Mary A. Conley, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair
The Department of History offers a wide range of courses dealing with most of the world’s major civilizations. Historians utilize a variety of theoretical approaches, research methods and sources to study the process of change over time and examine all aspects of human experience in the past. History intersects with, and draws upon, other disciplines including sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, arts and literature. Students considering a history major are encouraged to pursue the study of a foreign language beyond the intermediate level and to study away for one or two semesters.
The History department offers the courses summarized below. (More detailed descriptions are available online and can be accessed from the department’s home page.)
100-level introductory surveys and topical courses are suitable for majors and non-majors. Survey courses offer students a broad overview of a continent, region, country, or people over several generations. Through lectures, discussions, reading, and writing, students learn to consider continuity and change over time by assessing and interpreting evidence. Whereas survey courses adopt a panoramic perspective, topical courses — labeled “Historical Themes” and some Montserrat courses — zoom in for a closer view. Instead of a single large textbook, students might read parts of several monographs and sources from the actual time period. Short writing assignments are augmented by considerable oral work, with discussions generally predominating over lectures.
200-level intermediate courses are suitable for majors and in many, but not all cases, non-majors. They place greater emphasis on concepts such as colonialism, nationalism, feminism, and post-modernism, or on the role of ideology, gender, race, ethnicity and class in history. They may also incorporate approaches that are more global, transnational, and comparative. Readings emphasize monographs, journal articles and primary sources. Some lectures, discussions, student-led oral presentations and debates consider questions of historical interpretation, theory and methodology. Writing assignments are fewer in number but of greater length and complexity than those at the introductory level.
300 and 400-level advanced courses are open to third- and fourth-year history majors who have taken The Historian’s Craft (HIST 200). Non-majors with appropriate background may also enroll with the permission of the instructor. Admission to all 400-level courses is by permission only. 300-level courses delve deeply into a topic or area of history that students may have encountered previously in an introductory or intermediate course. Enrollment is limited to 16 students, in order to facilitate student engagement with the topic and active participation in class discussions, group research projects, and presentations of their research. Students have more opportunity for independence and initiative in shaping their papers and projects, including both historiographical papers and longer research papers that may employ primary sources. Courses at the 400 level include seminars (limited to 12 students), tutorials, and thesis preparation. Students are expected to produce a substantial paper as a final project and some form of oral presentation of the project at the end of the term. Success in 400-level courses relies on the student’s ability to take initiative in the research process by consulting regularly and meeting with the professor or thesis advisor, through compilation of a bibliography, and being fully active in discussions and debates.
Requirements for the Major
Majors must take a minimum of 10 courses and may take a maximum of 14 courses. Advanced Placement credits do not count toward that total.
First-year students interested in majoring in History are encouraged to take Montserrat courses taught by members of the department. A sequence of two such Montserrat courses counts as one course toward the History major. First-year students are also encouraged to enroll in 100-level History courses. Students should take at least one college-level history course prior to enrolling in HIST 200, The Historian’s Craft, which is ordinarily taken in the second year.
History majors must complete the following requirements:
• At least five courses for the major must be numbered 201 or higher, including two courses numbered 300 or higher.
• All majors are required to take The Historian’s Craft (HIST 200.) This course is normally taken in the sophomore year, after the student has completed at least one college-level history course; no seniors will be admitted to it. Historian’s Craft is a prerequisite for all advanced courses at the 300 or 400 level. Non-majors without Historian’s Craft must receive permission from the instructor to enroll in advanced courses.
• All majors must take at least two Pre-Industrial/Pre-Modern courses. (A list of Pre-Industrial/ Pre-Modern courses is available online and can be accessed from the department’s home page; copies are also available in the Department office.)
• Thematic Concentration: All majors must select one of the following six themes as a field of concentration within the major: Colonialism and Empire; Gender in Public and Private Life; Race and Ethnicity; Religion and Society; Resistance, Revolution and Reaction; War and Memory. With the assistance of a faculty advisor in the department, each student submits a rationale and a course plan during the fall semester of the junior year. The course plan must include four courses that can be clustered within the chosen theme. One of these four courses may be at the 100 level; one of these four must be at the 300 or 400 level. The theme must incorporate more than one geographic area. The Historian’s Craft course cannot be included in one’s thematic concentration. (A list of courses that address each of these themes is available online and can be accessed from the department’s home page; copies are also available in the Department office.)
• All majors must complete a Capstone Project. This project must be completed during the senior year, in the student’s Thematic Concentration, within a 300- or 400- level course. The Capstone Project is a summative research project of significant length. The specific nature of the Capstone Project is at the discretion of the instructor of the course.
• Fourth-year majors will not be admitted to 100-level courses, except with special permission from the Department Chair.
• Transfer students and students who study away may receive credit toward the major for up to four history courses if they are away for a year or up to two history courses if they are away for a semester. Courses taken elsewhere must be approved by the History department for credit toward the major.
Advanced Placement Credit: As described above, students with AP credit in history earn placement in the history curriculum but AP credit does not count toward the number of courses required for the major. Students in the Class of 2018 with Advanced Placement scores of 4 or 5 in History may qualify to enroll in 200-level courses during their first year.
The Department of History offers the opportunity for fourth-year students to be nominated for the History Honors Program. Students aspiring to graduate with Honors in History are required to take a minimum of two advanced courses (at the 300 or 400 level) — one of which must be a 400-level seminar — and, in addition, to work closely with a member of the history faculty on a research thesis during their senior year. The program offers the intellectual rewards of independent research and original writing, and provides recognition for outstanding achievement by students in the major.