The History Major gives students the best of both scholarly worlds: exciting course work and sustained independent study-all while exposing students to different geographical areas and time periods. In classes students engage in lively discussion, guided by faculty who help develop critical reading of sources, cogent argument about those works, and elegant, effective writing. As a capstone for the courses, in their senior year History Majors undertake a year-long thesis. This unique experience-independent but closely mentored-shows students how to “think big,” to tackle a long-term, challenging project, and see it through to a polished and satisfying conclusion.
Requirements for Concentration:
11 units, to include the following distribution courses above the introductory (100) level:
- Five distribution areas: one temporal and four geographical.
- For historical depth: at least 1 unit of pre-1800 history at the 200 or 300 level (choose from the following courses: HIST 215, HIST 218 , HIST 225, HIST 226, HIST 230, HIST 242 , HIST 259, HIST 262, HIST 271, HIST 274, HIST 316, HIST 326, HIST 332, HIST 366, HIST 381, HIST 382)
- In addition to the pre-1800 course, for geographical breadth: at the 200 or 300 level, at least 1 unit in four of the following five areas for a total of four units.
- Africa and the Middle East
- Latin America
- United States
- Two 300-level seminars, at least one of which must be taken in senior year. 300-level seminars may also do double duty as pre-1800 or geographical area requirements.
- Senior Thesis (HIST 300 and HIST 301). This year-long project begins in the fall of senior year with History 300 and continues in the spring with History 301. History 300 is a methods seminar which brings support, structure, and collegiality to the thesis experience; while taking this seminar, students will also meet regularly with their designated thesis advisers and begin work on their projects. Students complete the writing of the thesis under the supervision of their advisers in the spring with History 301. The end result is a written work of approximately 10,000 words. All History Theses are housed in Special Collections in the College Library. Most theses follow the model of an extended historical research paper or article. Non-traditional projects may be undertaken by petition to the department, which maintains a portfolio of such past examples.
Cross-listed courses originating in another department (i.e., taught by faculty who are not in the History Department) may not be used for distribution requirements. No more than two cross-listed courses originating in another department can count toward the history minimum requirement of 11 units.
Credits from outside Vassar:
Majors may apply up to four credits earned from other schools or AP/ IB credit to the major. However, only one AP or IB credit may be used, and none of these credits can satisfy a distribution or 300-level requirement.
The department strongly encourages all students interested in majoring in History to take at least one 100-level course to learn historical methodology at the college level. While the department requires only one pre-1800 and four geographical area courses, students are encouraged to go beyond the minimum to examine the deeper roots of history and develop a more nuanced global understanding. Reading knowledge of a foreign language is highly recommended. The department encourages students to study foreign languages at Vassar to work toward the goal of going to the original sources. Students thinking about going on to graduate school or further study should find out about language requirements for those fields.