Major in History
The history department offers 3 types of courses that are open to all Boston College students:
- Core classes that fulfill the university core requirement (1000-level classes)
- Electives (2000-level)
- Upper-division electives (4000-level)
The department also offers 2 types of courses that are restricted to, and required of, all history majors:
- The Study and Writing of History (3000-level)
- Senior honors thesis seminar or Senior colloquium (5000-level)
- 2-semester (6 credit) University Core sequence in history (1000-level)
- 2-semester (6 credit) sequence in US History (US History I and US History II)
- 3 credits of electives (2000-level classes)
- 3 credits of The Study and Writing of History (3000-level classes for history majors only)
- 6 credits in non-Western history (2000- or 4000-level)
- At least 9 credits of upper-division electives (4000-level classes)
- Senior Honors Thesis or Senior Colloquium (5000-level classes for history majors only)
Ideally, majors should take the History Core as freshmen. The sophomore year should include The Study and Writing of History seminar. Junior and Senior years should be used to complete the remaining requirements.
Upper-division electives (4000-level) and the senior colloquia (5000-level) are distinguished from 2000-level electives by their substantial reading and writing assignments.
There is no formal requirement to select a field of concentration but we encourage you to give some thought to the kinds of big questions you care about. That way, you can explore those questions as you pick your courses, which will bring coherence to your trajectory through the major.
Traditional ways of looking at history courses include time periods (eg, medieval, early modern), methods (eg, social, intellectual) or regions (eg, African, Latin American). In addition to thinking of your course selections in this way we also encourage you to select courses with a sense of the themes and concepts that interest you.
Some possible ways of thinking about thematic concentrations:
- The Power of Ideas
ideas matter, can emerge in a variety of contexts, can emancipate and constrain, and appear in various media
- Political Economy, Law, and Social Order
organization of economic life, capitalism, hierarchy, equality, the politics of human rights
- Power, Politics, and War
nations and nationalism, mass violence and war, inequality and justice, imperialism
- Identities, Inequality and Justice
society and the self, race, gender, class, sexuality, social movements and social change, civil rights and social justice
- Science, Health, Environment
sciences old and new, humans and their environments, technology for better and for worse, medicine and global health
- Global Geographies
oceans, urban history, migrations and diasporas, material culture
- Religion in Context
world religions, pluralism past and present, religion and race/gender, Catholics and Jesuits
Advanced Placement Credit
Students with a score of 4 or 5 in AP European History have fulfilled the History Core requirement. If your course audit does not reflect this, consult Professor Robert Savage, Director of the History Core.
A History Major with a score of 4 or 5 in AP US History may substitute 2 US History electives for the US History I-US History II sequence.
Transfer Credit in History
History majors who have transferred from other colleges and universities must consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies to see how the history elective courses accepted for Boston College credit by the transfer admissions staff will be applied toward major requirements. For transfer of Core history courses, see the Director of the History Core.
Boston College history majors hoping to take summer school elective courses, either at BC or elsewhere, must first seek approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies. When you meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, bring with you the catalog description of the course(s) you want to take. If you are planning to take a summer school course away from BC, it must be at a four-year college or university. You should expect to get elective (not upper-division) credit for summer school courses. American History surveys are usually accepted in place of HIST 2401-2402, and it is possible to take courses for non-Western credit, as long as the course's non-Western content is clear from the course description.
Keep in mind, history majors must take at least 6 of the 10 courses required for the major at BC during the regular academic year.
Anyone desiring to take a History Core course in summer school must see the Core Moderator.
Students intending to study abroad should remember that at least 6 of the 10 courses required for the major must be taken at BC during the regular academic year.
The Study and Writing of History is a course required for all history majors and open only to history majors. Ideally it is taken during the Sophomore year. Taught in sections of 13-15 students, this course serves as an introduction to history as an intellectual discipline. It is a three-credit course, where you will have the opportunity to do history for the first time. The course is demanding, requiring a significant commitment of time and energy. But the result is gratifying. You will research and write a major paper based on primary source research.
The course is designed to create a common understanding of historical method among our majors. After taking it, they should understand from practical experience:
- the difference between primary and secondary literature;
- how to find and evaluate primary sources;
- how to interpret and synthesize the many different works they read;
- how to generate a question to guide their research;
- how to refine the question as they learn more;
- how to compose an argument and organize a paper; and
- how to revise their work in response to the questions and criticism of other readers.
After taking the class, our students should know what historical scholarship is.
Because of the small class size, the students experience a great deal of interaction with their fellow students and, in particular, with their instructor, with whom they normally meet individually several times during the semester in addition to class meetings.
Guidelines require at least 30 pages of written work for the course, including a historiographical writing assignment and a major (normally 25-page) research paper submitted in both draft and revised forms.
Each section of The Study and Writing of History addresses these general historiographical concerns while focusing on a specific topic.
The department houses a chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. Admission is open to all students who meet the basic criteria for admission: an overall B+ average (3.33) and a 3.5 average in history with at least four courses completed.
Each year, the faculty moderator of the Phi Alpha Theta chapter reviews the transcripts of junior and senior majors and invites students who qualify to join the society. There is a small admission charge, payable to the national organization. The Boston College chapter holds an annual induction ceremony for new members and elects officers who collaborate with the faculty moderator to organize various other activities. The chapter also confers an annual award for excellence in teaching to a member of the history faculty.
Sometimes students' transcripts fail to reflect their eligibility for Phi Alpha Theta (for example, because foreign study has temporarily given them an incomplete transcript), so seniors interested in joining might wish to contact the moderator by November 1.