A Guide for Prospective Majors
Majoring in History
The History Major consists of not less than eight and no more than twelve courses selected from the History list (which can be found on the website as Comprehensive Course List). The major seems complex but is quite easy to navigate. What follows will help you to understand how it works.
History Course Levels
History Courses are divided into three levels: 100, 200, 300. At the bottom are broad survey courses introducing new students to the main area. An example is the three part series on American History (HIST 111-13). In the middle are more specifically focused courses, some with a thematic rather than regional coverage, like Social History of Modern Europe (HIST 231), and others covering periods, like Antebellum America (HIST 219). At this level there are also non-Western history courses, such as the various courses in African or Chinese History. At the top are seminar courses which are both specific and intensively taught in a small class setting. Somewhere between the 200 and 300 levels are the "Topics" courses, some of which are more like seminars. Students can count up to two 100 level courses towards the Major, and must take one seminar (or an approved "topics" course) to graduate. In addition to these courses there are opportunities for individual study with a department member. Independent Study (HIST 316) allows a student to pursue any topic of particular interest with the agreement of a department member willing to advise. Independent Studies can take the form of research projects or directed reading on a particular subject. Some students will wish to go further and write an Honours thesis for Honours in History. HIST 350, a two semester course enables students to do this, again with a department member as thesis advisor, but the Honours Programme is handled centrally by the University.
History Course Clusters
History courses are also divided into seven "clusters" or tracks. Each cluster groups together courses which either cover the same region or have a broad theme in common. The "clusters" are: American History, European History and Non-Western History (which includes Africa, China, Japan and Latin America); and Intellectual History (and the History of Ideas), Political, Economic and Labour History, Social History and the History of Science and Medicine, all of which deal in fields of study rather than regions. Students can take only six of their eight courses in any one region, but otherwise the choice is open. Students pick two clusters: a primary cluster of four courses and a secondary cluster with two. The extra two courses for the minimum major can be taken from anywhere in the list. With some exceptions, individual courses generally count within more than one cluster. It is thus possible, for example, to take Imperial Russia (HIST 251) as a course within European History, Social History or Political, Economic and Labour History. Most "thematic" clusters, like Intellectual History, offer courses in more than one region; and all regional clusters include courses in more than one "theme". One course, the Historian's Craft (HIST 200), an introduction to the practice of history and introducing all members of the department, is common to all clusters.
Cross-Listed and Complimentary Courses
The majority of history courses are taught within the department, but courses in East Asian History (China & Japan) and Ancient History (Greece & Rome) are taught by East Asian Studies and Classics respectively. The courses are cross-listed and available like any other courses. In addition, the department encourages its Majors to explore appropriate and complementary offerings in other departments. European concentrators might, for example, wish to take foreign language courses; and political/labour history concentrators might find courses in Political Science or Economics helpful even though they will not count directly towards the History Major.
The department had three objectives in mind in constructing its major in this way. One was to offer the greatest flexibility within the major - there are few combinations of courses which cannot in some way be configured into a major - and, in effect, allow students to construct their own version of the History major. Another was to ensure the greatest degree of interaction between majors. Almost all courses include students from different concentrations. The last concern, important for a small department, was to maximize the teaching resources it had in order to offer the widest possible spread of courses, chronologically, regionally and thematically, that it could. We believe that it has succeeded in these objectives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How many majors are there at any one time?
A. About 60.
Q. Can Advance Placement credits be used for the Major?
A. Yes, up to two, counting as 100 level courses.
Q. How do university General Education requirements relate to the Major?
A. History courses taken to satisfy general requirements can be counted towards the Major. This enables students with an interest in History to plan ahead even though they cannot declare the Major until the second semester of their second year.
Q. Is it possible to double major with another discipline?
A. Yes, many History Majors double-major. Popular combinations with History include Economics, political Science and a Foreign Language.
Q. Are there any Language requirements for the Major?
A. No, but students are encouraged to get proficiency in a foreign language and, for those advanced enough, the department is able to recommend readings and projects in French, Spanish and German.
Q. Does the Department support study abroad?
A. Yes. While study abroad for History majors cannot be made a requirement, the department strongly encourages students to spend at least a semester abroad, preferably studying at a foreign university, taking courses which will complement and enhance their own particular interests within the Major.
Q. Does the Department have student resources of its own?
A. Yes. The Coleman Building, where the Department is located, has a computer lab for student study on the third floor, a VCR/DVD room and hearth space. The Department also has a small amount of funding for student travel and research. Additionally, there may be opportunities for students to assist department members with their research. Some of these positions carry a small stipend.