Why take courses in this discipline?

College history classes are often very different from the classes you took in high school: they’re based less on names, facts, and dates and more on how historians develop skills in interpreting historical sources to better understand the past. History students pursue important issues (from the rise and fall of slavery in the Americas to the ways in which gender relations shaped society in modern China), typically learning in detail about the everyday life, politics, and culture of the United States and other societies around the world. They also hone their writing skills and become strong researchers, developing in-depth individual research projects in seminars and MAPs.

Because of their breadth and their focus on many diverse skills, history courses prepare students for a wide variety of careers. Many history majors go on to careers in education and advocacy, working as teachers, lawyers, museum curators, leaders of nonprofit organizations, and government workers. Other history majors have become computer programmers, film festival organizers, artists, and business consultants, showing the power, versatility, and depth of a history education.

How does this discipline contribute to the liberal arts?

History helps students understand the world around them and to develop their skills in writing, research, argumentation, and critical thinking. History courses provide a new perspective and greater depth to study in nearly every field: the economics major requires a history class, and nearly all students in the foreign languages take history classes to better understand the culture at the heart of their major. History is crucial to understanding our increasingly diverse world because of the way it helps students understand other societies and develop a sense of empathy for people who lived in other times and places.

What kinds of questions are asked in this discipline?

The study of history involves two types of questions: questions about the past and questions about how we can better understand the past. The first category includes questions about the causes of events and the way people in the past understood the world around them. (How did the North win the American Civil War, for example? What caused the French Revolution? Were political jokes under Stalin different from political jokes in America?) The second category includes methodological questions: what should scholars do when two sources disagree, or when records from the past are silent on important issues? How should historians work with bias in historical sources? History students, in short, learn in depth about different cultures and societies while learning to ask important analytical questions.

How does a student get started?

First-year students interested in history should begin by taking a section of Introduction to Historical Inquiry (HIS 100). Each section of HIS 100 has a theme of its own, covering subjects like “Europe After the Great War,” “The Spanish Conquest of America,” “Digital History,” “The Conservation Movement,” “Global Reformations,” "East and West Encounters," and “The Prophet Muhammad.” Every section of the class begins with a common unit on how historians understand the past before delving into its main topic in depth, using that topic as a case study in how scholars interpret history. HIS 100 is required for all history majors and serves as a prerequisite for first-year students taking a 200-level class in history. Any student with second-year standing can take any 200-level history class without having taken HIS 100.

AP/IB Credit

A score of 4 or 5 on the AP European history, U.S. history, or world history, or a score of 5 on the IB African history, American history, or European history exam, would count for four credits in the social studies division but do not count for credit toward the history major. 

Courses in History

All Courses in History

The history department also posts syllabi for past courses for you to browse!

Regular 200-Level Courses

  • Colonial Latin America
  • Modern Latin America
  • Democracy in America, 1789-1848
  • Foundations of U.S. Popular Culture
  • Historical Perspectives on U.S. Education
  • American Civil War and Reconstruction
  • US Environmental History
  • Women in American History
  • Health and Medicine in American History
  • Native American History
  • African American History
  • Medieval Europe, 400-1400
  • Renaissance, Reformation, Exploration
  • Tudor and Stuart England, 1485-1707
  • Britain in the Age of Enlightenment
  • Modern Britain and the Empire
  • The Spectacle of Modern France
  • The Making of Modern Germany
  • Modern Africa from the Sahara to the Zambezi
  • The Crusades in the Middle East
  • Islam and Gender
  • History of the Modern Middle East
  • The Roman Republic
  • History of Ancient Greece
  • Science & Society
  • Surveillance in Modern History
  • China’s Rise
  • When the World Became Global
  • The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union

Recent Seminars

  • The U.S. Civil War: History and Memory
  • Politics in the Early Republic
  • The European Metropolis
  • Stalinism
  • American Women Since WWII
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • American Indian Reservations
  • Order and Disorder in Early Modern Europe
  • Latin America and the United States
  • Illicit Medicine
  • Decolonization
  • Law and Society in Chinese History

Recent Special Topics

  • Classical Asia
  • Gender and Power in Chinese History
  • Modern History of Israel/Palestine
  • Origins of Capitalism
  • Reckoning with the Past in Modern Africa
  • Craft Histories
Sample Four-Year Plan for a History Major
Year Fall Spring
First HIS 100 HIS 100 or HIS 2XX if HIS 100 is completed
Second HIS 2XX HIS 2XX
Third HIS 2XX or HIS 3XX or off-campus study HIS 2XX or HIS 3XX or off-campus study
Fourth HIS 2XX or HIS 3XX or 499 (MAP) HIS 2XX or HIS 3XX or 499 (MAP)

Off-Campus Study

History students have studied off-campus in sites as diverse as London, Tokyo, Chicago, Buenos Aires, and Irkutsk, Russia: everywhere has a history, and the department encourages many students to spend a semester abroad to broaden their history education and their grounding in the liberal arts. The department does not pre-approve off-campus study courses in advance, but generally accepts courses at other institutions if they are historical in nature and do not duplicate the department’s curriculum.

Contributions to Other Majors/Concentrations

Some courses in history are cross-listed with:

Courses in history contribute to the concentrations in:

Department Events and Opportunities

Students in the history department complete internships at sites of historical interest, and the department hosts several talks and events each year to cultivate a sense of community among students and faculty interested in history. The department also sponsors travel fellowships, which allow students to travel to archives in the US and abroad to complete research on historical questions that interest them.

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