Undergraduate Programs

History Degree | Undergraduate

Studying history contributes to the development of a liberally-educated individual, brings one into intimate communion with the collective memory of the peoples of the world, and allows one to approach and understand current developments from the perspective of experience.

The History major is designed to provide the student with an understanding of the processes of historical research and reconstruction, an appreciation of the discipline of history as a way of thinking and learning, and substantive knowledge in those areas of history in which the student may concentrate, including Law careers.

The undergraduate curriculum is comprehensive in scope. It allows the student to choose from a wide variety of courses in completing the requirements for the History major and the minor in history. In addition to standard courses on various geographical areas and topical subjects, the department offers courses on black history, African Diaspora, public history, and the history of women.

As we are located in Washington DC, where there is a great demand for museum, archives, and heritage professionals, students may receive practical experience as historians by serving as interns in history in the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the National Park Service, the State Department, and other public agencies as well as in private institutions and projects in the Washington area. Such experience may lead eventually to jobs or careers in public history.

The History major provides students with the ability to assimilate and analyze evidence, to conduct research, and to formulate and critique arguments. This has been accomplished through offering three levels of courses: lecture courses, colloquia courses, and seminar courses.

Lecture courses offer an overview of a period, geographical area or topic.

Colloquia courses introduce students to a major topic in history such as Slavery and the Law, Mass Incarceration, African Americans and the Civil War, Slavery and Emancipation in the Caribbean, History of Brazil, Women in the African Diaspora, and Black Power. In small classes, students discuss what historians have written about the topic, analyzing the studies for their strengths and weakness in methodology, use of evidence, reasoning, and interpretation.

Seminar courses build on existing knowledge students acquired in colloquia and lectures. In the seminar courses students apply their knowledge of the literature by conducting original research with primary sources.

When completing a History major, students will conduct research and write essays in the fields of their choice such as Pre-Law, Africa, the African Diaspora, Latin America and the Caribbean, European History, United States, and Public History.

By placing original research at the heart of its undergraduate programs, the Department of History has embraced the College of Arts and Sciences' goal of making primary research a significant aspect of every undergraduate's experience.

To help students in selecting appropriate courses each semester for fulfilling Departmental requirements, all faculty members are designated as undergraduate academic advisors. These advisors are available during their posted office hours for consultation. In addition, each student majoring will be assigned to one faculty member who will advise the student throughout that student's undergraduate career.

Faculty advisors are available to answer general questions, but questions relating to course waivers, transfer course equivalents, and substitutions of required courses should be submitted in writing to the Undergraduate Director.

Students who plan to pursue a legal career are reminded that a major in history and the Pre-Law concentration provide the best preparation for admission to and success in Law School.


Kay Wright Lewis

Director of the Undergraduate Program

Program Details

  • Degree Classification: Undergraduate
  • Program Frequency: Full-Time
  • Format: In Person
  • Length: 4 Years, 31 Credit Hours

Degree Requirements

Major in History

Credit Hours in History: 31

Period: 4 years

Students are required to successfully complete 31 semester hours of history courses.

The major in History covers the following fields:

  • Pre-Law
  • Africa
  • African Diaspora
  • Europe
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Public History
  • United States

‚ÄčThe department offers three kinds of courses at three different levels:

  1. Lecture: Lecture courses can be taken any time during the program. Lecture courses are taught to large groups. Classes usually consist of a lecture given by the professor, supported by readings, written assignments, and oral discussion. Lecture courses can survey a particular region, continent, or country and can cover a long period of time. To take a lecture course the student no previous knowledge on the topic, region, or period examined is required.
  2. Colloquium: Taken after the freshman year, colloquia are small discussion classes in which students read secondary works to learn the nature of historiography and explore the methodologies employed in a particular field to address historical questions. Students who plan to apply for graduate school are strongly encouraged to take colloquia.
  3. Seminar: Taken after the freshman year, seminars require students to conduct primary research and analysis and to write original historical essays. Students who plan to apply for graduate school are strongly encouraged to take seminars.

The major is designed to prepare students to conduct research, to assimilate and analyze data, and to think critically and creatively about the past.

All majors are required to take:

  1. HIST 003- Introduction to History (3 credit hours): This course will introduce students to historiography, research methods, and interpretive trends. Introduction to History is recommended to students considering history as a major and must be taken upon declaration of the major.

  2. HIST 082 - Senior Colloquium (1 credit hour): This course prepares students for the comprehensive examination in history.
  3. One Colloquium in any field of study (Pre-Law, Africa, African Diaspora, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Public History or United States).
  4. One Seminar in any field of study (Pre-Law, Africa, African Diaspora, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Public History or United States).
  5. At least one course (lecture, colloquia or seminar) in Africa or African Diaspora.
  6. At least one course (lecture, colloquia or seminar) in Europe, Latin America or Public History. The remaining five courses (corresponding to 15 credits) can be taken in any field of study and at any level (lecture, colloquia, or seminar).


Senior Comprehensive Examination

Effective as of the academic year 1983-84, and mandatory for graduation, all history majors are required to pass the Senior Comprehensive Examination administered by the Department of History. The examination is given in November of each academic year. It is a three-hour essay examination consisting of two parts. Part I examines the student's understanding of historiography; and Part II examines broad topics reflecting the core curriculum. Students will be duly notified of the time and place of the examination. The required course, The Senior Colloquium, will help to guide and aid students in their preparation for the Senior Comprehensive Examination. Further information relative to the examination may be obtained from the Director of the Undergraduate Program, the Department of History.


The Department of History offers a Pre-Law concentration. Students who want to follow legal careers and apply for the Law School after finishing the history major or minor are encouraged to choose this concentration. In this concentration, students have to choose FIVE courses (equivalent of 15 credits) among the following courses:

  • HIST 017: Slavery and Law
  • HIST 017 Slavery and Law
  • HIST 109 United States Constitutional History to 1865
  • HIST 110 United States Constitutional History Since 1865
  • HIST 178 Colloquium: African Americans and the State
  • HIST 179 Colloquium: The Rights of Citizenship in American History
  • HIST 180 Seminar: Reparations and the Law
  • HIST 182 From Slavery to Mass Incarceration
  • HIST 183 Constitutional Law and Public Policy

These courses teach students to analyze primary sources, read and interpret legal and historical texts, and develop solid arguments, crucial skills for all those applying to the Law School.

Minor in History

15 Semester hours

Students who minor in History are required to complete successfully fifteen (15) hours of history courses, including the mandatory course HIST 003: Introduction to History. Geography courses do not count for your history minor.

Minor in Geography

15 Semester Hours

The minor in Geography consists of fifteen (15) credit hours. Since students will be expected to become familiar with the basic language, fundamentals and terminology, World Geography (101) has to be taken as the first course. Then the students can be exposed to regional, topical and systematic geography. To complete the minor requirements in Geography, students will be required to take three other courses with at least one from each group; regional (199 - Geography of the Black Diaspora; 165 - Geography of North America), topical (102 - Economic Geography; 106 - Environmental Conservation), systematic (HIST 107 Sustainable Cities, 170 - Climate, People and Environment; 172 - Hydrology).