History and Literature


Dr. Lauren Kaminsky, Director of Studies 

History and Literature is the oldest concentration at Harvard. At the heart of History and Literature are individual and small group tutorials which provide individual instruction, opportunities to pursue specific topics in depth, and dedicated mentoring. Along with the core History and Literature tutorials, concentrators take concentration courses across a variety of departments and programs: Romance Languages and Literatures; African and African American Studies; Art, Film, and Visual Studies; History of Art and Architecture; Theater, Dance and Media; Music; Women, Gender, and Sexuality; as well as History, English, and many more. 

Students take a History and Literature tutorial each semester. Sophomore tutorial—taught in the sophomore spring by two instructors, one a historian, the other a literary scholar—introduces students to interdisciplinary methods and explores topics in depth. In the fall semester of junior tutorial, small groups of students collaboratively design a syllabus with the guidance of an instructor. In the junior spring, students focus on researching and writing the junior essay. The senior tutorial is one-on-one instruction, both in fall and spring, primarily devoted to researching and writing the thesis. 

Students work closely with concentration advisers to select a field of study at the end of the sophomore year. These fields are American Studies, Ethnic Studies, European Studies, Latin American Studies, Modern World, World Before 1800, and Medieval Studies. In the junior and senior years, the fields of study provide a structure to ensure that concentrators gain knowledge that is broad as well as deep. History and Literature aspires to promote the integration of disciplines and a balance between general knowledge and specific expertise. It is a demanding and immensely rewarding enterprise. 

History and Literature encourages concentrators to grow as writers and researchers, and the concentration is designed to teach students to think in interdisciplinary ways. Students develop skills in close reading, identifying and analyzing primary and secondary sources, posing research questions, conducting original research, making arguments, and communicating clearly and persuasively. 
Many concentrators choose to study abroad as a means for augmenting their work in the concentration. Advisers in the concentration work closely with students who elect to study abroad to help craft plans of study that integrate courses taken out-of-residence. 

Students interested in History and Literature are encouraged to reach out to our administrative team over email with any questions. One of the best ways to learn about what History and Literature has to offer is to enroll in one of our HL90 seminars, which are open to non-concentrators. 

History and Literature welcomes joint concentrations and secondary fields, and it aspires to make the integration of two concentrations as seamless as possible. History and Literature must be the primary concentration in any joint plan of study, except when the student plans to pursue a creative senior project. In that case, the department providing artistic training may be the primary concentration. Please see the Director of Studies with any questions about joint concentrations. 
14 courses (56 credits) 

At the end of sophomore year, each History and Literature concentrator selects a field of study and submits a Field Worksheet. Revised worksheets are submitted in the junior and senior years. A regularly-updated list of the courses that count in the various fields is available on the  History and Literature website. Courses in the social sciences on subjects related to the student's field may be accepted for concentration credit by the Committee on Instruction on an individual basis. 

  1. Required courses: 
    1. At least eight courses in the field of study, balanced between history and literature. Specific period requirements exist in several of the fields of study. Details on fields of study and their requirements are available on the  History and Literature website. Generally, courses must be letter-graded to count for concentration credit. 
    2. Language requirement:  Students must take at least one course in which they read sources in a language other than English. A list of ways to fulfill the language requirement, including by earning a language citation, is available on the History and Literature website. 
  2. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore year: History and Literature 97 (one course) required. Letter-graded. 
    2. Junior year: History and Literature 98 (two courses) required. Letter-graded. 
    3. Senior year: History and Literature 99 (two courses) required. Graded SAT/UNS. 
  3. Junior Essay: A required 6,000-word research paper is the focus of the second semester of junior tutorial. 
  4. Senior Thesis: A 10,000-20,000-word thesis is expected of all concentrators and required for concentration honors. A student enrolled in History and Literature 99 who does not complete a thesis can receive credit for this course by completing a paper in the relevant field. 
  5. Senior Honors Oral Examination: A one-hour oral examination is required of all concentrators, except those who do not submit a thesis by the deadline for consideration for honors. 
  6. Other information: 
    1. Fields of Study: 
      1. American Studies 
      2. Ethnic Studies 
      3. European Studies 
      4. Latin American Studies 
      5. Modern World 
      6. World before 1800 
      7. Medieval World 
    2. Subfields: In the junior year, concentrators may propose subfields, which consist of 2 or 3 courses that would not otherwise count toward the student's field of study. Students will be examined on the subfield during the senior oral exam. 
    3. Study Abroad: History and Literature encourages study abroad. Generally, students will take an additional course that counts for concentration credit to replace the tutorial they miss while abroad. Students who successfully complete the junior essay process while studying abroad in the junior spring will receive a one-course reduction in the 14 total concentration courses. 
    4. Joint Concentrations: History and Literature allows joint concentrations, but it must be the primary concentration in any joint plan of study, except when the student plans to pursue a creative senior project. 
    5. Independent Study: With the permission of the Director of Studies, concentrators may be allowed to take History and Literature 91r for credit. 
Each student is assigned to a tutor who also functions as that student’s academic adviser. The adviser and student work closely together to assemble a Plan of Concentration that fits the student’s intellectual interests and fulfills concentration requirements. Each student is also assigned a concentration adviser who will be a resource for the student through every stage of the concentration. History and Literature’s personalized academic advising gives students a flexible, individualized educational experience. 
Students are invited to visit History and Literature in Barker 122 and online. Lauren Kaminsky is the Director of Studies. 


Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
History and Literature 152 151 151 138 140 142 120 128 142 147 144 138
History and Literature + another field* 6 4 5 7 11 7 7 7 13 24 36 42



*History and Literature participates in joint concentrations only as the primary field.