The History Major offers students a means to encounter the peoples and cultures of the past and develop critical thinking, research, and writing skills essential for understanding the present. The program exposes students to underlying connections between the study of past times and places and the roots of that study in human concerns about values, identities, issues, and policies.
In their lower-division courses, majors will have the opportunity to explore the histories of different cultures across time. Students at the upper-division level tailor their studies to a thematic, temporal, or geographic concentration in line with their own interests. While working in their concentration and across the major, students have an opportunity to reflect both on what historians do and how and why they do it.
The History Major at USC helps students both to explore the entirety of the human past and to shape a major that has personal and academic meaning.
Considering a major in history? Contact our advising faculty for more information.
History majors are required to complete a total of 10 courses (40 units):
Students pursuing Honors in History are required to take an additional 4 units of HIST 492. For more information, see the Honors Program in History.
The 3 required lower-division courses introduce History majors to the range of thematic, temporal, and geographic possibilities within the major and offer background for subsequent upper-division work. They must fit the following criteria:
A. Geographic Breadth: majors must take at least one lower-division course in each of the following three geographic areas: Asia and Eurasia, Europe, Latin and North America. Here is a list of lower-division courses satisfying this requirement.1
D. Advanced Placement or Transferred Coursework may replace a 100-level requirement.2
History 201 is required for all history majors. Its purpose is to introduce students to the principal philosophical, critical, and theoretical issues that characterize the historian’s craft.
Majors are strongly encouraged to complete History 201 as soon as they declare and, if possible, as early as their freshman or sophmore year.
History Majors take 6 upper-division courses to focus their study on thematic, temporal, and geographic areas of particular interest to them and deepen their command of historical skills and methods. These must fulfill the following requirements:
A. At least three upper-division courses, including at least one 400-level seminar, should be in an area of concentration identified by the student and approved by a faculty advisor.
Every History major develops a thematic, temporal, or geographic focus in at least three of their upper-division courses that can be explored further through their 400-level seminars. Areas of concentration are developed with a faculty advisor, and can range broadly, provided appropriate courses are offered to support them. Possible areas of concentration include:
A. Thematic interests tracing themes such as cultural history, history and law, history of science and medicine, urban history, colonialism, gender, race, or class. For a list of courses that fulfill previous thematic concentrations, click here.
B. Temporal concentrations. Students can study a single period such as the Middle Ages or the Early Modern World (1450-1800).
C. Geographic Concentrations. History majors can choose areas such as Europe, Asia and Eurasia, the Americas, or even comparative histories.
D. Interdisciplinary Concentrations. Concentrations combining different fields, such as History and Art History or History and international Relations, will also be considered.
Across the ten required courses of the History Major, students must take at least one course in each of the following time periods. A list of History courses broken down by the temporal breadth requirement can be found here.4
A. Before 1300.
B. From 1300 to 1800.
C. From 1800 to the present.
History majors who have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.5 are strongly encouraged to explore the Honors Program in History. The full requirements can be found on the Honors Program page. We encourage students who meet the qualifications to consider program as early as their fourth or fifth semesters.
History majors will demonstrate:
1. Skill in evaluating individuals, societies, organizations, cultures, and cultural expressions on their own terms across time and space.
2. Skill in reading texts, images, and artifacts.
3. Ability to research and to evaluate evidence in historical context.
4. Skill in critical thinking and expository writing based on logic and evidence.
5. An understanding of how the knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired from historical studies make it possible to negotiate the contemporary world.
6. Preparation for a wide variety of professions and post-graduate programs and professional schools.
Note 2: Students may waive a requirement for a 100-level for a) an appropriate transfer credit, or b) AP scores of 4 or 5 on either the AP European or AP American exam, but not for both. At the 200-level, you may request a waiver, but your request may be denied, as the courses in the 200 category are unlikely to have equivalents at other institutions.
Note 3: All upper-division seminars are 400-level courses, but not all 400-level History courses are seminars. Please make sure that any 400-leve course taken to fulfill this requirement is, in fact, a seminar.
Note 4: As all history majors will learn, period often defy neat cut-off dates. The book-end dates listed here will vary by course and geographic area of study. Please consult the list of History courses by temporal breadth to clarify.
For more information on the program, contact