The Department of History is approved to offer supervision in several geographic, chronological and thematic fields of study.
These fields represent the breadth, depth and richness of our department – with almost 80 faculty and more than 150 graduate students – and our commitment to historical training and scholarly research that is both vigorously trans-national and rigorously rooted in time and place.
Human history began in Africa only a few thousand generations ago and yet Africa is the last continent to have been effectively colonized.
The history of Africa challenges Western notions of geographical boundaries, concepts of modernity, ideas of difference and questions of centre and periphery. It presents fascinating surprises about the depth and variety of pasts in Africa, disturbing realizations about how Africa has been portrayed by outsiders and stimulating paradoxes about the significance and relevance of African history.
Our department has considerable strength, depth and breadth in African history. We are home to one of the largest African-history-focused faculty complements among major North American research universities.
Our approach to the field is thoroughly interdisciplinary. We employ the methodological and theoretical insights of related disciplines, such as anthropology, religion, politics, film and literature (especially Swahili, English and French literature).
Our graduate students are familiarized with important questions about historical knowledge (epistemology), analytical tools (theory: gender, sexuality, biopolitics, economy, etc.) and the difference between academic and cultural representations of the past.
Sean Hawkins, Julie MacArthur, Nakanyike Musisi, Steven Rockel, Katherine Blouin, Michael Gervers, Jens Hanssen, Eric Jennings, Shafique Virani.
The University of Toronto offers students a large concentration of United States historians. Together, these scholars contribute to a two-fold effort:
- Intensive study of the distinctive features of the U.S. national experience
- The ongoing project of considering the U.S. in a transnational frame, working with colleagues to de-provincialize the study of the U.S. by conceptualizing its history across national borders.
Our research and teaching include the history of immigration and multiculturalism; histories of U.S. capitalism in a global frame; fashion and material culture; food history; history of science and technology; Cold War foreign relations history; U.S.-East Asia relations; early U.S. cinema and Hollywood; histories of mass and popular culture; U.S. political history; working class and labour history; histories of racial formation and racial science; and histories of gender and sexuality in the U.S.
We enjoy a close working relationship with U of T’s Centre for the Study of the United States and its American studies undergraduate program.
Dan Bender, Elspeth Brown, Carol Chin, Rick Halpern, Susan Hill, Adrienne Hood, Russ Kazal, Michelle Murphy, Ron Pruessen.
Atlantic World History
Our large, dynamic community of faculty and students study the Atlantic World from the early modern through the modern periods.
This crucial region and its linkages shaped the emergence of the centralized state, the development of the modern capitalist economy, intense cultural encounters and exchanges, continuing internal and external migrations and the construction of far-flung colonial and industrial empires whose inter-relations shaped and continue to shape the world.
We pursue cutting-edge comparative research and teaching in a set of core areas of strength and experiment with a variety of methodologies, ranging from historical anthropology and microhistory to semiotics.
Our transnational and comparative studies cover a wide array of socio-cultural domains, including gender, migration, race, economy, law and statecraft.
Laurie Bertram, Paul Cohen, Paula Hastings, Adrienne Hood, Franca Iacovetta, William Nelson, Melanie Newton, David Wilson.
British and Irish History
Our department is exceptionally well-placed for the study of British and Irish history.
U of T’s library and archival collections are some of the best in North America. Our faculty conduct teaching and research from the medieval to the modern period. And students can also work with faculty outside the department through our connections with U of T’s dynamic Celtic Studies Program.
Our particular strengths lie in the middle ages, the 18th century, Victorian Britain, Ireland from the 18th to the 20th centuries and the global Irish diaspora, and encompass political, cultural, diplomatic, consumer and gender history.
We conduct innovative research in the history of medicine, history of science, intellectual history, material culture, popular culture and migration. Through collaboration with specialists in the histories of Africa, South Asia and the Atlantic world, we also study the early modern and modern British empires.
Our doctoral students have taken comparative approaches to the histories of Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Japan, Canada and the United States. We offer generous funding for PhD research in British history.
Michael Gervers, Paula Hastings, Lori Loeb, Margaret MacMillan, Mark McGowan, Jennifer Mori, David Wilson.
Drawing on the immense human and material resources of U of T and nearby institutions, we explore questions of empire, colonialism, postcolonialism, migrations, internationalism, culture, politics, gender and race.
Our students work with a dynamic group of transnationally-focused scholars at the forefront of addressing our field’s most vital questions:
- How has Canada’s history been entangled with the histories of other societies and cultures?
- How do these entanglements influence the frameworks within which Canadian history should be understood?
- How have Canada’s diverse populations – including First Nations, colonists, elites and migrants – shaped and been shaped by the transnational circulation of ideas, culture and people?
To answer these questions, we engage with academic colleagues across fields and specializations and, through an array of public history initiatives, with educators, curators, journalists, film-makers, women’s organizations, First Nations, heritage organizations, immigrant communities and others.
Laurie Bertram, Heidi Bohaker, Robert Bothwell, Brian Gettler, Paula Hastings, Susan Hill, Franca Iacovetta, Lisa Mar, Mark McGowan, Sean Mills, Steve Penfold, David Wilson.
We interrogate the history of Europe from every angle – geographically, chronologically and conceptually. We have particular strengths in political, social, cultural, gender and intellectual histories.
Our approaches range from regional to transnational and our emphases include colonialism, formal and informal empires and the inter- and multi-national processes of migration, dislocation, language and state-formation, war, genocide, memory and justice.
Our focuses range from the medieval and early modern periods into the present and we have particular strengths in Spanish, Italian, British, French, German and Eastern European history.
We explore Europe as a dynamic construct, rooted in specific places yet reaching far beyond them in complex and often surprising ways. We are also part of a vibrant, interdisciplinary global network and enjoy close ties to U of T’s many outstanding departments of modern European languages and literatures, and research centres for European, Russian and Eurasian studies, medieval studies, the study of France and the Francophone world, Jewish studies and diaspora and transnational studies.
Our efforts are supported and enhanced by our established relations with international organizations and a rich array of visiting scholars.
Kenneth Bartlett, Doris Bergen, Isabelle Cochelin, Paul Cohen, Nicholas Everett, Jennifer Jenkins, Eric Jennings, Paul Magocsi, Mark Meyerson, William Nelson, James Retallack, Natalie Rothman, Nicholas Terpstra, Rebecca Wittmann, Piotr Wróbel.
East Asian History
We pursue interdisciplinary and transnational research and teaching in cultural history, empire and science and technology.
Our faculty complement is one of the largest in our field among North American universities.
We offer graduate courses that engage the connected histories of Asian countries and beyond. Our areas of geographic strength include China, Japan and Korea.
Along with a world-class East Asian library, our faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students are actively engaged in the Asian Institute, the Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies, the collaborative master’s program in Asia-Pacific studies and the Centre for the Study of Korea. These offer students opportunities to study languages and cultures, pursue study-abroad opportunities in Asia and attend relevant speakers’ series.
Graduate students will find an intellectual environment that encourages them to draw on the strengths of their colleagues in complementary departments, including anthropology, art history, East Asian studies and religion.
Tong Lam, Li Chen, Takashi Fujitani, Yvon Wang.
Latin American and Caribbean History
Made up of several independent nations and overseas dependencies, the Latin American and Caribbean region is both the product of a tumultuous past and a site of constant reinvention. Once the home of hundreds of distinct languages and cultures, this fascinating region has witnessed centuries of dramatic changes: from the Iberian invasions of its indigenous heartlands to the Haitian Revolution, from the struggles to build independent nation-states in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to more recent efforts in Venezuela to rebel against an overbearing United States.
Our students draw on the strengths of our faculty members, whose geographic, thematic and methodological expertise reflects this historical complexity.
We offer a variety of graduate seminars, drawing on our particular strengths in the study of the religious transformations, societies and cultures of colonial Latin America; the Revolutionary Atlantic; the Caribbean; slavery and emancipation; gender; indigeneity; modern Latin America; U.S.-Latin American relations; Central America; and visual culture and anthropological history.
Through U of T’s programs in Latin American studies and Caribbean studies, and with affiliated faculty and students across the humanities and social sciences, we offer students and researchers a wealth of intellectual resources for studying this important region and its relationship with the rest of the world.
Melanie Newton, Kevin Coleman, Luis van Isschot, Jeffrey Pilcher.
We offer the best resources and academic environment in North America to pursue medieval studies at the graduate level.
Our faculty and students enjoy automatic access to the resources of the Centre for Medieval Studies and Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, providing the largest community of active researchers on medieval studies in the world. These institutions’ specialized libraries, as well as those of U of T’s colleges, complement the incomparable resources of the University’s Robarts library, the largest academic library in Canada and one of the most comprehensive in North America. Together, these collections facilitate first-class research on all aspects of medieval history and culture, from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, from the Mediterranean world to northern Europe.
We promote collaboration, comparison and dialogue with historical studies of other periods, yet retain renowned standards of traditional medieval disciplines such as philology, paleography, codicology, Latin and Old English.
Our commitment to teaching infuses our research program to produce first-rate scholarship and outstanding future teachers of the Middle Ages.
Isabelle Cochelin, Nicholas Everett, Michael Gervers, Mark Meyerson, Giulio Silano.
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern History
The integrated study of history from Muslim Spain to contemporary Iran and Arabia has become one of the strengths of our graduate program and an area of considerable student demand both for comprehensive field preparations and for dissertation research.
Our field overcomes the pre-modern/modern divide by involving faculty with shared thematic research interests, including conversion, social and political violence, migration, historical consciousness and discursive formations of alterity and difference.
Nicholas Everett, Michael Gervers, Jens Hanssen, Eric Jennings, Mark Meyerson, Natalie Rothman, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Nicholas Terpstra, Jennifer Jenkins, Giulio Silano, Shafique Virani.
The study of Russian history stresses both the unique and the universal aspects of social, political, economic and cultural developments within Russia and its empire. Some scholars have explored these developments as peculiarly Russian, while others have attempted to contextualize Russian development within more comparative paradigms such as modernity, empire, modernization and totalitarianism. Russia’s experience as an imperial power – often in dialogue with other imperial histories – has increasingly been a focus of attention for scholars of the 18th and 19th century, while its status as the totalitarian comparison to Nazi Germany has perpetually been a source of inquiry for scholars of the 20th century.
Our teaching draws on our research expertise to explore many of these themes, from a broadly comparative examination of Russia’s imperial and environmental history, through general surveys of periods of Russian history, to more specific explorations of individual problems in Russian and comparative history.
Lynne Viola, Thomas Lahusen, Alison Smith.
South Asian History
South Asian history involves the study of a region – the Indian subcontinent, constituted by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal and Sri Lanka – and its impact on the future of the globe. With a quarter of the world’s population and unparalleled linguistic and ethnic diversity, South Asia raises pressing questions about economy, authoritarianism and democracy, the making of ethnic subjects, environment, media and visual culture and gender politics, among many others.
The study of South Asia is at the heart of the history of colonialism, pluralism, the rule of law, capitalism, feminism, early empires and global trade and all the great religions. South Asian historiography is renowned for ground-breaking approaches that challenge the very categories by which we understand and narrate history and society. We ask questions about what counts as politics, as a national “border,” as archive, as language and as literature, as “public” and as “private,” as secular and sacred, as modern and as postcolonial.
With rich resources at the University’s Centre for South Asian Studies, our courses in South Asian history call us to imagine other worlds, both distant pasts and challenging presents and are active channels for interdisciplinary conversations and research clusters across the University.
Ritu Birla, Malavika Kasturi, Bhavani Raman, Jayeeta Sharma.
Southeast Asian History
Our faculty complement is one of the largest in our field among North American universities. Our expertise spans both mainland and island Southeast Asia, with particular strengths in Assamese (Burma), Indonesian and Vietnamese history. Our research strength from the early modern through the colonial and modern periods provides deep temporal coverage, with emphasis on the histories of commercialization, gender, race and religion.
Links to several thematic fields in our department and collaborations with more than a dozen Southeast Asia experts in other University departments (anthropology, art history, religion and others) make our department an ideal place to pursue graduate studies.
The Centre for Southeast Asian Studies provides an intellectual space for interdisciplinary regional collaborations between graduate students and faculty and serves as host to the world’s top experts in the field.
Hui Kian Kwee, Nhung Tran, Yvon Wang, Dan Bender, Eric Jennings.
History of Conflict, Violence and Genocide
Our field covers histories of group conflict (ethnic, religious, racial, socioeconomic) and the worst manifestations of such conflict – genocide – in the pre-modern and modern world, both within states and across state boundaries.
It includes histories of coexistence and cooperation between groups in order to achieve a fuller understanding of the generation of conflict and genocidal violence. It also addresses the problems and challenges resulting from conflict and genocide: refugee crises, the foundation of diasporic communities, societal reconstruction in the wake of violence, transitional justice, trauma and memory.
Many faculty and graduate students research topics in this field, from histories of early modern colonial encounters to twentieth-century genocide.
Doris Bergen, Heidi Bohaker, Sean Hawkins, Jennifer Jenkins, Thomas Lahusen, Mark Meyerson, Nakanyike Musisi, William Nelson, Melanie Newton, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Nicholas Terpstra, Nhung Tran, Lynne Viola, Rebecca Wittmann, Piotr Wróbel, Luis van Isschot.
Cultural and Intellectual History
Cultural and intellectual historians study ideas in circulation, the meanings embedded within cultural forms and the relationship of both to social, political and economic formations.
How are human practices – whether 17th-century crowd actions, a 19th-century treatise, or 21st-century photographs – sites of political, intellectual and social contestation that can provide meaningful insights about past and present societies?
Our cultural and intellectual historians integrate a range of scholarly approaches and methods, including historical anthropology, visual culture, cultural studies, semiotics, critical race theory, film studies, queer theory and (post)colonial studies.
Our faculty cover a broad chronology, from late antiquity to the very recent past and reach out across space as well – to Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. In particular, we emphasize transcultural phenomena: the mobility of people, objects, texts, films and signifying practices and their impact on our understanding of power relations.
We have particular depth in clusters like material culture, visual culture and intellectual history and have built fruitful connections to local museums and to U of T departments such as art and cinema studies.
Kenneth Bartlett, Dan Bender, Laurie Bertram, Ritu Birla, Elspeth Brown, Li Chen, Kevin Coleman, Jens Hanssen, Adrienne Hood, Jennifer Jenkins, Malavika Kasturi, Charlie Keil, Thomas Lahusen, Lori Loeb, Julie MacArthur, Steve Penfold, Jeffrey Pilcher, Bhavani Raman, Jayeeta Sharma, Alison Smith, Nicholas Terpstra, Yvon Wang, Natalie Rothman.
History of Economy, Technology and Society
The acceleration and intensification of “globalization” and the rise of neo-liberalism have raised new questions about the deep history of economic phenomenon and technological links.
Scholars in this field examine a variety of economic practices and formations, including capitalism, labour, business, regulation, markets, commodities, finance, infrastructures and technological systems. These diverse research agendas necessarily examine different scales (from the global to the local) and multiple sites and locations (North America, Europe, Asia and other regions).
Our faculty and graduate students engage with diverse methods and intellectual traditions, from histories and theories of political economy, labour history, Marxism, environmental justice and business practice.
Within these diverse approaches and geographies, our faculty share a broad intellectual commitment to understanding markets, systems, commodities and other economic phenomenon in terms of cultural and social practices, critical theory, global and comparative frames and intensely human histories.
Dan Bender, Ritu Birla, Elspeth Brown, Brian Gettler, Rick Halpern, Adrienne Hood, Franca Iacovetta, Tong Lam, Lori Loeb, Michelle Murphy, Steve Penfold, Jeffrey Pilcher, Steven Rockel, Luis van Isschot.
History of Empire, Colonialism and Indigeneity
Empire is an elusive and complicated phenomenon, yet it has been at the heart of the political, cultural and economic history of most regions of the world at one time or another.
As inescapable as empires might seem they are also fragile, unstable and, ultimately, unmanageable entities. Rise has always been followed by decline, decay, dissolution and dispersal.
Our faculty study the complicated categories of empires and colonies across space, time and regions, from a variety of different analytical standpoints.
Our research and teaching on these themes address core issues from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and the Caribbean and have generated broader conversations and collaborations within and across various centres, disciplines and departments at the University, including anthropology, religion, geography and political science.
Dan Bender, Ritu Birla, Heidi Bohaker, Li Chen, Nicholas Everett, Takashi Fujitani, Brian Gettler, Jens Hanssen, Paula Hastings, Susan Hill, Jennifer Jenkins, Eric Jennings, Malavika Kasturi, Tong Lam, Lisa Mar, Sean Mills, William Nelson, Bhavani Raman, Steven Rockel, Natalie Rothman, Jayeeta Sharma, Alison Smith, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Luis van Isschot.
Just as a well-cooked meal can draw people together for stimulating conversation, so can the study of food history create valuable connections between diverse areas of scholarly inquiry. Food is an important nexus between the material life of the senses (human health, labour, technology and business) and symbolic worlds (religion, politics, culture and social distinction).
Historical scholarship on food also holds important opportunities for interdisciplinary research across the humanities, social sciences and physical sciences.
With more than a dozen faculty members who have published significant scholarly works or teach classes on food, we are uniquely positioned to offer a dedicated graduate field in food history.
Our department is also the editorial home of the only discipline-specific journal in the field, Global Food History.
Students who come to study food history at Toronto will find potential advisors with national and chronological expertise from around the world and throughout history.
Dan Bender, Paul Cohen, Kevin Coleman, Nicholas Everett, Rick Halpern, Franca Iacovetta, Steve Penfold, Jeffrey Pilcher, Jayeeta Sharma, Alison Smith, Nhung Tran.
History of Gender, Sex and Sexualities
Our research challenges national categories, methodological “traditions,” and narrative frameworks.
Our faculty offer epistemological and analytical grounding in theories of gender and sexualities and address a wide range of subjects from the inner cities of North America to the elite salons of East Africa, the cosmopolitan cultures of South Asia, the villages of early modern Europe and immigrant communities throughout the world.
Our research strengths include the study of colonialism, gender and the law; transnational feminist histories of radical exiles; histories of queer and trans subject formations; religion and spirituality; entanglements of sex, race and gender in commercial cultures and economic practices as well as in socio-religious spaces, sites and ideologies; histories of biopolitics, medicine and reproduction; the meanings and politics of family and kinship, from biological to fictive; childhood, race and empire; intersections of gender and international relations; violence; and post-colonial theory.
Our graduate students may choose from comparative courses that interrogate historicist assumptions about modernity, sexed and raced embodiment or the universality of gendered and sexed identities, as well as regional-specific classes that go deep into the work of gender and sex into a historical site, thereby challenging assumptions about students’ place in the world.
Laurie Bertram, Ritu Birla, Elspeth Brown, Carol Chin, Franca Iacovetta, Malavika Kasturi, Lisa Mar, Cecilia Morgan, Michelle Murphy, Nakanyike Musisi, Melanie Newton, Nicholas Terpstra, Nhung Tran, Yvon Wang.
Since humans first began living in groups, they have been practising the art of interacting with other societies.
Relations of trade, politics, cooperation and competition; structures of empire, state, nation and would-be nation; trends of colonization and decolonization, globalization and retrenchment: the scope of our research is global.
International history builds on a solid technique grounded in archival research and broad theoretical insight to explore issues that are limited only by the imagination. Aside from the core value of such endeavours to our own curriculum, our faculty members’ work contributes powerfully to such on-campus centres as the Munk School of Global Affairs.
Our faculty and students in turn draw on the broadest range of expertise from across the university –including economics, political science and law, specific knowledge of all the world’s regions and many of its languages and cultures – to develop projects that cast new light on some of the oldest questions to interest historians. For example, why, as Handel’s famous oratorio put it, do the nations so furiously rage together?
Robert Bothwell, Li Chen, Carol Chin, Ron Pruessen, Jens Hanssen, Tim Sayle.
History of Medicine
Our research and teaching spans all eras and regions, from the origins of the healing arts to the latest scientific breakthroughs.
Scholarship on historical approaches to medicine is based in several centres at the University, including the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technologyand the History of Medicine program as well as our department.
Although most of these scholars focus on the modern era (18th century to the present), their areas of specialization are otherwise diverse, including representations/perceptions of the body and self; national and colonial histories of medicine and public health; issues involving gender and sexuality, race, eugenics and genetics; psychosomatic medicine, psychiatry and psychopharmacology.
Nicholas Everett, Edward Shorter, Michelle Murphy.
History of Migration/Diaspora
Once practised mainly as the writing of national histories of immigration to modern plural nations, our field has expanded in new directions as it responded to the spatial and interdisciplinary turns and to the development of longue durée world and global histories in the 1990s.
Some historians remain interested in immigration, ethnicity and race in particular modern nations and deal with analysis of race and ethnicity that is central to understanding policy, inclusion and exclusion. Others work as global and transnational historians, framing their research and writing around transnational human movements, migrations and diasporas.
We engage in both, while also pursuing research into the ways circuits of human mobility overlap or diverge from other kinds of circulations (media, commodities, capital, ideas) to organize the world geopolitically, culturally, economically and temporally.
Laurie Bertram, Takashi Fujitani, Paula Hastings, Franca Iacovetta, Russ Kazal, Mark McGowan, Lisa Mar, Sean Mills, Jeffrey Pilcher, Natalie Rothman, Jayeeta Sharma, Nicholas Terpstra, David Wilson.
History of Religion and Society
Social and cultural development is closely connected to religious aspirations and repertoires of knowledge. Despite claims to secularism, the foundations of most pre-modern and many modern cultures lie in the religious experiences of the first 1,500 years or more of the Common Era.
Religion has long shaped the daily lives of people across the world, inseparable from politics, culture and economic matters. Our field allows exploration of the interconnectedness of religion, culture, politics, economics and society and examines questions about the nature of belief, the role of ritual and practice and the importance of faith to the construction and re-creation of fundamental forms of consciousness and living.
Our strengths in the study of religion and religiosities in medieval and early modern European history open out to faculty and students attending to a wider early modern and modern world, from Peru to Vietnam and from Canada to Iran.
Doris Bergen, Carol Chin, Isabelle Cochelin, Michael Gervers, Malavika Kasturi, Mark McGowan, Mark Meyerson, Giulio Silano, Nicholas Terpstra, Nhung Tran, Shafique Virani.
Social history approaches the past through the lens of personal networks, life cycles and kin relations and works to recreate the structures that shaped daily life.
We are active in all geographic and chronological fields. Our research draws heavily on social science methodologies and historical sociology and anthropology in particular, in order to analyze those structures as social constructed and malleable rather than given or fixed.
We collaborate in a range of other thematic fields, including chiefly conflict, economy, gender, migration and religion.
Our work deals with a wide range of social groups (women, indigenous people, workers, merchants, entrepreneurs, farmers), sites (institutions, prisons, cities) and themes (social control, violence, moral control).
Heidi Bohaker, Elspeth Brown, Laurie Bertram, Isabelle Cochelin, Paul Cohen, Michael Gervers, Brian Gettler, Rick Halpern, Paula Hastings, Adrienne Hood, Sean Hawkins, Franca Iacovetta, Jüri Kivimäe, Lori Loeb, Mark McGowan, Nakanyike Musisi, Melanie Newton, James Retallack, Natalie Rothman, Edward Shorter, Alison Smith, Nicholas Terpstra, David Wilson.
History of State, Politics and Law
Political history is more than the history of government – it is plural, contested and complex.
Our faculty bring diverse approaches and research agendas to the history of politics broadly conceived.
Our research agendas include work on government institutions, governmentality, sovereignty, political parties and elections, political economy, public spheres, social movements and radical politics, legal history and human rights, all within local, national and transnational frames and diverse historical periods from the early modern to the modern.
Our field also puts these categories themselves into question, taking the state seriously without making it the sole object of study. This is an area of both traditional strength and recent vibrancy in our department.
Ritu Birla, Heidi Bohaker, Robert Bothwell, Li Chen, Takashi Fujitani, Brian Gettler, Paula Hastings, Malavika Kasturi, Russ Kazal, Sean Mills, Jennifer Mori, Steve Penfold, James Retallack, Nicholas Terpstra, Nhung Tran, Luis van Isschot, Lynne Viola, David Wilson, Rebecca Wittmann, Piotr Wróbel.