skip to primary navigationskip to content


The PhD in History


Faculty of History 2

"My supervisor has been wonderful for my PhD. I have seen him approx every 3 – 4 weeks and he has been very conscientious: always reading my work and responding to my queries /problems very quickly. He has been an enormous source of guidance, encouragement and support. We have worked well together, setting deadlines that I have always reached and helping to advise on planning work."

Every graduate student undertaking a PhD in History at Cambridge is assigned a supervisor. They are someone who has an interest in the same area of research as you, and their role is to guide your programme of study and research while helping you to identify your own specialist and generic training needs.

Supervisors are there to help and are often extremely approachable. Be confident in saying that you would like to discuss a particular topic, or ask them questions about where you need to go next or what training would most benefit you. However, PhD students in History are expected to work largely on their own initiative – supervisors won’t do it all for you! As long as you are prepared to listen to your supervisor’s advice and be proactive in discussion with them, we hope that you will realise a fruitful working relationship with someone of similar interests.



How do you allocate a supervisor?

All PhD students must have a supervisor and it is our responsibility to find one which we think suits you best. We have a wide range of academic staff here and you are welcome to browse our Academic Staff Directory: If you so wish, you can contact particular academics to discuss your application. Obviously, they cannot guarantee you a place, but most of them will be willing to talk about a possible research proposal and whether you are suited to study at Cambridge.

When you apply, you can suggest a possible supervisor on the application form. This is helpful if you’ve already been in touch with someone, as above, and would like to work with them. It doesn’t mean that you will definitely get that particular supervisor, but it helps us know who you would like to work with.

Don’t worry though if you can’t find anyone! If you don’t fill in the optional ‘prospective supervisor’ box, then we do the work for you. We know our department well, so we will send on your application for consideration to whoever we think is best.

Sometimes, applications go through multiple supervisors before someone is found. This can be because academics are already full with PhD students, will be on leave or retiring soon, or think someone else suits your proposed subject better. If no one can be found then, unfortunately, we cannot accept your application. However, rest assured that we do all we can to get you supervisory cover!