History

Professor Lisa McGirr,  Director of Undergraduate Studies

What is History, and how do we view the world?

Our goal in History is to foster both critical and research skills in our students, a combination that will enhance their entire Harvard experience and serve them far beyond their college years. To achieve this, the History concentration combines rigor with flexibility, facilitates close student engagement with our diverse faculty, and solicits regular student input. Finally, the History Department faculty teach courses that seek to unsettle students - encouraging them to confront unfamiliar ideas, cultures, and eras - and to question their own assumptions about the world and their place in it.

What is it like to study History at Harvard?

Students of history are always studying something else beyond history. Historians study politics and government; diplomacy and international relations; science and technology; finance and economics; religion and philosophy; literature and arts; cultural and social changes and exchanges; archaeology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology, and genetics. Interdisciplinarity is native to historical practice. Our students familiarize themselves with the methods and theoretical assumptions of other disciplines, even while learning how these methods and theories are just as much products of history as the questions they were developed to address. History makes all your interests more interesting.

What is the value of studying History?

History students examine issues critically and creatively, grasp details while seeing the big picture, and think boldly but flexibly enough to change their opinions when change is warranted. These are the skills of a sophisticated thinker and a responsible citizen. They are also valued in countless fields. Graduates move on to law school, business school, academic careers in various fields, teaching, journalism, government, and non-profit work. Students wind up in exciting places during college as well, through summer jobs, internships, academic programs, service initiatives, and terms or school years abroad.

What are the goals of the History concentration?

History students study how societies and people functioned in various contexts in the past and how the past continues to shape the present. Our faculty help students learn how to analyze complex events and craft original arguments from large amounts of disparate evidence. This capacity for research is one of the central goals of the concentration, and it creates skills that carry over into a wide array of postgraduate opportunities, especially those that value the ability to process complicated sets of information, to take multiple perspectives on that information, and to communicate effectively and concisely about it. Students are encouraged to follow their own interests while the department provides structured guidance and rigorous training in research skills, critical reading, oral communication, effective writing, and problem solving.  The discipline enables students to engage with the unfamiliar with confidence and creativity. 

Do I have to write a thesis?

History has two tracks, basic and honors. They differ only in that the honors track requires a thesis as well as enrollment in History 99, our year-long Thesis Seminar. Our advising programs support students who begin preliminary thesis work as early as junior year, and numerous college fellowships provide funding for summertime research. The thesis program itself is flexible enough that students can decide as late as shopping week senior fall whether to write a thesis. Meanwhile, the requirement to produce a substantial research paper in one of your History seminars ensures that either way, you will produce an original work of historical scholarship that can be the capstone to your undergraduate academic career.

Are there other options instead of a full concentration?

Our robust secondary field requires five courses, including one seminar. Our faculty are well represented in the Gen Ed course offerings and in interdisciplinary courses with a variety of disciplines. Hundreds of non-concentrators every semester take classes from History faculty, gaining an introduction to the critical and creative skills historians emphasize. No matter what interests you, History has something to offer—everything has a history, and our Department teaches you how to recover, recreate, interpret, and use it.

REQUIREMENTS
Basic Program: 10 courses (40 credits)
Thesis Program: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. One course that focuses significantly on U.S. or European history.
    2. One course that focuses significantly on history beyond the U.S. and Europe.
    3. One course that focuses significantly on historical societies before 1750.
    4. Four additional courses in history, to be chosen in consultation with the student’s House adviser, who signs the study card. Each concentrator may petition the DUS to receive History credit for one non-departmental course. This “related field” might be a course of an historical nature taught by other faculty in the College, or a course providing auxiliary knowledge or skills related to the concentrator’s historical interests.
  2. Tutorials:
    1. History 97 (offered in spring): taken during the first term in the concentration (required and letter-graded).
    2. Two Seminars: Ordinarily taken by the end of the second term of the junior year (required and letter-graded). In at least one of these students must write a substantial research paper. For students wishing to write a senior thesis, that research paper must be at least 20 pages long and involve primary source research.
    3. Basic Program: No thesis.
      Thesis Program: History 99 (year-long 8-credit course, required, and graded SAT/UNS).
  3. General Examination: Oral Examination for highest (departmental) honors candidates.
  4. Other information:
    1. History courses: The courses listed under History in the course catalog (including cross-listed courses) as well as other courses taught outside the Department by members of the Department of History are available for History credit without petition. Courses of an historical nature taught by other faculty in the College in related fields may be taken for History credit by petition to the DUS.
    2. SAT/UNS: Courses, aside from History 99, taken on a SAT/UNS (Pass/Fail) basis may not be counted for concentration credit.
    3. Advanced Placement: The History Concentration does not grant credit for AP scores.
    4. Study Abroad: The History Department encourages study out of residence and urges interested students to consult the DUS about their programs at their earliest convenience. Additional information is available at http://history.fas.harvard.edu/main-concentration-study-abroad.
    5. Freshman Seminars: Freshman Seminars taught by members of the History Department count toward concentration credit; as a general rule other Freshman Seminars do not. In case of uncertainty please contact the Undergraduate Office.

Joint Concentrations in East Asian, Near Eastern, and Ancient (Greek and Roman) History

Students whose interest in African and African American Studies, Anthropology, East Asian, Near Eastern, or Ancient (Greek and Roman) civilizations is primarily historical in character should consider the relevant joint concentration which has been pre-approved in each of these areas. The goal of each program is to introduce students to the craft of historical study - the ways historians make sense of the past, and the skills of historical analysis, writing, and research - as well as to promote a critical understanding of the historical experience of African/African American/East Asian/Near Eastern/Greek and Roman societies, or to join together the fields of historical and anthropological study (archeological or social).

Joint concentrations with certain other fields are possible, but are designed on a case-by-case basis in consultation with both departments.

Students pursuing one of the pre-approved joint concentrations will complete one-half of their tutorial work in the History Department (History 97) and the other half in African and African American Studies, Anthropology, East Asian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, or the Classics. Students take a History seminar, typically in junior year,  in which they write a 20-page research paper based on primary sources; in addition they take a seminar or junior tutorial in the joint field as specified in each case. In the senior year, joint concentrators write an honors thesis, an original work of research which is advised and evaluated in both concentations and which typically focuses on some aspect of African, African American, East Asian, Near Eastern, or Ancient Greek and Roman history, or is located at the intersection of history and anthropology (archaeological or social)..

All joint concentrators are required to take 14 courses, including the senior thesis tutorial in History or the joint field.

Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in History and African and African American Studies (African Studies track): 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. Study of an African language (2 courses).  
  2. AAAS 11
  3. Sophomore Tutorial: History 97 and AAAS 97
  4. AAAS 98
  5. One History Research seminar focused on Africa and resulting in a 20-page research paper based on primary sources
  6. Senior thesis tutorial: History 99 or AAAS 99 (full year)
  7. 5 courses in History and AAAS Studies which must include:
    1. One U.S. or European history course
    2. One pre-modern history course
    3. Three courses in African / AAAS history (one must be a modern African history course)

Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in History and African and African American Studies (African American Studies track): 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. AAAS 10 (Introduction to African American Studies);
  2. Two courses in African American Studies— one in humanities, one in social sciences
  3. One course in African American History pre-20th century (if not available consult DUS)
  4. Sophomore tutorials: History 97 and AAAS 97
  5. One History Research Seminar (ideally focused on African American History) and resulting in a research paper of at least 20 pages based on primary sources
  6. AAAS 98
  7. Senior thesis tutorial: History 99 or AAAS 99 (full year)
  8. 4 courses in History and AAAS Studies. These must include:
    1. one pre-modern History course
    2. Three African/AAAS history courses, of which one must be a modern African history course

Please also note the following information:

Two types of courses count automatically toward AAAS/History concentration requirements:

  1. Courses listed in the course catalogue's "History" section and historical courses in the catalogue's "AAAS" section, as determined in consultation with the History DUS.
  2. Courses taught in the General Education and/or Freshman Seminar programs by members of the History or AAAS Department Faculty. Students wishing to count such courses toward their concentration requirements should consult the Undergraduate Office, as they may need to file a petition requiring approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students may also apply to do an independent study, or History 91r, with a member of the Department; History 91r can be used to fulfill one of the elective course requirements.

The joint concentration also regularly accepts credit from Study Abroad toward concentration requirements. With the exception of certain Freshman Seminars taught by History or AAAS faculty (see above), courses taken on Pass/Fail basis may not be counted for concentration credit.

Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in History and Anthropology (Archaeology or Social Anthropology track, or both): 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. Four Anthropology Courses (in Social Anthropology or Archeology or a mix of both), including one of either Anthropology 1610 or Anthropology 1010
  2. Sophomore tutorials: History 97; Anthropology 97x or 97z
  3. Junior tutorials/seminars: Anthropology 98a; a seminar in History resulting in a 20-page research paper using primary sources
  4. Senior thesis tutorial History 99 or Anthropology 99 (full-year)     
  5. Four additional courses
    1. One Western history course
    2. One Pre-modern history course
    3. One Non-Western history course
    4. Another course in History

Please also note the following information:

Two types of courses count automatically toward Anthropology/History concentration requirements:

  1. Courses listed in the course catalogue's "History" section and historical courses in the catalogue's "Anthropology" section, as determined in consultation with the History DUS.
  2. Courses taught in the General Education and/or Freshman Seminar programs by members of the History or Anthropology Department Faculty. Students wishing to count such courses toward their concentration requirements should consult the Undergraduate Office, as they may need to file a petition requiring approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students may also apply to do an independent study, or History 91r, with a member of the Department; History 91r can be used to fulfill one of the elective course requirements.

The joint concentration also regularly accepts credit from Study Abroad toward concentration requirements. With the exception of certain Freshman Seminars taught by History or Anthropology faculty (see above), courses taken on Pass/Fail basis may not be counted for concentration credit.

Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in East Asian History: 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. East Asian Language Courses (4 courses): Four courses of study of an East Asian language.
  2. Additional Coursework (8 courses)
    1. History 97.
    2. East Asian Studies 97. Both 97 tutorials are offered in the spring term only; students may choose to take both during their sophomore spring, or to take one in the sophomore spring and the other in the junior spring.
    3. One seminar focused on East Asian History and culminating in a 20 page research paper involving primary search. Must be completed by the end of the junior spring, in preparation for the senior thesis.
    4. One course that focuses significantly on U.S. or European history.
    5. One course in pre-modern East Asian History.
    6. One course in modern East Asian History.
    7. Two additional electives within East Asian History.
  3. Senior Thesis (2 courses) Students who wish to pursue a joint concentration in East Asian History must write a Senior Thesis, which also requires enrollment in one of two year-long Senior Thesis Seminars: either History 99 or East Asian Studies 99. Students may select either seminar.

Please also note the following information:

Two types of courses count automatically toward East Asian History concentration requirements:

  1. Courses listed in courses.my.harvard.edu "History" course search (especially 1600-level courses) and "East Asian Languages and Civilization" section (especially under "East Asian Studies," as well as "Japanese History," "Chinese History," and "Korean History"), including cross-listed courses; and
  2. Courses taught in the General Education and/or Freshman Seminar programs by full members of the History faculty or historical courses taught by faculty in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Students wishing to count such courses toward their concentration requirements should consult the Undergraduate Office, as they may need to file a petition requiring approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students may also apply to do an independent study, or History 91r, with a member of the Department; History 91r can be used to fulfill one of the elective course requirements.

The joint concentration also regularly accepts credit from both Study Abroad and Advanced Standing toward concentration requirements. With the exception of certain Freshman Seminars taught by History or East Asian Studies faculty (see above), courses taken on Pass/Fail basis may not be counted for concentration credit.

Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in Near Eastern History: 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. Near Eastern Language Courses (4 courses): Four courses of study of a Near Eastern language.
  2. Additional Coursework (8 courses)
    1. History 97.
    2. NEC 101.
      Both 97 tutorials are offered in the spring term only; students may choose to take both during their sophomore spring, or to take one in the sophomore spring and the other in the junior spring.
    3. One seminar focused on Near Eastern History or an equivalent type of research seminar in NELC that meets with the approval of the Undergraduate Office and culminating in a 20 page research paper involving primary source research. Must be completed by the end of the junior spring, in preparation for the senior thesis.
    4. One course that focuses significantly on U.S. or European history.
    5. One course in pre-modern Near Eastern History.
    6. One course in modern Near Eastern History.
    7. Two additional electives within Near Eastern History
  3. Senior Thesis (2 courses): Students who wish to pursue a joint concentration in Near Eastern History must write a Senior Thesis, which also requires enrollment in one of two year-long Senior Thesis Seminars: either History 99 or Near Eastern Studies 99. Students may select either seminar.

Please also note the following information:

Two types of courses count automatically toward NELC/History concentration requirements:

  1. Courses listed in the course catalogue's "History" section and approved courses in the catalogue's "Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations" section, as determined in consultation with the History DUS.
  2. Courses taught in the General Education and/or Freshman Seminar programs by full members of the History or NELC Department Faculty. Students wishing to count such courses toward their concentration requirements should consult the Undergraduate Office, as they may need to file a petition requiring approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students may also apply to do an independent study, or History 91r, with a member of the Department; History 91r can be used to fulfill one of the elective course requirements.

The joint concentration also regularly accepts credit from both Study Abroad and Advanced Standing toward concentration requirements. With the exception of certain Freshman Seminars taught by History or NELC faculty (see above), courses taken on Pass/Fail basis may not be counted for concentration credit.

Concentration requirements for the Joint Concentration in Ancient History (Greek and Roman): 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. Classical Language Courses (4 courses): Four courses of study of one or two classical languages.
  2. Additional Coursework (8 courses)
    1. History 97.
    2. Classical Studies 97a or 97b.
      History 97 is offered in the spring term only; if combining with Classical Studies 97b (on Rome), also offered in the spring, students may choose either to take both during their sophomore spring, or to take one in the sophomore spring and the other in the junior spring.
    3. Classics 98. Must be completed by the end of the junior spring, in preparation for the senior thesis.
    4. Classical Studies 112.
    5. One non-Western History course.
    6. One modern History course.
    7. Two additional electives within Ancient History.
      Additional note: One of the four history courses should be a seminar that results in a research paper of at least 20 pages and involving primary source research and that is completed before the end of the junior year.
  3. Senior Thesis (2 courses): either History 99 or Classics 99. Students may select either seminar.

Please also note the following information:

Students who complete the thesis will be eligible for honors; the department in which the student chooses to take the senior tutorial will be responsible for making the final determination of honors.

Two types of courses count toward Ancient History (Greek and Roman) concentration requirements:

  1. Courses listed in the course catalog's "History" section and "Classics" section, including cross-listed courses.
  2. Courses taught in the General Education and/or Freshman Seminar programs by full members of the History or Classics Department faculty. Students wishing to count such courses toward their concentration requirements should request approval from the relevant Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students may also apply to do an independent study, History 91r or Classics 93r, with a member of the relevant Department; History 91r/Classics 93r can be used to fulfill one of the elective course requirements.

ADVISING

Students are encouraged to come to the History Undergraduate Office in Robinson 101 for information and advice about the History concentration. It is particularly important for anyone considering a concentration in History to make an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies - the sooner the better and in any case in advance of the concentration deadline (mid-November of sophomore year). The Director of Undergraduate Studies is Professor Lisa McGirr. She and the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies both hold weekly office hours and see students throughout the year. Each House has a History Adviser on staff (resident or non-resident), and each History concentrator who requests one will be assigned a Faculty Adviser.

Freshmen interested in exploring History as a concentration are encouraged to take one or more of the following in the pre-concentration period: a Freshman Seminar or any Gen Ed course offered by a member of the department, any lecture course designated as a broad survey in the department (which counts for Gen Ed credit), and/or a seminar in the fall of the sophomore year.

For lists of Peer Concentration Counselors and House Advisers in History and other useful links, please see the History Undergraduate Office website.

RESOURCES

In addition to the History Department Library, located on the second floor of Robinson Hall, many other valuable resources available to undergraduates are listed in A Student Guide to the Harvard University Library.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

Please visit the department’s website for more information about the History concentration. The office is open Monday–Friday 9:00am–5:00pm and may be reached by telephone at 617-495-2157. Students may sign up for an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies at the History Department's website for undergraduates.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
History 231 216 184 170 156 174 156 150 146 136
*History + another field 10 1 6 9 8 5 11 6 7 9
*Another field + History 1 0 2 1 2 5 9 10 10 5





 

 

*Ordinarily, History does not participate in joint concentrations other than East Asian History, a joint concentration with East Asian Studies; Near Eastern History, a joint concentration with Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; and Ancient History (Greek and Roman), a joint concentration with the Classics.