Published Date

January 1, 1962

From The Education of Historians in the United States (1962)

For almost every day in 1960 a Ph.D. in history was being awarded in the nation. How does this output compare with total Ph.D. production in all fields? How does it compare with previous output of history Ph.D.s? Does it meet or exceed present needs? How much must the production record of 1960 be bettered to meet the needs of the 1960s for fully trained professional historians? These questions this chapter seeks to answer.

Predicting the need for Ph.D.s in any field is an uncertain business. In 1945 one of the best studies of Ph.D. programs that have been undertaken conjectured that “after war shortages in doctoral personnel are made up, it is likely that for the next score of years society will demand a relatively small number of . . . doctors of philosophy.”1 Yet, by 1958–1959 the production of Ph.D.s stood at 284% of the level of 1939–19402 and as early as 1955 anxieties about overexpansion had given way to fearful predictions that too few Ph.D.s would be available to educate the students of the 1960s. How were new teachers to be found in sufficient numbers? Predictions of academic crisis became commonplace and a few distinguished ones were published.3 Salaries rose as the demand for teachers exceeded the supply. Disconcertingly, however, qualifications asked of new college teachers in some academic disciplines went down.4

Private foundations and the Federal government responded to the obvious need for action by sharply increasing the amount of scholarship and fellowship aid. Without the Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, the National Defense Fellowships, and other programs an academic crisis in the early 1960s would almost certainly have developed.5 A crisis in the late sixties is still possible.


The Growth of Doctoral Training in History

The first step in estimating future supply-demand relationships in history is to determine how many Ph.D.s have been needed in the past. And Archbishop Fénelon’s advice to the heir of Louis XIV still holds good: “It is not enough to know the past; it is necessary to know the present.”

The awarding of Ph.D.s in history began in 1882 when John Franklin Jameson at Johns Hopkins and Clarence Bowen at Yale received the degree. The next decade was one of rapid expansion. Herbert Baxter Adams at Johns Hopkins alone trained 38 Ph.D.s in history. In that ten-year period of beginning, seven institutions awarded Ph.D.s in history. Hopkins awarded somewhat more than half the national total during the eighties, and did so again in the five-year period, 1891–1895.6 Meanwhile, a good many American historians were earning the Ph.D. in European universities. By 1927 Marcus W. Jernegan could estimate that there were “about six hundred Ph.D.’s in history living in the United States and that the annual increase is fifty or more.”7

This is no place to tell in detail how annual production of Ph.D.s in history had been increased to “fifty or more,” or how the rate was doubled, tripled, and more than sextupled during the next three decades. Table 2-1 shows the increase. Annual production since 1951–1952 has fluctuated sharply. Because production was swelled by returning veterans in the years just after World War II, the increase during the last ten years has been somewhat less rapid than in previous decades (see Table 2-2). The average annual production of history Ph.D.s in the period 1953–1960 was about 319. Comparison with the social sciences, with Education, and with English shows that in some related disciplines Ph.D. production through 1959 was somewhat like that in history but that increases in other fields were even larger (see Table 2-3). Yet history has continued to produce more Ph.D.s than any of the social sciences (see Table 2-4).

Table 2-1. Increase in History Doctoral Production, 1881–1952

YearApproximate No. of institutions offering Ph.D.s in historyAverage annual No. of history Ph.D.s in each periodTotal No. of Ph.D.s in U.S. each yearPercentage of all doctorates accounted for by history Ph.D.s
Source: Statistics are from: William B. Hesseltine and Louis Kaplan, "Doctors of Philosophy in History: A Statistical Study," American Historical Review, XLVII (July, 1942), 772-773; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Earned Degrees Conferred by Higher Educational Institutions, 1957-1958 (Washington, 1959), table 6; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Louis H. Conger, Jr., and Marie G. Fullam, eds.), Projection of Earned Degrees
to 1969-70
(Washington, 1959), pamphlet OE-54002, tables 1 and 3; A. J. Brumbaugh (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 5th ed. (Washington, 1948), tables 1-3; and Mary Irwin (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 8th ed. (Washington, 1960), 1146.


Table 2-2. Recent Production of Ph.D.s in History, 1953–1960

Academic year endingNo. of Ph.D.s in historyNo. of Ph.D.s in all fields% of all doctorates accounted for by Ph.D.s in history
1959324* (350)9,3603.5
1960342** (365)9,8693.5
* Tabulations by the Office of Education for the academic year 1958-1959 show 9,360 Ph.D.s in all fields, 324 of them in history. Our own survey of history departments brought reports of 350 Ph.D.s in history in the calendar year 1959.
** Estimate based on reports by chairmen of history departments.
Source: History and general statistics through 1958 are provided by Walter Crosby Eells in Mary Irwin (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 8th ed. (Washington, 1960), 1146; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Earned Degrees Conferred, 1958-1959: Bachelor's and Higher Degrees (Washington, 1961), 31, 35. The 1960 statistics were provided by Mabel C. Rice, U.S. Office of Education.


Table 2-3. Recent Production of Ph.D.s in History and Comparable Disciplines, 1953–1959

Ph.D.s awarded, 1953, and changes (in % of 1953)
Political science1641009311012495104116
* Tabulations by the Office of Education for the academic year 1958-1959 show 9,360 Ph.D.s in all fields, 324 of them in history. Our own survey of history departments brought reports of 350 Ph.D.s in history in the calendar year 1959.
** Estimate based on reports by chairmen of history departments.
Source: History and general statistics through 1958 are provided by Walter Crosby Eells in Mary Irwin (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 8th ed. (Washington, 1960), 1146; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Earned Degrees Conferred, 1958-1959: Bachelor's and Higher Degrees (Washington, 1961), 31, 35. The 1960 statistics were provided by Mabel C. Rice, U.S. Office of Education.


Table 2-4. Ph.D. Production in Selected Social Sciences 1926–1957

HistoryEconomicsPolitical scienceSociologyAll fields
PeriodNo.% of totalNo.% of totalNo.% of totalNo.% of totalTotal No. of Ph.D.s
1926-1937 (12 years)1,4485.61,4105.45242.04901.925,871
1938-1947 (10 years)1,2194.81,1854.74751.96042.425,381
1948-1957 (10 years)2,8303.82,2543.01,5012.01,3291.874,497
Source: Data provided by Walter Crosby Eells in Mary Irwin (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 8th ed. (Washington, 1960), 1146. Cf. Marshall E. Dimock and Claude E. Hawley (eds.), Goals for Political Science, report of the committee for the Advancement of Teaching of the American Political Science Association (New York, 1951), 247-249.



Prospects for an increase in doctoral production in history depend upon the number of students in residence, currently and in the near future. Recent trends in the award of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history are shown in Table 2-5. In history as in other fields there was a “post-G.I. Bill” slump. The popularity of the master’s degree in history dropped substantially after 1948 but increased after 1956. The marked increase in 1959, which augurs well for doctoral production in the early 1960s, apparently was due to the national fellowship programs. It is also encouraging to note the large absolute increase in bachelor’s graduates in history. History’s percentage of all bachelor’s degrees in the nation has held its own and even slightly increased in recent years. All in all, the possibilities of increased doctoral production in history are present.

Table 2-5. Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degrees in History, 1948–1960

Bachelor's degrees in HistoryMaster's degrees in HistoryPh.D. degrees in HistoryAdvanced degrees in history per 100 bachelor's degrees in history
Academic year endingNo.% of all bachelor's degreesNo.% of all master's degreesNo.% of all doctoral degreesMaster'sPh.D.
195913,7423.61,6432.4324 (350)*3.511.92.3
* See note under Table 2-2.
Source: Based upon data in the following volumes of the serial publication of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Earned Degrees Conferred by Higher Educational Institutions: for the statistics on production in 1947-1948 (Washington, n.d. ), table D; for 1954-1955 (Washington, 1956) , table 3; for 1955-1956 (Washington, 1958), table 7; for 1956-1957 (Washington, 1958), table 5; for 1957-1958 (Washington, 1959), table 6; and for 1958-1959 (Washington, 1961), 31, 35, 38. Statistics for 1960 by Mabel C. Rice, U.S. Office of Education.


The possibilities will not fully materialize, however, unless more women are encouraged to undertake doctoral studies. Some 30% of the current undergraduate history majors are women; but—for whatever reason8—in the period 1920–1950 women accounted for only about 14% of the Ph.D.s awarded in all disciplines. A study of 2,562 active historians in 1952 showed that 13% were women. The percentage today probably is no higher, for of the new Ph.D.s in history 10% in 1956–1957, 11% in 1957–1958, and 14.8% in 1958–1959 were awarded to women. Thus, if any sure lesson can be drawn from the development of doctoral training in history in the United States it is that 13% to 15% of the history Ph.D.s—probably no more—will be women.9

Another lesson that may be drawn is that 7 out of 8 Ph.D.s in history in the 1960s will be college teachers of history. In 1939 probably no more than two-thirds of the history Ph.D.s of 1931–1935 were engaged in teaching in universities, colleges, and junior colleges, but others would have been teaching if they could have found positions. Fletcher Wellemeyer has shown that “over 80 per cent” of the historians of 1952 were “engaged in teaching.” Of the history Ph.D.s of 1958, 88% held academic posts by the fall of 1959 (including the 3 % in nonteaching academic positions). ((For the 1939 statistics see Hesseltine and Kaplan, “Doctors of Philosophy in History,” 775, 789; for 1952 see Wellemeyer, “Survey of United States Historians, 1952,” 348; for 1958 see appendix H of this volume for information about a questionnaire completed by 182 Ph.D.s of 1958, of whom 177 answered the question about current occupations. See also National Education Association (Ray C. Maul, ed.), Teacher Supply and Demand in Universities, Colleges, and Junior Colleges, 1957–58 and 1958–59 (Washington, 1959), 45. In one place Ray C. Maul reports that 90% of history Ph.D.s go into academic work. In another place he suggests 75.8%. The last estimate seems much too low.))

Because of the high percentage of history Ph.D.s that become college and university teachers year after year, history faculties have a larger share of Ph.D.s than do most other academic disciplines. About 65% of the historians on college and university faculties hold the Ph.D.10) What is more, there has been no decrease since 1952, when a survey of 2,562 active historians showed that 63% of them had doctoral degrees. This helps explain why most of the historians who were interviewed in 1959 showed little concern about an immediate shortage of Ph.D.s in history.11

Future Need for Ph.D.s in History

The basic element of uncertainty in predicting future needs is our inability to know how many persons will seek instruction in colleges and universities in the future. The National Education Association (NEA) and Bernard Berelson agree that 6 million students in 1969–1970 is a reasonable prediction. But no one can know exactly what the teacher-student ratio will be in 1969–1970; another unknown is the annual rate of replacement of existing faculties. The NEA estimates a need for 346,800 new college teachers in the eleven-year period 1959–1970, while Berelson believes that 180,000 new teachers will suffice.

These general estimates provide, therefore, only a broad framework for any prediction of the number of historians needed in the 1960s; yet these are the most up-to-date and best-informed estimates. Other questions arise. Will historians continue to make up 3.4% of the total national faculty in higher education—as in 1959–1960? Will 65% of the history faculty continue to be holders of the Ph.D.—thus maintaining the approximate standard of 1959–1960? Will the Ph.D.s in history who become college and university teachers of history be 85%, of all Ph.D.s produced, as in recent years? If the answer to each of these questions is “yes,” then the total production of Ph.D.s in history, 1959–1970, must fall between a low of 4,680 and a high of 9,024, depending upon whether Berelson’s estimate or that of the NEA is used. Reduced to average annual production, between 425 and 820 history Ph.D.s per year will be needed during the 1960s.12

Obviously this gives little help to graduate faculties in history as they plan their Ph.D. programs for the 1960s. Another estimate of the number of history Ph.D.s that will be needed is here suggested, therefore. This one also rests upon certain assumptions: (1) that a rising student-faculty ratio will just about counterbalance any increase in the percentage of college-age population enrolling in college during the 1960s; and, therefore, (2) that the new history faculty needed each year will increase in direct proportion to the increase in the number of 18-year-olds in the national population.

It is also possible to predict the increase in the number of entering history graduate students in the nation if we assume, further, that students enter at 22 and that their numbers will rise in proportion to the number of 22-year-olds in the national population. Finally, it is possible to predict how many history Ph.D.s are likely to be awarded annually if we make the following additional assumptions: (1) that Ph.D.s in history will be awarded the degree at a median age of 31 (the median age of the history Ph.D.s of 19 5 8 was about 33.5); and (2) that their increase will be in direct proportion to the increase in number of 31-year-olds in the nation. Table 2-6 shows the projections that can be made if all these sets of assumptions are accepted.

Table 2-6. Predicted Quantitative Trends in Graduate Education in History, 1959–1970, Based upon Increases in Live Births*

Live birthsProbable annual production of history Ph.D.s, assuming 31 is the age at which award is madeHistory Ph.D.s likely to be needed to meet rising enrollmentsProbable entering history graduate students in percentages of 1959-1960 level
Year of birthNo. (in millions)YearNo.**No.***Level (in %)****
* The projections in this table assume no change in factors encouraging graduate study and completion of the Ph.D. See text for qualifications.
** Annual variations in this column are in proportion to variations in numbers of births, 1928-1939, and thus in proportion to presumed numbers of 31-year-olds, 1959-1970.
*** Annual variations in this column are in proportion to variations in numbers of births, 1941-1952, and thus in proportion to presumed numbers of 18-year-olds, 1959-1970.
**** Annual variations in this column are in proportion to variations in numbers of births, 1937-1948, and thus in proportion to presumed numbers of 22-year-olds, 1959-1970.
SOURCE: Live-birth statistics from the National Education Association's Research Bulletin, XXXV (October, 1957), 104.


Table 2-6 can be extremely useful in that it suggests the sharp variability that the trends in live births will impose upon higher education during the 1960s. It cautions against complacency by showing that a shortage of Ph.D.s in history is likely to make itself felt in 1964, giving little notice of its coming except for the temporary warning in 1960–1961 resulting from the increased births of 1942 (10.6% more than in 1941). In 1964 the number of 18-year-olds will jump sharply (19.3%) just when the number of 31-year-olds (born in 1933) will reach the lowest level of the whole period 1945–1970. Reports of placement officers in 16 universities13 show that in most fields of history there is no significant backlog of unemployed Ph.D.s who can help meet the rising demand of the 1960s. The new talent that can be discovered must meet most of the needs of the next decade.

Sustained efforts to recruit superior students will be needed throughout the 1960s, because another sizable increase in live births, that of 1951 (6.3% more than in 1950), will make itself felt in college enrollments in 1969–1970—bringing another increase in the demand for college teachers. Meanwhile, there will be no substantial increase in the number of 31-year-olds until 1972. It is desirable, therefore, to find ways to award Ph.D.s to the majority of doctoral candidates before they reach the projected median age of 31, and well before they reach the actual median age of the Ph.D.s in history of 1958, about 33.5.

Yet, it is very important to note that Table 2-6 presents a model projection based on live-birth trends. It shows what might be expected to happen if the factors making for Ph.D. production in 1959 were to be neither increased nor decreased. In actuality, however, the national fellowship programs inaugurated or greatly expanded since 1956 are new factors of major importance. If they continue and increase their financial support for graduate study, the demand for historians in the 1960s can be met. It is noteworthy that the number of Ph.D.s in history granted in 1960—approximately 342—somewhat exceeded the number that might have been expected on the basis of birth trends (338; see Table 2-6). It appears, therefore, that the effect of increased financial support since the mid-1950s is already being felt.

Other qualifications of the yearly trends predicted in Table 2-6 must be noted. Table 2-6 makes the annual peaks and valleys of supply and demand sharper than they will be in reality. It is worthwhile, therefore, to calculate the average annual production and need for Ph.D.s for three periods. Our predicted averages fall much closer to Berelson’s conservative estimate than to the NEA prediction. They confront historians with a challenge, but one that can be met without encouraging less-than-superior students to undertake graduate study and without encouraging unprepared departments to offer Ph.D. training. The immediate tasks are: (1) to raise average annual production of Ph.D.s from the 319 of 1953–1960 and the estimated 365 of 1960 to an average of 378 per year in the period 1959–1963; and (2) to recruit superior students who can be expected to earn the Ph.D. between 1964 and 1970. About 470 will be needed annually, 1964–1968, and 502 will be needed annually in the period 1969–1970.

It must be emphasized that we have discussed the expected need for new Ph.D.s, not the expected need for new college teachers of history. If we speak in terms of new teachers rather than new Ph.D.s, then we must talk in terms of at least 672 annually (Berelson’s statistics suggest 556; NEA statistics, 1,073) for the eleven-year period 1959–1970.

Still another point must be emphasized here. The number of new Ph.D.s in history that we have estimated to be needed will result in no increase at all in the percentage of Ph.D.s on history faculties; they will only maintain the standards of preparation already achieved in the 1950s. Is that enough? One of the dismal aspects of many similar estimates of need for new faculty in the 1960s is their tendency to abandon a traditional American determination to raise the qualifications of college teachers. Too often it is suggested that mere preservation of the status quo will be triumph enough in the 1960s. It will be a strange and disturbing new epoch in the history of American higher education if the generation of the 1960s is willing to settle for no more than that.

Programs for training Ph.D.s in history are too complex to be created suddenly and they can seldom be expanded swiftly. Thus patterns of the production of Ph.D.s in the various regions of the nation and in the diverse fields of history will probably continue for some time to resemble those of the recent past.

In the period 1936–1956 the regions of the nation accounted for the following percentages of all 4,240 history Ph.D.s produced: East, 44%; Midwest, 29%; West, 15%; South, 12%.14 Table 2-7 shows what the regional patterns of productivity have been in recent years. In the production of Ph.D.s in history as in the natural sciences15 the South lags decisively behind other regions of the nation. Regional variations in current graduate enrollments make it possible to predict that the pattern of Ph.D. production revealed by Table 2-7 will continue into the early 1960s (see Table 2-8).

Table 2-7. Regional Variations in Production of Ph.D.s. 1955–1960

Percentage of total reported Ph.D.s
* For definition, see footnote 15 for this chapter.
Source: Based upon questionnaires completed for this study by chairmen of 81 departments offering Ph.D. training in history, 1955-1959. See appendix F.


Table 2-8. Regional Distribution of Ph.D. Candidates in History in 80 Candidates, 1958–1959

Status of
No.% of totalNo.% of totalNo.% of totalNo.% of totalNo.%
Ph.D. candidates on campus919472931546924274141,955100
Ph.D. candidates
off campus
Source: Based upon data provided by chairmen of 81 Ph.D.-training departments of history. Unless otherwise noted, the data for subsequent tables were gathered as set forth in appendixes A-K.



Differences in production among the various fields of history are of more immediate significance than are regional variations in production. Historians, like other scholars, specialize, and predictions of supply and demand must take cognizance of their specialties. Historians may specialize in the history of one facet of human experience (e.g., in intellectual history or diplomatic history). They also may specialize in a larger or smaller geographical region (e.g., in Russian history, or the history of the South in the United States). Historians specialize, too, in limited periods of history. Thus a Ph.D. candidate may elect to concentrate on the history of Europe since 1789 and more particularly on the political history of France in the period 1870–1940.

Historians in the United States have shown a stronger interest in “modern” history (the period since about 1500 A.D.)—and even “recent” history (since about 1900)—than in ancient or medieval history. This is no new trend; of the 1,410 new Ph.D.s of 1929–1939, no less than 92% were specialists in modern history. At least 88%—and probably somewhat more—of the new Ph.D.s of 1955–1959 were specialists in modern history.16

More American historians have specialized in the history of their own country than in the history of any other nation. We have moved a long way from the situation of 1890, when Herbert Baxter Adams wrote that he wanted “a fair field for comparative studies in Church and State and the Institutes of Education, with out being regarded as an American provincial.” In the entire period 1873–1935, 57% of all Ph.D.s in history were awarded in American history (including a small percentage in Latin-American history). And 51% of the new Ph.D.s in history in the five-year period 1955–1959 were specialists in United States history.17

But it would be a mistake to assume that historians in the United States are especially provincial. More history of foreign areas is taught in the United States than in any other nation in the world. Only in the South is the historical study of foreign areas markedly underdeveloped, and there the study of England and Latin America are exceptions to the prevailing pattern of concentration in United States history.18 In the nation as a whole a significant number of Ph.D.s in European history have been trained. They accounted for 12% of those who became Ph.D.s in history between 1880 and 1900, 35% of those in the period 1926–1935, and 38% of those in recent years. (Ancient and medieval history and the history of all modern European nations—including England and the U.S.S.R. or Russia—are treated here as “European” history.) The production of specialists in Russian history still appears to be much lower than it should be, although “the past decade has witnessed a virtual revolution in Russian studies.”19 Asian, African, and Latin-American history have almost held their own in the post-1945 period, but it may seem surprising that they have done no more than that in an age of “cold war” and of rising concern about the “uncommitted” or “underdeveloped” countries (see Table 2-9).

Table 2-9. Ph.D.s in History by Geographical Areas of Specialization, 1873–1959

Geographical areaPercentage of all new Ph.D.s in history, 1873-1935Percentage of all new Ph.D.s in history, 1955-1959
American history (total)5755.5
United Statesx*51.0
European history (total)3338.4
Modern Europeanx24.0
English-British Commonwealthx7.9
Asian-African history53.8
Other history52.3
* Data not available.
Source: Based upon data reported to this committee together with statistics in William B. Hesseltine and Louis Kaplan, "Doctors of Philosophy in History: A Statistical Study," American Historical Review, XLVII (July, 1942), 774, 776-777.


One development could change the pattern of Ph.D. production revealed by Table 2-9: if demand in one or another field should rise or fall substantially, in time the production of Ph.D.s would be adjusted to meet the new situation. In estimating future needs for history Ph.D.s it is essential to know how demand is now distributed among the various fields of history.

In the fall of 1959, chairmen of Ph.D.-training history departments were asked about the supply and demand for new Ph.D.s, as they had experienced it, in the period 1957–1959. The supply of new Ph.D.s in United States history seems to exceed the demand, say 19% of the respondents; the demand seems to exceed the supply, say 46%. Only 7% of the respondents say that the supply of Ph.D.s exceeds the demand in modern European history; 65% report that demand exceeds supply. Obviously the demand for Ph.D.s in modern European history is less often being satisfied than is the demand for Ph.D.s in United States history. But graduate history departments in all regions of the nation report a shortage more often than a surplus of Ph.D.s. Although more Ph.D.s in history were awarded in 1959 and again in 1960 than in any year since 1954, they did not glut the market. There were more positions than new Ph.D.s in both major fields of history.

What about other fields of history? In November, 1958, the chairmen of 77 Ph.D.-training departments of history and 502 college departments were asked to list the appointments in history they expected to make between 1959 and 1970. Only the returns for the period 1959–1961 were full enough to be useful. The specific fields in which appointments were anticipated are ranked in Table 2-10 according to the frequency with which they were reported. Table 2-10 also shows for comparative purposes the potential supply of Ph.D.s by specifying the fields of specialization among Ph.D. candidates “enrolled and on campus” in 81 Ph.D.-training departments of history in 1958–1959.

Table 2-10. Anticipated Faculty Appointments and Ph.D. Candidates in Various Fields of History, 1958–1959

Fields of historyNo. and % of all anticipated appointments for 1959-1961No. and % of all Ph.D. candidates in residence, first term of 1958-1959
United States121 (35%)957 (55%)
Modern Europe105 (30%)483 (28%)
Russian-East Europe25 (7%)
Asia and Far East29 (8%)59 (3%)
Medieval21 (6%)68 (4%)
Latin America12 (3.5%)67 (4%)
English-British Commonwealth10 (3%)81 (5%)
Ancient7 (2%)19 (1%)
Africa1 (0.3%)1 (0.05%)
Other16 (5%)0 (0%)
Total347 (99.8%)1,735 (100.05%)


In yet another attempt to discover the relation between demand and supply in various fields of history, chairmen of Ph.D.-training departments were asked, in November, 1959, to name the fields in which they noted either a current shortage or a current surplus, and those in which they expected the shortage or surplus to continue. It appears from these reports that good positions for new Ph.D.s in some fields of United States history, in English-British Commonwealth history, and in Latin-American history may be difficult to find during the next several years. On the other hand, an increased number of able Ph.D.s in all fields should have no difficulty in finding college teaching positions of one type or another during the 1960s.20


The picture of the coming decade that we have painted looks very different from different perspectives. To the graduate student or the young Ph.D. it shows positions available and reasonably rapid professional advancement likely in most fields of history. To those responsible for securing qualified faculty members it shows a shortage of qualified teachers in these fields of history.

Several things could change our basic predictions. The estimates given in Table 2-6 assume that conditions will be those of peacetime; that a substitute doctorate—specifically for college teachers and cheaper than the Ph.D.—will not be offered;21 that the one-year master’s degree will not become an acceptable qualification for a permanent college teaching position;22 that historians will not teach radically larger classes than those they were teaching in 1959–1960; and that television sets will not be widely used in history classrooms as substitutes for teachers.23 Different assumptions would lead to lower estimates of the number of Ph.D.s in history that will be needed. Different assumptions have not seemed warranted.

Prediction of the future need for Ph.D.s involves many variables. The two best general estimates of need for Ph.D.s—those by Berelson and the NEA—differ widely, as we have shown. Using our own method of calculation (explained on pages 23–26) we conclude that we will need an average of 378 Ph.D.s per year, 1959–1963; 470 per year, 1964–1968; and 502 per year in 1969 and 1970. The probable growth of junior college and other professional demands for Ph.D.s, which were not included in our calculations, may well create a need for many more Ph.D.s than has been suggested here.24 An increase over the present percentage of teachers who hold the Ph.D. would also require more Ph.D.s than have been predicted.

The demand for Ph.D.s in history is not evenly distributed. In 1959 there appeared to be a slight surplus of Ph.D.s in some fields of American history and a very slight surplus in British and Latin-American history. In other fields increasing numbers of Ph.D.s would help meet existing shortages. Regardless of fields and to a degree true of few other disciplines, Ph.D.s in history are headed toward teaching. This fact is of the utmost importance in the training process, and much will be said of it hereafter.

Can the required number of Ph.D. candidates be found? If our estimate of actual 1960 production as 365 is accurate, only a slight increase is needed to meet the expected demand of 1961–1963. Thanks to the Woodrow Wilson and National Defense Fellowships there is likely to be no serious shortage of Ph.D.s in some fields of history before 1964.

The needed increase in number of Ph.D.s for the years 1964–1970 (and, we repeat, such an increase is desirable), will be accomplished in most fields of history gradually and without emergency measures. What is especially needed now are (1) some acceleration of Ph.D. training and (2) more attention by historians to recruiting students for graduate study.

Next section: Graduate Students in History


  1. Ernest V. Hollis, Toward Improving Ph.D. Programs (Washington, 1945), 122, 200. []
  2. Bernard Berelson, Graduate Education in the United States (New York, 1960), 32. []
  3. Committee of Fifteen (F. W. Strothmann, ed.), The Graduate School Today and Tomorrow: Reflections for the Profession’s Consideration (New York, 1955), 7; Grayson L. Kirk and others, “The Education of College Teachers,” in the Fifty-third Annual Report, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (New York, 1958), 11. []
  4. See, e.g., New York Times, January 11, 1959; Ray C. Maul, “Will New College Teachers Be Adequately Prepared?” Educational Record, XL (October, 1959), 326–329, especially 327. []
  5. In 1960 Berelson, Graduate Education, 79, suggested that the statistics confront the nation with a problem but not a crisis. He was immediately challenged by Earl J. McGrath. See New York Times, November 6, 1960. []
  6. William B. Hesseltine and Louis Kaplan, “Doctors of Philosophy in History: A Statistical Study,” American Historical Review, XLVII (July, 1942), 766, 772–773. See also Francesco Cordasco, Daniel Coit Gilman and the Protean Ph.D. (Leiden, 1960). []
  7. W. Stull Holt, “Historical Scholarship,” in Merle Curti (ed.), American Scholarship in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass., 1953), 86–87; Marcus W. Jernegan, “Productivity of Doctors of Philosophy in History,” American Historical Review, XXXIII (October, 1927), 20. []
  8. Logan Wilson, in The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession (London, New York, and Toronto, 1942), 137, suggests one. []
  9. J. F. Wellemeyer, Jr., “Survey of United States Historians, 1952, and a Forecast,” American Historical Review, LXI (January, 1956), 341; Walter Crosby Eells, “Earned Doctorates in American Institutions of Higher Education, 1861–1955,” Higher Education, XII (March, 1956), 110; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Earned Degrees Conferred by Higher Educational Institutions, 1956–1957 (Washington, 1958), 12; 1957–1958 (Washington, 1959), 8; and 1958–1959 (Washington, 1961), 173. For literature on the role of women in higher education see Walter Crosby Eells, College Teachers and College Teaching: An Annotated Bibliography on College and University Faculty Members and Instructional Methods (Atlanta, 1957), 127–128. []
  10. See National Education Association, Research Bulletin, XXXII (December, 1954), 164, for statistics on faculty in all fields. The statistics on historians have been compiled from questionnaires completed by heads of departments in junior colleges, colleges, and universities. For information on these questionnaires see appendixes A, B, C, and F. Up-to-date statistics on total faculty are not available, and it should be remembered that the percentage of Ph.D.s on college faculties (total fields) has declined since 1953–1954. It should also be noted that the 4,516 history teachers whose degrees were reported to this committee include all the faculties of history departments that offer Ph.D. training. Their very large percentage of Ph.D.s may make our percentage of 68% for the 4,516 somewhat larger than the percentage of Ph.D.s among all history teachers in higher education. Even allowing for this, it seems highly probable that at least 65% of all the history teachers in the nation’s colleges, junior colleges, and universities have the Ph.D. (The total number of history teachers above the high school level is not known. Perhaps in 1959–1960 there were about eight thousand of them. []
  11. Wellemeyer, “Survey of United States Historians, 1952,” 345. For a report on the interviews of some 230 historians in 1959 see appendix E. Separate presentations of data on the percentages of faculty members holding the Ph.D. in junior colleges, colleges, and universities appear in chap. 4, below. They bear out the estimate that at least 65% of the nation’s history teachers in higher education hold the Ph.D. []
  12. National Education Association, Teacher Supply and Demand . . . 1957–58 and 1958–59, 50–51; Berelson, Graduate Education, 76–78. []
  13. For a list of the 16 institutions whose placement officers completed our questionnaire see appendix G. []
  14. National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (M. H. Trytten and L. R. Harmon), Doctorate Production in United States Universities, 1936–1956, with Baccalaureate Origins of Doctorates in the Sciences, Arts, and Humanities (Washington, 1958), table 3.

    Throughout this study the following regional classifications will be used: East: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. South: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Midwest: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. West: South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Alaska. []

  15. R. H. Knapp and H. B. Goodrich, The Origins of American Scientists (Chicago, 1952), 45, 53. []
  16. A. J. Brumbaugh (ed.), American Universities and Colleges, 5th ed. (Washington, 1948), tables 1–3; questionnaires completed by chairmen of 81 history departments that offer Ph.D. training. Henceforth in this study the questionnaires that have already been cited will not be footnoted. When data in the text are not accounted for in the footnotes the reader may assume that they are derived from one or another of the data-gathering tools described in the appendixes. []
  17. Holt essay in Curti (ed.), American Scholarship in the Twentieth Century, 100–101; Hesseltine and Kaplan, “Doctors of Philosophy in History,” 776–777; Wellemeyer, “Survey of United States Historians, 1952,” 342–344; and data on 1,455 new Ph.D.s, 1955–1959, reported by the Ph.D.-training departments to this committee. []
  18. See John L. Snell (ed.), European History in the South: Opportunities and Problems in Graduate Study (New Orleans, 1959). []
  19. Cyril E. Black and John M. Thompson (eds.), American Teaching About Russia (Bloomington, Ind., 1959), 22–113. []
  20. See American Council of Learned Societies Newsletter, X (June, 1959), 3–4, on the shortage of specialists in the history of religions. []
  21. The Committee of Fifteen refused to endorse the idea of a second doctorate. The following recent renewal of the idea has won very little sympathy among historians: Earl J. McGrath, The Graduate School and the Decline of Liberal Education (New York, 1959). Berelson cautiously suggests that it “might be tried,” but he admits that “only college presidents and people from departments of education favor it” (Berelson, Graduate Education, 250–251, 90). []
  22. See also Berelson, Graduate Education, 91, and chap. 5, below. []
  23. On the methods being used to meet increasing enrollments and teacher shortages see U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Clarence B. Lindquist), College and University Faculties: Recent Personnel and Instructional Practices (Washington, 1959), 21–23. Many history departments already have higher student-faculty ratios than were suggested as desirable by Beardsley Ruml and Donald H. Morrison, Memo to a College Trustee: A Report on Financial and Structural Problems of the Liberal College (New York, 1959). For a thoughtful justification of large classes see Eric A. Walker, “Quality in Quantity,” Educational Record, XL (April, 1959), 129–136. For a cogent criticism of large classes see Bruce R. Morris, “Faculty Salaries, Class Size, and Sound Education,” American Association of University Professors Bulletin, XLV (June, 1959), 196–202. On the pros and cons of educational television a large body of literature already exists. For bibliography see Walter Crosby Eells, College Teachers and College Teaching, 195–203. See especially John C. Adams and others, College Teaching by Television (Washington, 1958). A special “Committee on Utilization of College Teaching Resources” of the Fund for the Advancement of Education recommends teaching by television, large classes, small classes, and—for good measure—no classes (independent study): Better Utilization of College Teaching Resources (New York, 1959). []
  24. See, e.g., T. C. Holy and others, A Study of Faculty Demand and Supply in California Higher Education, 1957–1970 (Berkeley and Sacramento, 1958), especially 16–25, 52–54, 59–61. []