The history major—Historians examine the past to form a meaningful image of events previously hidden, partially understood, or deliberately misinterpreted. History is based on a foundation of documents, novels, maps, archival materials, memoirs, numbers, artifacts, and factual data combined with scholarly writings and analysis. It is a field of study that is part social science, part poetry, and always a humane quest for understanding. To know what is true about the past may be impossible, but the effort has its own rewards. The facility gained by students in interpreting the world historically can transform their consciousness and their lives. Propicit qui respicit: One who looks back looks forward.
Many approaches to history are introduced within the department's program. Courses on the ancient world, the Middle Ages, contemporary Europe and America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean form the core of a curriculum designed to encourage a wide range of historical explorations. Social, cultural, intellectual, political, and transnational histories carry students across various areas and time periods.
Majors master the skills of critical reading, analysis, interpretation, and writing and are introduced to mutually reinforcing approaches to the past. Graduates go on to successful careers in academia, law, business, government, social service, and many other fields since the tools and worldview transmitted through the study of history creates a springboard for endeavors in many realms that rely on the skills a historian learns.
Courses at the 100 and 200 level are the foundation for the advanced seminars and writing courses of the major. Each is a portal that introduces fundamental historical perspectives, chronological ordering schemes, and the secondary literature that defines the fields surveyed. There are also methodology courses at this level that introduce ways of studying history and methods of engagement with primary-source materials.
One cardinal emphasis of the history major is original research based on primary-source materials and the creation of essays or theses that represent a synthesis of evidence and relevant historiographical materials. The upper tier of our major—the 300-level seminars—consists of small seminars whose goal is to foster original projects based on primary sources. Primary materials are also available in abundance on the Web and when not available locally can be obtained readily through the Library's Reference Department.
While not required, the capstone of intellectual achievement in history is a two-semester thesis. The thesis may be elected by any history major following a process of application described on the department's Web page. Successful completion of a thesis is a prerequisite for honors in the major.
Majors are required to complete 12 approved history courses with grades of C- or better. Those who select the thesis option must complete 10 approved history courses and a 2-credit thesis with grades of C- or better. At least eight of these courses, including the senior thesis, HIST 299, and HIST 300, must be completed at Trinity or in academic programs taught or sponsored by Trinity faculty. In the interest of shaping a trajectory from lower-division to higher-division courses, students may apply a maximum of two courses at the 100 and 200 levels taken during their senior year toward the major. The award of departmental honors will be based on superior performance in history courses and in a senior thesis.
Distribution Courses (5 credits)
Students must complete five distribution courses at any level (100, 200, or 300) in order to acquire thematic, geographical, and chronological breadth in the discipline. Each requirement must be fulfilled with a distinct course:
- One course in European history
- One course in U.S. history
- One course covering a time period before 1700
- Two courses in areas other than Europe and the U.S.
Common Courses (2 credits)
These courses constitute the common experience of all history majors. They develop methodological sophistication and research skills.
- HIST 299: Historiography: This course introduces students to debate among historians and historical methods. It is expected that students will complete this course in the spring semester of their sophomore year.
- HIST 300: History Workshop: This course guides students in writing a major research paper using primary sources. It is expected that students will complete this course by the end of their junior year. History Workshop fulfills the Writing Intensive Part II requirement.
300-level seminars (4 credits)
Students are required to take a minimum of four 300-level seminars. All 300-level courses approved for the major are designated seminars and consist of intensive reading, discussion, and writing, either in the scholarly literature or the primary sources of a certain field, or in some combination of both. All 300-level courses fulfill the Writing Part II requirement.
Elective (1 credit) or Thesis Option (2 credits)
Students may apply to pursue a two-semester two-credit thesis during their senior year. They must have a minimum History GPA of 3.0 and submit a proposal and bibliography following departmental guidelines in the spring of their junior year. Students not pursuing the thesis option must take one additional elective course at any level.
Senior Thesis Application Procedure—Schedule for Spring Term of Junior Year
February 11, 2015—Submit thesis title and name of adviser;
February 27, 2015—Submit annotated bibliography to thesis adviser;
March 27, 2015—Submit bibliography of primary sources to thesis adviser;
April 1, 2015—Submit thesis proposal to History Office;
Mid-April—Departmental thesis committee issues decisions on thesis proposals.
The Thesis Application form is on the History Department home page.