The purpose of this Handbook is to introduce students to the Department of History at the Catholic University of America and to gather into one place most of the information you will need during your graduate studies. Please read the Handbook carefully and then refer to it as you progress in your studies. While this Handbook will be updated regularly, the definitive statement of University policies can be found in the CUA Graduate Announcements ( and In the case of conflict with this Handbook, the rules presented in the Graduate Announcements stand.

In the words of the late, and much lamented, historian of Tudor and Stuart England, Mark Kishlansky: “The purpose of graduate school is to get out of graduate school.” This Handbook is designed to help you on that journey. We encourage you to take full advantage of the resources available to you in this Department, University, and the area as a whole. Come to Department events, explore the museums and libraries of the city, see what is going on at other universities. The more you put into your education, the more you will get out of it. Stay connected with the Department, your professors, and your fellow students; all will help you on your journey through graduate school. The faculty of the Department aim to train you in the key skills of research, analysis, and communication that define the historian, to enable you to use those skills productively in a fulfilling and meaningful career, inside or outside the academy. This Handbook is therefore a roadmap to your journey though graduate study in History.  

Overview of the Graduate Programs

The Department of History at CUA prides itself upon its professional but friendly atmosphere of close interaction between students and faculty. As a small Department, we place a great premium on the careful supervision of our students. The Department offers both MA and PhD degrees in the fields in which we have particularly rich faculty and scholarly resources, enumerated below. Graduate education in this Department combines the development of research and teaching skills. Not all of our graduate students go on to the PhD, or make use of their degrees in teaching at the university level. But the basic skills involved in graduate study—in acquiring substantive historical knowledge, in the critical analysis of material, and in the presentation of that analysis—are the same whatever the end use desired. Research is only one aspect of the professional development of a historian; the ability to communicate research and arguments, whether in writing, in debate, or through teaching, is an equally important component. This Department offers multiple opportunities to develop all these abilities. Our program is designed to train students, whatever their future career paths, in these key skills of the historian.

On the MA level, the Department offers an MA degree in History in the following fields: US History, Early Modern European History, Modern European History, and Medieval European History (with comparative attention to the pre-modern Islamic world). We also offer an MA program in Late Medieval and Early Modern Religion and Society, drawing on the particularly rich resources for the study of religious history available in the Department and the University more broadly. Additionally, we offer joint MA programs in Library and Information Sciences and Secondary Education, and with the Law School for a joint JD/History MA.

On the PhD level, we offer degrees in US History, Early Modern European History, Modern European History, and Medieval European History, with particular strength in Medieval History.

Graduate Faculty

The following faculty members of the Department are available to supervise graduate work:

US History:

Dr. Stephen West, Section Head, Director of Graduate Studies

Dr. Samuel Fisher

Dr. Michael Kimmage, Chair

While we do not offer graduate degrees in Latin American History, our US History students are able to profit from the courses and expertise of our Latin American historians:

Dr. Thomas M. Cohen

Dr. Julia Young

Early Modern and Modern European History:

Dr. L.R. Poos, Section Head

Dr. Thomas M. Cohen

Dr. Árpád von Klimó

Dr. Laura Mayhall

Dr. Nelson Minnich

Dr. Caroline Sherman

Medieval History:

Dr. Katherine Jansen, Section Head

Dr. Jennifer Davis

Dr. L.R. Poos

Dr. Lev Weitz

The University is also home to many other medievalists, who are affiliated with the Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies:


Thomas M. Cohen
Thomas M. Cohen is an associate professor of history, whose research focuses on the religious history of early modern Europe and colonial Latin America. He is the author (with Emanuele Colombo) of “Jesuit Missions” in The Oxford Companion to Early Modern European History (2 vols., Oxford University Press, 2015); of The Fire of Tongues: António Vieira and the Missionary Church in Brazil and Portugal (Stanford University Press, 1998); and of book chapters and articles about early modern Catholic missions, the history of the Jesuits, and Christian-Jewish relations. Prof. Cohen teaches courses on Catholic missions in the early modern world; the comparative history of early modern European empires; religion and culture in early modern Europe; colonial Latin America; the western U.S. and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands; and Latinos in the United States.

Jennifer R. Davis
Jennifer Davis is a historian of early medieval western Europe. Her first book, Charlemagne’s Practice of Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2015), offered a new interpretation of this pivotal early medieval ruler and how he and his men attempted to control his vast empire. Her current project, Per capitularios nostros: Law and its Uses in the Frankish Kingdoms, examines how the Frankish kings produced law and how people in the Frankish orbit sought to put those laws to use. Based extensively on the surviving manuscripts of Frankish capitularies, the book examines how and why various communities copied and adapted royal law for their own purposes. She is also the editor, with Michael McCormick, of The Long Morning of Medieval Europe: New Directions in Early Medieval Studies (Ashgate, 2008). Dr. Davis has held fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, the American Academy in Berlin, the American Academy in Rome, and the Fulbright Foundation, among others. She teaches a range of courses on early medieval history, including archaeology for historians and seminars on Carolingian history.

Samuel K. Fisher
Sam Fisher’s historical interests are in early America and the North Atlantic world in the early-modern period. His current research project is entitled Fit Instruments: Gaels, Indians, and the Making and Unmaking of Britain’s Empire 1688–1783. The project examines the experiences of three different groups of marginalized people in the eighteenth-century British empire—Native Americans, Irish Gaels, and Scottish Gaels (Highlanders)—in order to understand better the role of race and exclusion in the origins of the American Revolution. The study draws on Native American council speeches as well as Gaelic-language poetry (in Irish and Scottish Gaelic).  The first publication resulting from this project appeared in the October 2016 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly. Firmly committed to the comparative approach, he is particularly interested in integrating early modern Irish and Scottish history with early America. 

His next planned project, tentatively titled “As now and in all former ages they have done”: Savage Rebellion and the Forging of a British Atlantic World, takes a comparative approach to rebellions and uprisings by marginalized people within the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British empire, asking whether “savage rebellion” was a meaningful category to people of the time. 

Katherine L. Jansen
Katherine L. Jansen is a historian of the later Middle Ages, specializing in medieval Italy, religion, women, and gender. She is the author the award-winning book, The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). She has also published Medieval Italy: Texts in Translation (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), co-edited with Frances Andrews and Joanna Drell; Charisma and Religious Authority: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Preaching, 1200–1500, co-edited with Miri Rubin (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010); and Center and Periphery: Essays on Power in the Middle Ages in Honor of William Chester Jordan, co-edited with Guy Geltner and Anne E. Lester (Leiden: Brill, 2013). Her most recent monograph is Peace and Penance in late Medieval Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018). Professor Jansen has held fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the American Academy in Rome, Villa I Tatti (The Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, among others. She has also been Visiting Professor at the Johns Hopkins University and Princeton University. This year she takes over the role of Editor in Chief of Speculum, the leading journal of medieval studies in North America. 

Professor Jansen continues to accept Ph.D. students and welcomes especially those whose interests lie at the intersection of religion, society, women and gender, and topics that focus on late medieval Italy.

Michael Kimmage:
Michael Kimmage is the author of two books, The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whittaker Chambers and the Lessons of Anti-Communism (Harvard 2009) and In History’s Grip: Philip Roth’s Newark Trilogy (Stanford 2012). He is also the translator of Wolfgang Koeppen’s Journey through America (Berghahn 2012), a German-language travelogue published in 1959. His next book, The Abandonment of the West: The History of an Idea in American Foreign Policy, is forthcoming with Basic Books in spring, 2020. His research interests range from intellectual history to diplomatic history and literary studies. A scholar of the 20th-century U.S., Professor Kimmage also takes a strong interest in the history of Europe and the Soviet Union/Russia; and from 2014 to 2016 served on the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State where he held the Russia/Ukraine portfolio. Professor Kimmage regularly teaches courses on the Cold War, on America and the world and on American conservatism. His graduate teaching has ranged from seminars on history and literature to seminars on American diplomatic history. He welcomes working with graduate students whose interests fall anywhere within 20th-century U.S. history and especially with those interested in U.S. history within a global context.

Árpád von Klimó:
Árpád von Klimó has done extensive research and published in different fields of nineteenth and twentieth century European history, mostly on Hungary, Italy and Germany. Currently, Dr. von Klimó has just finished working on a monograph about the memory of the Holocaust in Hungary between 1942 and 1989, focusing on the Novi Sad massacre of 1942 (Remembering Cold Days, Pittsburgh University Press, 2018). He has also worked on the Routledge History of Hungary since 1945 (which just appeared in early 2018). In 2017, the Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700, co-edited by Árpád von Klimó and Irina Livezeanu, was published.

Since 2001, von Klimó has been a mentor for a number of PhD students of whom some are now teaching at various universities (Dublin, Liverpool, Tübingen, Poznan, among others). He advises graduate research on modern Central Europe and on transnational and transatlantic topics, such as the globalization of Catholicism or the impact of Catholicism on the Cold War.

Laura Mayhall:
Laura Mayhall is working on a book manuscript entitled Aristocracy Must Advertise: Rebranding Privilege in Britain, 1880–1950. She is the author of The Militant Suffrage Movement: Citizenship and Resistance in Britain, 1860–1930 (Oxford University Press, 2003), and co-editor, with Ian Christopher Fletcher and Philippa Levine, of Women’s Suffrage in the British Empire: Citizenship, Nation and Race (Routledge, 2000). Dr. Mayhall teaches graduate courses on the history of the British Empire and on nineteenth- and twentieth-century British political culture. Every other year she offers HIST 603, a graduate course on teaching history at the university level. She also teaches undergraduate courses on the history of London, British film, and the First and Second World Wars.

Nelson Minnich:
Professor Nelson H. Minnich is currently working on various projects. In particular, he is editing the papers from a conference commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Fifth Lateran Council (151217) for the Libreria Vaticana; co-editing the papers of the conference “Luther and the Shaping of the Catholic Tradition” for publication by The Catholic University of America Press; co-editing the volume the History of Reformation Era Theology for Cambridge University Press; editing the volume on The Renaissance Papacy, 1400–1600 for Brill; and editing the Cambridge Companion to the Council of Trent for Cambridge University Press. To each of these volumes he will contribute one or more chapters. He is additionally at work on articles on the Rome of Raphael and a preaching manual.

L.R. Poos:
L.R. Poos specializes in the history of England in the later-medieval and early-modern periods, roughly from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. His research focuses upon social, demographic, and legal history. His most recent book—in collaboration with Professor Lloyd Bonfield of New York Law School—is Reports of Sir Peter King, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, 1715–1722, 130 Selden Society (London, 2017). His current book project is a case study of contested marriage and property in sixteenth-century Lancashire, entitled Love, Hate, and the Law in Tudor England: The Three Wives of Ralph Rishton. He is also working on a reconstruction of land use and settlement in the parish of Stebbing in Essex from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, employing Geographical Information Systems (GIS) analysis.

Professor Poos’s teaching encompasses the histories of rural society, crime and state-building, religion, marriage, and population change in England. He has a particular interest in digital humanities and their applications to research and learning, and in early Japanese history and culture. Current and recent graduate students have done dissertations and research projects in subjects ranging from Reformation-era England, to disease and crime in early-modern London, to archaeology and history in late-medieval Ireland.

Caroline Sherman:
Caroline Sherman works on early modern intellectual history. Her book, The Uses of the Dead: The Early Modern Development of Cy-Près Doctrine (Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Canon Law, CUA Press, 2018) examines the Reformation origins of the doctrine of the approximation of donor intent in failing charitable trusts. She contrasts this modern, unilateral redirection of charitable property with the treatment of gifts in medieval canon law, in which all interested parties to the gift consented to its transformation. She is currently working on a book about inconvenient texts in the Renaissance and Reformation.

Julia Young:
Dr. Young recently published her first book, entitled Mexican Exodus: Emigrants, Exiles, and Refugees of the Cristero War (Oxford University Press, 2015). The book examines the network of religious exiles, political refugees, and labor emigrants who supported the Catholic Church during Mexico’s Cristero war and, more generally, the ways that religion and religious conflicts can shape transnational diasporic identities among migrants. Her research and teaching interests include Mexican and Latin American history since the 16th century, the history of Mexican migration to the United States since the mid-1800s, Church and state in Latin America, global migrations, religion, and diaspora. Dr. Young is also a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. She recently completed a fellowship as a scholar in residence at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. While there, she conducted research for a new project related to religious visionaries and mystics along the U.S.-Mexico border during the twentieth century. 

Lev Weitz:
Lev Weitz is a historian of the Islamic Middle East. His scholarly interests lie in the encounters among Muslims, Christians, and Jews that have shaped the Middle East’s history from the coming of Islam to the present, which he engages in his research and in the classroom. His book Between Christ and Caliph: Law, Marriage, and Christian Community in Early Islam (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) examines the making of the medieval Islamic Caliphate from the perspective of the Syrian and Iraqi Christians who were among its most numerous subjects, and explores how Middle Eastern bishops’ encounters with Islamic law and empire spurred them to create their own legal traditions that reshaped Christian households and communities. At Catholic University, Dr. Weitz teaches a range of courses on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean history from the medieval period to modernity and directs the Islamic World Studies program.

Stephen West:
Stephen West researches and teaches the history of the United States, with a particular focus on the political and social history of slavery, emancipation, and race from the Civil War era through the early twentieth century. He is currently at work on a book about the place of the Fifteenth Amendment in American political culture and memory during the fifty years after its ratification. Prof. West is co-editor of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867, series 3, volume 2, Land and Labor, 1866–1867 (2013), winner of the 2015 Thomas Jefferson Prize for documentary editing from the Society for History in the Federal Government. His first book, From Yeoman to Redneck in the South Carolina Upcountry, 1850–1920 (2008), examined class and political relations among white Southerners in the slave society of the Old South, and their transformation in the wake of slavery’s destruction. Prof. West is also the author of essays about the secession crisis, the historiography of Reconstruction, and urban politics in the post-emancipation South.