decade.

Undergraduate Education

Some features of the undergraduate programs of institutions that offer the doctorate in history are noteworthy. One is particularly striking: five-sixths of the departments report that all their faculty members teach undergraduates as well as graduate students. Only 4 to 5 % of the entire faculty of the nation’s Ph.D.-training history departments are reported to be teaching graduate students exclusively. Here is an important corollary to the fact that two-fifths of the history teachers in the better colleges teach graduate students as well as undergraduates. Clearly history instructors who find positions in departments that offer doctoral training should be prepared to be successful teachers of undergraduate students.

The second feature of the undergraduate program of these departments that is of special relevance here is that certain courses are commonly required of all undergraduates or of large groups of them. In some institutions more than one history course is reported as a requirement. Thus 34% report a requirement of Western civilization, world history, or modern European history, and 26% report a requirement of United States history. In some Ph.D. programs students specializing in United States history have especially benefited from the post-1945 trend toward requiring United States history or American civilization for graduation, since doctoral candidates often help defray the expenses of graduate education by teaching such survey courses. The over-all amount of history required for graduation in 1958–1959 was about the same as ten years earlier; 15% of the departments report “more” and 11% say less.

The Ph.D.-training departments are only about 4% of the institutions of higher learning in the nation, but they accounted for more than one-fourth of all the history majors graduated in 1958. As was noted in Chapter 4, half the better colleges reported that 10% or more of their bachelor’s graduates of 1958 were history majors; more than half (58%) the Ph.D.-training history departments claim such percentages (see Table 6-14). It appears, therefore, that undergraduate teaching of history may be in even stronger condition in these institutions than in the better colleges.

Another feature of undergraduate programs in Ph.D.-training history departments that must be noted here is the tremendous variation in size of the enrollments in history courses. In every region a number of departments were much smaller and much larger than the average. The following are the smallest and largest enrollments reported by single departments for the first term of 1958–1959: East: 120 and 3,120; South: 444 and 3,256; Midwest: 659 and 4,541; and West: 579 and 4,148. With an enrollment of about 1,700 students in 1958–1959 (1,500 in 1956–1957) the average history faculty offering doctoral training is giving much of its time and thought to the education of undergraduate students. It is obvious that with such variations in enrollment the circumstances of instruction must vary widely from campus to campus.

Teaching Conditions

The most common form of instruction in the Ph.D.-training history departments is the lecture, as might be expected. The freshman survey courses in these departments very often have large enrollments. In these cases large sections are commonly divided into discussion sections for one meeting each week, with graduate students leading some or all of the discussion sections. In the nation as a whole, half the departments report that one course or more is given by these combined forms of instruction. The only region in which this is rare is the South. Other forms of instruction are shown in Table 6-15. They are provided chiefly for graduate students and undergraduate history majors (cf. Chapter 4).

In appointing new instructors the Ph.D.-training history departments understandably are more concerned about their potentialities for scholarly research than are the college departments. Asked to list the most important criteria in making appointments to their faculties, all the departments mentioned scholarly publication or potentialities for it. But these departments also look for good teachers. Thus 88% of them list teaching experience or promise of successful teaching among their criteria in making appointments and 43% list personality, character, or general intelligence, all of which contribute to good teaching.

Evaluations of the teaching ability of new Ph.D.s by the departments that trained them have been found to be “very valuable” by almost half the Ph.D.-training departments, but “not especially helpful” by 30%.

Many of the departments more or less systematically take steps to ascertain for themselves the success of new appointees as teachers of history. While 42% of the departments directly observe the new teacher in his classes (at least in some cases), 44% report that they do not (many explicitly oppose this). Enrollment trends admittedly are viewed as at least a partial index of successful teaching by 43% of the departments. Formal or informal student comments are acknowledged by four-fifths to be a partial element in the evaluation of the success of a new teacher; and three-fifths report that they “size up” the new man in conversation, departmental meetings, or committee work. Some 88% of the departments report that through conversation (sometimes formal but more usually informal) older faculty members seek to help new instructors become more successful teachers. Three institutions report orientation programs for new teachers. In a number of institutions—including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Oregon—special awards are offered for excellence in teaching. Teaching of a high quality is generally expected in the departments of history that offer doctoral training.

The faculty member in these departments has obligations to graduate students and to research scholarship that are not easily measured in terms of hours of teaching, the number of separate courses requiring preparation, and the number of students enrolled in formal courses. Half the departments report that each faculty sponsor in the two-year period 1956–1958 usually directed the studies of 3 to 6 Ph.D. candidates; 38% say the normal load was 1 to 2 Ph.D. candidates, and 12% say it was more than 6. The highest numbers reported being directed by single sponsors were 21 in the East, 19 in the South, 12 in the Midwest, and 10 in the West.

The average (mean) member of a Ph.D.-training history department in the period 1955–1959 was supervising the work of 3 Ph.D. candidates each year (1.9 in residence and 1.2 off campus) and turning out 1 finished Ph.D. every three years. In addition, he was faculty sponsor or supervisor for 3 master’s candidates in residence each year, and was turning out about 3 master’s graduates every four years. One authority has recommended that the graduate faculty member should direct no more than 4 or 5 resident students at work on Ph.D. dissertations, and that reduced teaching loads be provided for the professor who directs that many Ph.D. candidates.[7] Yet 62% of the departments make no reduction in the number of formal teaching hours of faculty members who direct master’s and Ph.D. candidates.

In view of their special obligations, the formal teaching loads in most of these departments are high, though the hours of teaching tend to be lower than in the colleges. Table 6-16 shows the teaching loads that 77 departments reported for 1,121 faculty members in the first term of 1958–1959. The average load was 8.8 hours per faculty member. Only 2 out of 5 faculty members taught no more than 8 hours; but 72 % of those in the top seven Ph.D. programs in prestige (where there are most doctoral candidates to add to the faculty load) taught no more than 8 hours. In the South only one-fifth of the faculty in Ph.D.-training departments taught 8 hours per week or less. It should be noted that 13% of all 1,121 teaching loads represent reductions for administrative services.

Should there be a maximum teaching load for professors who direct master’s theses and doctoral dissertations in history? If so, how heavy should it be? The Ph.D.s of 1958 were asked these questions. Two-thirds of them would set the teaching load of an active member of a Ph.D.-training faculty at less than 9 hours a week. Half the 1958 Ph.D.s suggest that faculty sponsors of master’s and doctoral candidates should teach no more than 60 students per term (undergraduates and graduates), and nine-tenths say no more than 100 students per term. In actuality, the average (mean) member of a Ph.D.-training department in the first term of 19 5 81959 taught 99 students. Thus, without considering the extra burden of attention to individual graduate students, the student load of graduate faculty members is about the same as that of college instructors, and higher than the load that a majority of recent Ph.D. graduates believe should be maximal. Undergraduate classes on the average are much larger than in the colleges (see Chapter 4). Table 6-17 shows the variations in class size that were reported in this study. Classes at all levels tend to be smallest in the South. Classes at all levels increased in size between the fall of 1956 and the fall of 1958.

Service on committees is another demand that weighs heavily on faculty members in Ph.D.-training history departments. This survey solicited no data on committee service, but a number of departments reported that it handicaps both the teaching and the scholarly research of faculty members. On many campuses the number of standing committees or their membership can be reduced without damaging the principle or the practice of representative faculty government. And members of committees often can save time by making certain that they concern themselves with policy matters, leaving clerical routine and implementation of policy to others. The central question involved in this matter is: “How can the faculty participate most effectively in activities without either excessively diverting themselves from their basic duties or unwisely infringing on the proper and essential role and responsibilities of administration and management?”[8]

A major function of the history faculty in a university is contribution to research scholarship. Graduate history faculties generally agree that the obligation of a university to promote original scholarship is equal or almost equal to its obligation to educate undergraduates and to train future historians. If the universities do not foster historical writing it will not be allowed to languish, for it is too important for that; it will be done by individuals or institutions less able to guarantee its scholarly integrity. The university is obligated not only to support research scholarship but to make certain that it is of the highest quality obtainable.

The insistence on publication in quantity in some universities and the insignificance of some research have inspired many criticisms of overemphasis on research publication.[9] Caplow and McGee write that “in the faculties of major universities ... the evaluation of performance is based almost exclusively on publication of scholarly books or articles in professional journals as evidence of research activity.”[10] The anxiety about overemphasis on publication marks a great change since 1927, when Marcus W. Jernegan criticized graduate faculties for failing to give graduate students adequate instruction in the methods of research, and for being “unproductive.”[11]

To what extent are the current complaints about overemphasis on publication justified by practices in the institutions that offer the doctorate in history? Ph.D.-training departments were asked: “Is some scholarly publication required for promotion?” At one level of rank or another, say 93% of the departments, publication usually is required. There are only slight regional variations in the response. The variations appear rather in the rank levels at which it is usually necessary to publish in order to be promoted. Only 6 departments specifically report that publications are necessary for promotion to assistant professor, but 20 say they are needed for the raise to associate professor; and 33 merely say that publications are expected, not specifying the rank levels at which the expectation becomes operative. Since 12 departments specify the full professorial level, they probably promote a faculty member up to the associate professorship even if he has not published.

Does research, as is so commonly stated, interfere with teaching in the Ph.D.-training departments? The departmental chairmen who completed questionnaires for this study usually report that it does not. Only 11% of the departments say “yes” in response to this question; 84% say “no.” Rather, say the “no” respondents, research scholarship contributes to the quality of teaching done by history instructors at all levels. They often report that the amount of teaching is so great that “the development of history teachers as research scholars is retarded.” Two-fifths (39%) report this to be the case.

The Ph.D.s of 1958 were asked whether as graduate students they at any time received insufficient professional attention from their graduate faculties and if so, why. Almost half (46%) of the recent Ph.D.s “sometimes,” “frequently,” or “always” felt neglected by the graduate faculty. As they saw the situation, the chief causes were the preoccupation of faculty members with their own research or with administrative duties. Table 6-18 shows the frequency with which these and other causes of faculty neglect of doctoral candidates were reported by the recent Ph.D.s. It should be noted that 54% of the recent Ph.D.s report no sense of neglect by their graduate faculties, one more evidence of the variation in conditions within training institutions. Caplow and McGee suggest that graduate students, as recruits to the profession, are less often neglected than are undergraduates.[12]

Alternating periods of concentration on research and concentration on teaching improve the quality of instruction while encouraging scholarly publication. Sabbaticals and grants for research leaves in summer or during the regular academic year are reported by 90% of the departments. A number of others report that they help secure off-campus grants for individual faculty members. Though these are available in an abundance never before known to American scholarship, they are still inadequate. In one way or another about 8% of the faculty in Ph.D.-training history departments managed to be on leave during the first term of 1958–1959. At this rate each faculty member would be given a year’s leave every twelve years, or half a year’s leave every six years. Fortunately there are other types of support for research scholarship. Over half (55%) of these departments report that teaching loads are reduced to support faculty research; and 45% provide clerical help or research assistants. In addition, 1 out of 7 reports special funds for research travel and 1 out of 9 provides partial or complete subsidies for research publications. Two-fifths (39%) report that research materials are purchased, usually to be deposited in the university library. But with American universities in 1957–1958 spending 2600% more for research than in 1939–1940, history departments lag far behind others in research opportunities.[13]

Library Resources

The strength of libraries in the Ph.D.-training departments conditions the quality of graduate training no less than the quality and quantity of faculty research. A university’s own library is usually inadequate as the only base for Ph.D. dissertations. “Are dissertation subjects chosen which can be completely worked up on the spot?” In response to this question 11% of the departments say “never,” 3 6 % say “seldom,” 29% say “sometimes,” and 25% say “often”; none says “always.” In acknowledgment of library inadequacies, some Ph.D. programs provide financial assistance for doctoral candidates who must travel to complete their dissertations. At least one-sixth of the 1958 Ph.D.s got some financial support from their graduate schools for dissertation travel; and 54% of the departments report that grants are sometimes provided Ph.D. candidates when “considerable” dissertation travel is made necessary by “significant gaps in library holdings.” (Cf. page 47.)

How strong should library resources be before an institution offers doctoral training in history? Certainly they should provide a basis for intensive seminar research as well as for extensive reading in secondary sources. One director of graduate study has realistically estimated that a new Ph.D. program in modern European history should expect to spend “between $10,000 and $25,000 annually for several years” for library materials and that an established program should require “upwards of $4,000 per year” to sustain itself.[14] According to a recent report a Ph.D. program in Russian area studies “should have Russian language holdings of not fewer than 20,000 volumes, and an annual budget of not less than $10,000 for the purchase of Russian language books.”[15] The minimum library costs of a Ph.D. program in United States history may be less prohibitive, but even in this field a Ph.D. program is expensive.

One index of library strength in Ph.D. programs in history is to be found in the over-all size of institutional libraries. They have changed drastically since Ph.D. training was begun. In 1890 only 5 college or university libraries in the nation possessed more than 100,000 volumes. In 1959 no less than 277 reported collections that large, and 19 institutions reported libraries with more than 1,000,000 volumes.[16] There are great discrepancies in library resources among the institutions that offer the Ph.D. in history. In terms of smallest and largest library holdings, the following extremes are to be found: East: 165,000 and 6,617,243 volumes; South: 202,300 and 1,400,000; Midwest: 327,403 and 3,200,000; and West: 150,000 and 2,397,117.[17]

Library strengths are shown by regions and by prestige of Ph.D.-training programs in history in Table 6-19. The ratings of the Ph.D. programs that were used in compiling Table 6-19 were synthesized from evaluations made in 1959 for this study by Ph.D.-training history departments. It is apparent that the prestige rankings by historians closely parallel the actual library strength of the institutions. In average total volumes, volumes added in 1958–1959, and average budgets for 1958–1959, the seven universities that have most recently added Ph.D. programs are markedly weaker than even the third-rated older programs. It is especially disheartening that the newcomers, though building from smaller holdings, had budgets in 1958–1959 little more than half as large as the annual budgets in the 36 lower-ranked institutions.


Library potentialities, like other features of the nation’s Ph.D.-training programs in history, reflect the tremendous gains that have been made in the twentieth century. The variety of conditions continues to illustrate Logan Wilson’s generalization of almost two decades ago: “the weakest institutions struggle to keep alive, the average ones to maintain themselves or to improve their status, and the best to stay at the forefront.”[18]

Berelson has concluded that “the range in quality of doctoral work from the worst to the best institutions is probably less, and considerably less, than the range in the colleges or the secondary schools.”[19] This survey of the situation in a single discipline raises a good many doubts about this generalization. Berelson himself has recommended that “over the visible future, the national load o f doctoral study should be carried mainly by the presently established institutions of top and middle-level prestige.”[20]

There are, however, no reliable systems of accreditation for Ph.D. programs already operating, much less watchdog committees to prevent the development of new ones. The Association of American Universities has shied away from the suggestion that it publish a list of universities qualified to offer the Ph.D.[21] Regional accrediting associations find evaluation of doctoral programs “one of the leading problems” confronting them.[22] Each Ph.D. program is largely left to make its own way, and each tends to believe that it is stronger than it is usually considered to be by other Ph.D. programs.[23]

In general, minimum assets for offering the Ph.D. in any field of history probably should be: (1) a history faculty of at least ten members in at least five broad fields of history, most of whom are experienced teachers whose scholarly contributions are recognized by fellow specialists; (2) financial resources for the assistance of graduate students and the support of faculty research; and (3) library resources upon which research seminars and the general education of history Ph.D.s can be based; this would seem to demand library assets stronger than most of the seven newest Ph.D. programs possess (see Table 6-19).

Two-thirds or more of the recent Ph.D.s seem satisfied with the doctoral training they received, and most Ph.D. candidates will continue to find institutions of appropriate sizes and levels of prestige at which to pursue their professional training. If one-third of the total sample of 1958 Ph.D.s have doubts about whether they would seek doctoral training over again at the same place, it is not always because they took Ph.D. training in weak departments; for one-fourth of the Ph.D.s from the top seven institutions in prestige express the same doubts.

Certainly there are advantages in attending large institutions. Logan Wilson has written that their training is “superior to that afforded by lesser universities where student competition sets a slower pace and research facilities are more limited.”[24] On the other hand, the situation to which Elbridge Sibley pointed a dozen years ago continues to exist: “Statistics would add nothing significant to our common knowledge of the present extreme degree of overcrowding in many graduate departments, especially in those of the leading universities.”[25]

Expected increases in numbers of graduate students do not make the inauguration of new Ph.D. programs necessary.[26] The increased numbers of applicants will enable the largest Ph.D. programs to raise admission standards and will make for better seminars in institutions that now have strong faculties and libraries but relatively small groups of graduate students.

A fundamental and challenging problem for all Ph.D. programs—new and old, large and small—will be the continued need to educate hundreds of undergraduate students while maintaining high standards in doctoral programs.


[1] Sibley, The Recruitment, Selection, and Training of Social Scientists, 56 (table 15); the NORC study of 1959.

[2] See NORC study of 1959; Robert M. Lester, A Review of Faculty Fellowships Granted by the Southern Fellowships Fund, 1955–1958 (Chapel Hill, 1958), especially table D; Gropper and Fitzpatrick, Who Goes to Graduate School?, 23; our own survey of the Ph.D.s of 1958.

[3] See also the conclusions reached by: Wilson, The Academic Man, 50; Berelson, Graduate Education, 143; Charles M. Grigg, “Who Wants to Go to Graduate School, and Why?” Research Reports in Social Science of Florida State University, II (February, 1959), 11.

[4] Berelson, Graduate Education, 93–94.

[5] This survey of development is based on Hesseltine and Kaplan, “Doctors of Philosophy in History,” 772–773 (for 1881–1935); Marsh (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 4th ed., 72–81, 90; Brumbaugh (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 5th ed., tables 1–3; Sibley, Recruitment, Selection, and Training of Social Scientists, 105–106.

[6] Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Report for 1959, 9.

[7] Hayward Keniston, Graduate Study and Research in the Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1959), 70. Dimock and Hawley (eds.), in Goals for Political Science, 265, report that political scientists believe that “not more than 5 or 6 students can be given adequate supervision by even the best of teachers.”

[8] Newburn, “Faculty Personnel Policies in State Universities,” 141.

[9] See, e.g., Barzun, The House of Intellect, 191 and passim.

[10] Caplow and McGee, The Academic Marketplace, 83. See also ibid., 81, 82, 164, 221, 231 and passim.

[11] Jernegan, “Productivity of Doctors of Philosophy in History,” 18.

[12] Caplow and McGee, The Academic Marketplace, 231–232.

[13] The problem of publishing studies that have been completed is still bothersome but it is not of as serious proportions as is usually believed, according to Rush Welter, Problems of Scholarly Publication in the Humanities and Social Sciences (New York, 1959), 66–68 and passim. Nathan D. Pusey in an address at the University of North Carolina, October 12, 1960, cited the increase of 2600%.

[14] George V. Taylor in Snell (ed.), European History in the South, 23.

[15] Black and Thompson (eds.), American Teaching about Russia, 101.

[16] Irwin (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 8th ed., 40. (In 1901, 105 years after the founding of the University of North Carolina, its library held fewer than 45,000 volumes; it was adding that many each year by 1959–1960, according to Louis R. Wilson, The Library of the First State University [Chapel Hill, 1960], 29.)

[17] Ibid., 153–1126 for statistics above.

[18] Wilson, The Academic Man, 157.

[19] Berelson, Graduate Education, 232.

[20] Ibid., 252; italics in original.

[21] Hollis, Toward Improving Ph.D. Programs, 23, 25.

[22] Jennings B. Sanders in Lloyd E. Blanch (ed.), Accreditation in Higher Education (Washington, 1959), 12–13.

[23] Caplow and McGee, in The Academic Marketplace, 45 and passim, confirm our own findings.

[24] Wilson, The Academic Man, 29.

[25] Sibley, The Recruitment, Selection, and Training of Social Scientists, 53.

[26] A survey conducted in 1959–1960 by the U.S. Office of Education brought reports from 139 universities on capacity for expansion of doctoral programs. The sample presumably included almost all universities offering the Ph.D. in history. (The 139 universities accounted for 94% of all earned doctorates in the arts and sciences, 1957–1958.) Among programs in history, 73 reported that they could accommodate an additional 772 doctoral candidates “with present faculty and facilities.” (Compare this with our own reports of 1,955 Ph.D. candidates in residence in history in 1958–1959.) Chase, Doctoral Study, 26.