Social Studies

Dr. Anya Bernstein Bassett, Director of Studies 
Social Studies was founded in 1960 by a distinguished group of faculty who believed that the study of the social world requires an integration of the disciplines of history, political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology. For over five decades, Social Studies has brought together outstanding teachers and intellectually engaged students who share a fascination with social science research and theory and a deep interest in applying social science to contemporary social, economic, and political problems. 
The common introduction to Social Studies is Social Studies 10, which introduces students to some of the thinkers who have durably shaped the way we understand modern society. Students examine the development of modern moral, political, and economic ideas and they consider the role of the individual in modern society, studying foundational texts by Rousseau, Smith, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Du Bois, Beauvoir, Foucault, and Fanon. Throughout Social Studies 10, students are taught to read theoretical arguments carefully and critically and to juxtapose them against historical developments and social experience. Social Studies 10 is taught both in lecture and in small group tutorials where discussion and writing skills are emphasized. 
The purpose of the junior tutorials in Social Studies is to immerse students in a detailed and focused study of an empirical, theoretical, or historical topic in the social sciences. Junior tutorials also teach social science and historical methodology, providing students with instruction on research techniques and offering them experience in conducting primary research in preparation for their senior theses. 
Students develop an individualized focus field in consultation with their academic adviser. They identify an area of interest (for example: inequality, development, or modern social theory) and create a plan of study. A Social Studies plan of study includes a minimum of four courses, normally drawn from at least two social science departments and including at least one course on a historical topic. Students may petition to take social science courses taught in non-social science departments or courses offered at some of Harvard’s professional schools. A student who is studying inequality might take one course in sociology, one course in economics, one course in history, and one course at the Harvard Kennedy School. A student who is studying development might take two courses in economics, one course in anthropology, and one course in history. A student of social theory might take one course in philosophy, two courses in history, and two courses in government (political theory). 
In the senior year, all Social Studies concentrators enroll in a one-on-one tutorial (Social Studies 99) in preparation for researching and writing a senior thesis. This is a requirement for all concentrators. 
All sophomores considering concentrating in Social Studies must take Social Studies 10a: Introduction to Social Studies, in the fall term. This course is a prerequisite for submitting a Declaration of Intent, which is due in mid-October for students who are planning to declare Social Studies as their concentration in November. 
Transfer students and second-semester sophomores seeking to change concentrations can submit a Declaration of Intent to Social Studies on the first day of classes in the spring term (January 25th , 2021). If the Declaration of Intent is approved, those students may become Social Studies concentrators immediately, but will need to wait to start Social Studies 10 in the fall of their junior year. First semester juniors can submit a Declaration of Intent by the first day of classes in the fall (September 2nd, 2020) and may also become Social Studies concentrators immediately. 
13 courses (52 credits) 
  1. Required courses: 
    1. Social Studies 10a and 10b. 
    2. Social Studies 98, the junior tutorial. Students must take two junior tutorials. 
    3. Social Studies 99a and Social Studies 99b (off sequence students may take two terms of Social Studies 99a or two terms of Social Studies 99b). 
    4. One course in economics. This requirement can be fulfilled by taking Economics 10a and/or 10b, Economics 50, or by taking one course in economics for which Economics 10 is recommended preparation. The economics requirement must be completed by the end of the junior year. 
    5. One course in elementary statistics. The statistics requirement must be completed by the end of the junior year. 
    6. A course in a methodology appropriate to the focus field. This requirement may be fulfilled by taking Social Studies 50, Social Studies 60, or by taking an appropriate substitute. Students must complete this requirement by the end of the junior year. 
    7. Four to six courses in the student’s focus field. These courses will be selected in consultation with the student’s adviser and must be approved by the Social Studies Board of Instruction. The focus field should be drawn from two social science departments and must include at least one course on a historical topic. Up to two focus field courses may be taken outside of FAS. 
  2. Tutorials
    1. Sophomore year: Social Studies 10a and 10b (two terms). Letter-graded. Weekly lectures and discussion sections in groups of eight students. 
    2. Junior year: Social Studies 98. Two terms required. 
    3. Senior year: Social Studies 99a and b. The writing of a senior thesis. Graded SAT/UNS. Each thesis has two independent readers. 
  3. Thesis: Required. 
  4. General Examination: An oral examination taken at the end of the senior year which includes a defense of the thesis and a general exam, which emphasizes the themes and thinkers taught in Social Studies 10 discussed in relation to the student’s work in Social Studies. 
Joint Concentrations 
Social Studies allows joint concentrations with interdisciplinary programs that include social science faculty: generally, African and African American Studies, East Asian Studies, Environmental Science and Public Policy, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Religion, South Asian Studies, Philosophy, and The Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, We do not allow joint concentrations with science or humanities departments or with social science departments that we share faculty with (anthropology, economics, government, history, or sociology). 
Each student entering the concentration is assigned an adviser who sits on the Social Studies Board of Advisers and is responsible for helping the student plan his or her course of study. In the first semester of concentration, the adviser is that student’s sophomore tutor. Whenever possible, the same adviser continues to serve in this capacity until the student graduates. When this is not possible, another adviser is assigned who, to the extent possible, shares interests with the student. Students must meet with their advisers at least three times a year to discuss course selection, their focus field, and their plan of study; more frequent meetings are strongly encouraged. The Director of Studies heads the Board of Advisers. 
For up-to-date information on advising in Social Studies, please go to or visit the Advising Programs Office website
For more information, contact the Assistant Director of Studies for Freshmen and Sophomores, Dr. Bonnie Talbert, or the Undergraduate Program Administrator, Kate Anable, on the third floor of William James Hall (617-495-2163). 
Number of Concentrators as of December
Social Studies
Social Studies + another field
Another field + Social Studies