The study of history lies close to the heart of an education in the liberal arts.
As a study of change in human society over time, it forms foundations of knowledge in both the humanities and the social sciences and offers its own approaches to questions explored in both branches of learning. Subdisciplines represented in the research of our faculty and in our course offerings include social, cultural, political, and economic history. Most geographic fields are also well represented, and regional concentrations combined with relevant language training provide strong foundations in area studies. The study of history prepares a major for a wide range of careers that require a broad knowledge of the human experience as well as skills in critical thinking, research, and writing. Wellesley history majors have gone on to pursue careers in law, medicine, teaching, journalism, business, and a host of other undertakings in the field of public service.
Students who successfully complete a major in history will have acquired:
A broad and deep understanding of the process of change over time, the relationship between past and present, and historical causality.
- A humanistic awareness of the individual as part of a larger temporal stream, a civic sense of historical responsibility, and a social-scientific consciousness of societies and cultures as evolving systems.
Solid grounding in a body of specialized historical and historiographical knowledge about selected countries and regions or comparative problems that span various cultures and times.
- Diversified knowledge of the histories and historiographies of a range of cultures and chronological periods.
A critical understanding of the methods that historians employ in reconstructing the past, including various approaches to historical research, the interpretation of primary sources and other evidence, and the uses of theory in historical analysis.
- Extensive training and experience in reading monographs and scholarly articles critically, in writing concise analytical essays and longer research papers, and in oral communication skills.
For students interested in combining a study of history and international relations, see International Relations-History Major. Most 200-level courses in the department are open to first-year students. Seminars are ordinarily limited to 15 students, non-majors as well as majors, who meet the prerequisite.
Requirements for the Major
The minimum major requires nine units of coursework above the 100 level, including two 300-level units (2.0). Normally, majors must include at least one seminar in their program of two 300-level units. Normally, seven of the nine units and all 300-level work must be taken at Wellesley. No AP or IB credits. A student nearing completion of her major requirement may, in special circumstances and only with the permission of her major advisor and the department chair, receive credit toward the major for one related course in another department at Wellesley. 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, depth, and historical perspective. 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; and (2) at least one course (1.0 unit) in the history of Europe, the United States, or Russia. 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. To ensure that students have a broad historical perspective, history majors must take at least one course (1.0 unit) in pre-modern history (e.g., Medieval Italy, Colonial Latin America, and so forth).
Requirements for the Minor
The history minor consists of a minimum of five units of coursework, of which at least four courses (4.0 units) must be above the 100 level and at least one course (1.0 unit) at the 300 level (excluding 350). Of these five courses, at least three courses (3.0 units) shall represent a coherent and integrated field of interest, such as, for example, American history, Medieval and Renaissance history, or social history. Of the other courses, at least one course (1.0 unit) shall be in a different field. Normally at least four courses (4.0 units) must be taken at Wellesley, and related courses in other departments will not count toward the minor.
The only path to honors is the senior thesis. Students must have a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher in courses applied to the major and must complete 6 of the 9 major units of coursework before the end of their junior year. For additional information, please consult the departmental website or ask at the History office. See Academimc Distinctions.
Students interested in obtaining certification to teach history in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should consult the chair of the Education Department.
Students interested in a major combining history and international relations should consider the interdepartmental major in International Relations-History, listed under International Relations.
Please also refer to International Relations/History.