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Majoring in History

(The History Major Handbook can be found here)

Students majoring in History must complete 11 courses (33 credits) . Of those 33 credit hours at least 18 must be taken in residence at the College or at the University of St. Andrews, or with faculty in those departments, and no more than six of the remaining 15 semester credits may be Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate credit. The 33 credit hours must include the following:

  1. HIST 490c/491c “Capstone Seminar” Requirement: Completion of at least one HIST 490c/491c “Capstone Seminar” is required for the history degree. It will count for 4 credits.  Students usually enroll in a colloquium in their junior or senior year. Individuals who intend to write an Honors thesis in History are encouraged to take the colloquium in their junior year in order to gain desirable writing and research experience. Students must get at least a C in the “Capstone Seminar.”  The HIST 490c or HIST 491c Capstone Seminar will fulfill the major writing and the major computing requirement.
  2. Upper-Division Course Requirement: History majors must complete at least six courses at the 200-level or above. The “Capstone Seminar” counts as one of these.
  3. Geographic and Cultural Distribution Requirement: History majors must successfully complete

-Two courses in European history
-Two courses in the history of the United States or early North America north of Mexico
-Two courses outside of European or U.S./early North American history
-Either HIST 191 or HIST 192 (Global History) can be counted for any of the above six requirements

      4.   Chronological Distribution Requirement: History majors must complete at least one course focusing primarily on pre-1800 material and at least one course focusing primarily on post-1800 material.

History majors will meet the Major Writing and Computing requirement when they pass the upper-level Capstone Seminar (HIST 490C or 491C) with a grade of C or better.   


The Department strongly recommends that history majors take HIST 290 (The Historian’s Craft) within the first year after declaring the history major.
The Department also strongly recommends that students who wish to pursue honors should take the Capstone Seminar in their junior year to gain valuable writing and research experience.


The remaining semester hours beyond the core requirements are for electives of the student’s choosing. Students should not confine these elective hours to introductory surveys, nor should they limit their upper-level courses to the history of any one nation or single period. Instead, they should ponder their career inclinations and plan accordingly. For instance, a history major intending to teach secondary school in Virginia might register for classes that cover the whole chronological expanse of U.S. history; another individual, wishing to pursue a foreign service career, might seek out multiple courses on non-Western topics. In the case of history majors who wish to enter graduate programs in history, it is important that their undergraduate class choices reflect, to some extent, what they intend to study in graduate school: thus students who aim for a PhD in American or medieval or European history should take advantage of American, medieval, and European course offerings in the Department’s curriculum.


It is also highly recommended that students supplement their history courses with classes in other departments. Foreign language study is especially important. Even students in American history must pass a foreign language exam in graduate school; those in non-American fields often must pass two foreign language exams. Equally important, foreign language study provides invaluable insight into other cultures not easily obtainable through other courses. History majors might also consider courses in economics, if they have a liking for economic history, or courses in anthropology for those interested in social or cultural history.