The History Major
The History Major exposes students to deep connections between the study of past times and places, and the roots of that study in human concerns about values, identities, issues, and policies.
At the upper division level, students are encouraged to sample courses that focus on different periods and places, but are required to take at least three courses from a thematic, temporal, or geographic concentration articulated under the guidance of faculty. While working in the concentrations and the major, students have the opportunity to reflect on what it is historians do, and how and why they do it. They will encounter the peoples and cultures of the past and develop skills in critical thinking, research, and writing essential for understanding the present.
These requirements not only create a more rational matrix for the study of history at USC, but they also offer students the flexibility to explore and shape a major that has personal as well as academic meaning and identity.
HISTORY MAJOR REQUIREMENTS
History majors are required to complete a total of 10 courses (40 units), including
- 3 LOWER-DIVISION SURVEY COURSES (12 units)
- 1 HISTORY 300 SEMINAR (4 units)
- 6 UPPER-DIVISION COURSES (24 units)
History students pursuing HONORS in History are required to complete these 40 units, plus an additional 4 units of History 492, “Honors Thesis Seminar.” For more information on the Honors Program in History, see Section IV below, and the separate section on Honors Program on the department’s website.
I. LOWER-DIVISION SURVEY COURSES
The 3 lower-division survey courses introduce students to a range of thematic, temporal, and geographic possibilities within the major and offer background for subsequent upper-division work.
To satisfy the geographic breadth requirement, all majors must take at least one lower-division course in each of the following three geographic areas: 1) Asia and Eurasia, 2) Europe, 3) North and Latin America. Appendix A (below) lists all courses approved for fulfilling the geographic-breadth requirement.
At least one lower-division survey must be taken at the 100-level. These courses cover a broad time span of one civilization. (Please note: for the purposes of this requirement, History 200g, “The American Experience,” is classified as a 100-level course.)
At least one lower-division survey must be taken at the 200-level. These courses follow a theme across a wide range of time and space. (Please note: for the purposes of this requirement, History 200g, “The American Experience,” is classified as a 100-level course.)
Please note: ARLT and TO courses taught by History Department faculty qualify as lower-division courses towards the History major.
Note for students with Advanced Placement and/or transfer credits:
At the 100-level: You may receive a waiver at the 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 for transfer credit, but your request may be denied, because the courses in this category are unlikely to have equivalents at your previous institution.
II. HISTORY 300, “APPROACHES TO HISTORY"
History 300 is the only required core course for history majors. It is a reading seminar with a maximum enrollment of 15 students, including both History majors and non-majors. Its purpose is to introduce students to the principal philosophical, critical, and theoretical issues that characterize the historian’s craft.
History majors are strongly encouraged to complete History 300 at the BEGINNING of their upper-division work.
III. ADVANCED UPPER-DIVISION COURSES
The 6 upper-division courses permit students to focus their advanced study on thematic, temporal, and geographic areas of particular interest to them, and to deepen their command of historical skills and ideas.
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 adviser, subject to the review of the Undergraduate Studies Committee or its chair.
At least two upper-division courses should be 400-level seminars (at least one of which must be in the student’s area of concentration). A seminar is a small course that requires discussion, in-class presentations, and student research. Enrollment will be capped at 15 and students will typically meet once (sometimes twice) per week. Seminars usually emphasize papers rather than examinations. Depending on the course, assigned papers may be historiographical or research-based; and students may be required to produce several shorter papers or one longer written assignment.
PLEASE NOTE: All upper-division seminars are 400-level courses, but not all 400-level history courses are seminars. Please make sure that any 400-level course taken to fulfill this requirement is in fact a seminar.
THE AREA OF CONCENTRATION:
Every History major is required to develop a thematic, temporal, or geographic focus in upper-division courses. A carefully considered and articulated upper-division concentration, in conjunction with lower-division coursework, will give each student’s major meaning and identity that can be developed further through the 400-level seminars.
Possible areas of concentration include the following:
- Thematic interests such as cultural/intellectual history, history and law, the history of science and medicine, urban history, colonialism and post-colonialism, visual and popular culture, constructed identities: gender, race, class, & sexuality. For a full list of courses that fulfill various thematic concentrations, click here.
- Temporal concentrations such as the Middle Ages or the early modern world (1450-1800). For courses approved for the temporal distribution requirement and possible concentrations, click here.
- Geographic areas such as Europe, Asia and Eurasia, the Americas, or comparative histories. For courses that fulfill lower division geographic breadth requirements, click here.
- Interdisciplinary programs of study—such as History and Art History, or History and International Relations—will also be considered.
Among the ten required courses, students must take AT LEAST ONE in EACH of these time periods: 1) before 1300, 2) from 1300 to 1800, 3) from 1800 to the present. (These book-end dates will vary some by course and geographic area of study.) Appendix B lists all approved courses for fulfilling the temporal-breadth requirement.
IV. THE HONORS PROGRAM IN HISTORY
History majors who have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.5 are strongly encouraged to apply for the Honors Program in History, which involves completing an honors thesis, based on original research, in the fall of their senior year.
Students eligible for the Honors Program must
- maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5 in all USC history coursework (a USC honors requirement)
- earn a grade of B+ or better in HIST 300
- have completed at least one 400-level seminar in their area of concentration
- be nominated by faculty from whom they have taken coursework
- complete an application form in the Spring term of their junior year in preparation for their work in the honors seminar, HIST 492.
In addition to the ten courses required for the major, honors students complete a thesis in the fall of their senior year through a combination of independent work and participation in HIST 492. We encourage students with the requisite qualifications to begin thinking about the honors program as early as their fourth or fifth semesters. This will enable them to plan their upper division coursework and 400-level seminars in a way that complements the choice of thesis topic. It is imperative that some 400-level seminar work is completed prior to enrolling in HIST 492.
For more information on the program, see the Honors Program section on the department’s website.