History Major

Goals for the History Major

Successful history students can


  1. Understand the process of change over time, both broadly (based on the study of human communities in a variety of times and places) and deeply (based on the intensive study of human communities in at least one time and place).
  2. Discern the relationship between past and present, including especially the differences between them.
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with the histories and historiographies of a range of cultures and chronological periods.
  4. Acquire proficiency in a specialized historical and historiographical knowledge about selected regions or about comparative problems that span various cultures and times.


  1. Generate sound arguments about historical causality.
  2. Judge the soundness of historical arguments.
  3. Read, understand, and critically assess scholarly articles and monographs, based on extensive training and experience.
  4. Collect, assess, and interpret primary sources and other evidence.
  5. Craft concise analytical essays and longer research papers.
  6. Communicate orally with confidence.


  1. See, from a humanistic perspective, individuals and communities as part of a larger temporal stream.
  2. See, from a social-scientific perspective, human societies and cultures as evolving systems.
  3. Recognize a civic responsibility to understand, interpret, communicate, and preserve the historical record.

Requirements for the History Major

The minimum major requires nine units of course work, including two 300-level units (2.0). Majors must include at least one seminar in their program of two 300-level units. Seven of the nine units and all 300-level work must be taken at Wellesley. For the purposes of major credit, courses taken at MIT are not Wellesley courses.  AP or IB credits may not be applied toward the major. Depending on the student's field of study, one course in a related field outside history may be applied, with the approval of the adviser, to the major. One cross-listed course may be counted toward the major, but a student may not count both a cross-listed and a related course toward the major.

Majors in history are allowed great latitude in designing a program of study, but it is important for a program to have breadth and depth. To ensure breadth, the program must include (1) at least one course (1.0 unit) in the history of Africa, China, Japan, Latin America, the Middle East, or South Asia; (2) at least one course (1.0 unit) in the history of Europe, the United States, or Russia; (3) at least one course (1.0 unit) in premodern history. To encourage depth of historical understanding, we urge majors to focus eventually upon a special field of study, such as:

  1. A particular geographical area, country, or culture
  2. A specific time period
  3. A particular historical approach, e.g., intellectual and cultural history, social and economic history
  4. A specific historical theme, e.g., the history of women, revolutions, colonialism

Honors in History

The only path to honors is the senior thesis. As specified in College legislation, candidates for honors must have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher in courses applied to the major and must complete six (6) of the nine (9) required units of course work, including, ordinarily, a 300-level seminar, before the end of their junior year. Normally, an honors student will complete the History major by taking eight History courses (two of which can be taken abroad or at MIT) in addition to the honors thesis (HIST 360 and HIST 370), which gives them a 10-course major. For additional information, please consult the department website or ask at the History department office (FND 202A).

Teacher Certification

Students interested in obtaining certification to teach history in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should consult the chair of the Education Department.

Interdepartmental Majors

Students interested in a major combining history and international relations should consider the interdepartmental major in International Relations - History.