History Major

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:

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.