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.
The History Department’s learning goals can be found HERE.
Over the 2023-2024 academic year the Department of History will be implementing new major requirements. This new major reflects the dynamism of the historical discipline and offers students wider choice and opportunity.
We will be updating this section over the course of the year and majors will also work with their advisors to understand the new opportunities these changes present. All new majors, and current majors in the classes of 2025 or 2026, will follow the new requirements (although current majors may petition to opt out). Majors in the class of 2024 will continue to follow the previous major requirements (see below).
NEW MAJOR REQUIREMENTS – For all new majors and current majors in classes of 2025 and 2026
Majors are required to complete ten approved history courses with grades of C- or better. Those who select a pathway to honors (see below) must complete twelve approved history courses with grades of C- or better, and a cumulative average of A- or better. At least eight of the courses counting toward the history major, including the honors thesis and HIST 300, must be completed at Trinity or in academic programs taught, sponsored, or approved by Trinity faculty.
In the interest of shaping a trajectory from lower-division to higher-division courses, students may apply toward the major a maximum of two courses at the 100- and 200- levels taken during the academic year in which they plan to graduate.
- Electives (5 credits) Electives may be selected from the history department course offerings at any level.
- 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.
- HIST 300. History Workshop (1 credit) This course constitutes the central pedagogical experience for all history majors and requires a major research project. It is recommended that students complete this course by the spring semester prior to the academic year in which they plan to graduate. Students pursuing the portfolio pathway to honors (see below) may take a second section in their senior year. History Workshop fulfills the Writing Part II requirement.
- Thematic Concentration All majors must design a thematic concentration identifying a theme or idea that connects five courses from the ten-credit major as outlined above. Of these five courses, at least two must be at the 300-level. A concentration must demonstrate geographical diversity as follows: by having at least three courses that cover three different world regions or by having at least three courses that are global in scope. Students have the option to count one course outside of the History department toward their concentration, but it will not be counted toward the ten-credit major. In consultation with a history department faculty member, normally the major advisor, students must generate a 500-word description of their concentration including a discussion of what theme or idea has been chosen, how it has been engaged by courses already taken for the concentration, a plan for future courses, and a statement of how the concentration demonstrates geographic diversity. Descriptions should be submitted to the history department administrative assistant no later than the Friday of preregistration advising week in the spring semester prior to the academic year in which they plan to graduate and will be vetted by a departmental committee. Those declaring the history major after this date must submit the concentration description when they declare.
Honors in history: all history majors who wish to pursue honors must complete twelve approved history courses with a cumulative GPA of A- or above. There are two pathways to honors:
- Thesis pathway: The ten-credit major plus a two-credit senior thesis (HIST 498, HIST 499), culminating in a public presentation in the spring of their senior year.
- Portfolio pathway: The ten-credit major plus two additional credits, one of which must be a second section of HIST 300 and the other must be a 300-level seminar in the history department. To earn honors, a student following this pathway must submit a portfolio of three papers written for courses in the major, including at least one primary-source-based research paper or one public-facing project, by the spring semester prize deadline in their senior year. The portfolio must be accompanied by a statement that describes the way it relates to the department’s learning goals and the concentration that the student designed. Instead of thesis presentations, this pathway culminates in a “portfolio interview” with a group of faculty members, normally those who taught the courses for which the papers were written.
PREVIOUS MAJOR REQUIREMENTS: Majors who are graduating in 2024, or who matriculated before 2020, follow the previous major requirements.
Majors are required to complete 12 approved history courses with grades of C- or better. Those who select the thesis option must complete 11 approved history courses and a 2-credit thesis with grades of C- or better. At least eight of these courses, including the senior thesis 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.
HIST 300: History Workshop (1 credit)
This course constitutes the central pedagogical experience for all history majors. It guides students in writing a major research paper using archives and other primary sources, as well as in engaging with historiographical debates and historical analysis. 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 (5 credits)
Students are required to take a minimum of five 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))