History (BA)

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Program Description

History is the study of human experience of all kinds, considered in relation to particular times and places. It is also a method of thinking characterized by its attention to the contexts in which people have lived and worked. By mastering this method of thinking, students of history gain invaluable skills and knowledge. They learn to analyze and interpret many different kinds of evidence (cultural, social, economic, and political) as well as to organize it into a coherent whole and present it clearly and with style in written or oral form. In doing so, students also learn to justify and question their own and others’ conclusions, for history is always an argument about what actually happened. Indeed, rethinking and revising accepted historical conclusions is one of the most important—and most interesting—tasks of the historian.

Notable among the department’s areas of strength are American urban, social, labor, and ethnic history; medieval, early modern, and modern European history; Latin American history; sub-Saharan African history; early and modern Asian History; and American and European women’s history. The department also pays particular attention to the transnational and global aspects of the discipline.

At the core of the undergraduate experience are the workshop (HIST-UA 9XX) and the capstone seminar (HIST-UA 4XX). In the workshop, students learn about the methods and practice of history in a seminar setting. In the capstone seminar, usually taken in the senior year, students research and write an original paper (typically 20-25 pages).

Through independent study and the honors program, students find challenging opportunities for special concentrations and individual research. The internship program enables students to engage in supervised historical projects for credit. Many of the projects are at cultural institutions in New York and at the United Nations.

The University’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library is rich in works of history, and students also utilize the collections of the New York Public Library, the historical societies and museums in New York City, and neighboring universities.

Honors Program

Students with strong academic records (a GPA of 3.65 in history and 3.65 overall) may apply to the director of undergraduate studies for admission to the history honors program. Students must be declared history majors or have already taken the workshop (HIST-UA 9XX) to apply for the two-course, 8-credit program.

The honors program is completed in two consecutive semesters and consists of a small HIST-UA 994 Honors Seminar followed by an individualized HIST-UA 996 Honors Thesis/Tutorial. In the Honors Seminar (which satisfies the capstone seminar requirement for the major) students define a thesis topic, develop a bibliography, read broadly, and begin their research. A substantial part of the research, usually including a rough draft of the thesis, should be completed by the semester’s end. In the Honors Tutorial, students work one-on-one with a faculty director to complete the thesis.

The honors thesis varies in length from 40 to 70 pages, depending on the nature and scope of the subject. The completed thesis, approved for defense by the director, is defended before a committee consisting of a primary faculty advisor and at least one additional faculty reader. A grade of at least A- on the thesis is required for the award of honors in history. Students who receive a lower passing grade are simply awarded 8 credits toward the major.


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