History is the study of how societies and cultures across the world change over time. History concentrators learn to write and think critically, and to understand issues from a variety of perspectives. The department offers a wide variety of courses concerned with changes in human experience through time, ranging from classical Greek and Roman civilizations to the histories of Europe, the Americas, and Asia.  While some courses explore special topics, others concentrate on the history of a particular country (e.g. Russia or France) or period of time (e.g. the Middle Ages or the Renaissance). By taking advantage of our diverse course offerings, students can engage in and develop broad perspectives on the past and the present.

  1. Basic Requirement: A concentration in History consists of a minimum of ten semester-long courses; of these, at least eight (seven in the case of students who spend more than one semester at another institution; see “Transferring Courses” below) must be offered by the Brown University History Department, including cross-listed courses.
  2. Introductory Courses: Students may count no more than two lecture surveys numbered 0520 or lower and only one HIST 0970 or HIST 0980 seminar toward the concentration requirements. It is recommended that concentrators in their first or second years take a HIST 0970 series seminar or a HIST 0980 series seminar for a seminar-based introduction to historical reasoning, discussion, and writing.
  3. Field of Focus: Upon declaring a concentration in History, students must define the area that will be the primary focus of their program. The primary field of focus must include minimum of four courses. The field may be defined by geographical regions (see #4), by geographical regions with thematic or chronological emphases, or by topic.

    Students who choose a geographical focus must provide a thematic or chronological rationale for the coherence of courses with a broad chronological span. Students who are interested in a thematic or transnational focus (such as Science, Technology, Environment and Medicine or the Ancient World) may include courses from different geographic areas. All students should consult a concentration advisor early in the process. All fields are subject to approval by the concentration advisor.

  4. Geographical Distribution: Concentrators must distribute nine of the ten required courses as follows: four courses in the primary geographic area. Thereafter, five courses in two or more secondary areas, with a maximum of three in any of these areas. Comparative and transnational courses may count for the geographical requirement with the approval of the concentration advisor. The geographic areas are:
    • Africa
    • East Asia
    • Europe
    • Latin America and the Caribbean
    • Middle East and South Asia
    • North America
  5. Chronological Distribution: All History Department courses are designated “P” for pre-modern, “M” for modern, and “E” for either pre-modern or modern. Concentrators must complete at least three courses in the pre-modern period and three courses in the modern periods. Two of the courses must be designated “P” and two must be designated “M”. Courses designated “E” may fulfill the requirements for a third course in each category.
  6. Capstone Seminar: All concentrators must complete at least one capstone seminar (HIST 1960 or HIST 1970 series seminar). These seminars are designed to serve as an intellectual culmination of the concentration. They provide students with an opportunity to delve deeply into a historical problem and to write a major research and/or analytical paper which serves as a capstone experience. Ideally, they will be taken in the field of focus and during the student’s junior or senior year. Students considering writing a senior honors thesis are advised to take an advanced seminar in their junior year.
  7. Honors: To be admitted to the honors program, students must have achieved two-thirds “quality grades” in History department courses. A “quality grade” is defined as a grade of “A” or a grade of “S” accompanied by a course performance report indicating a performance at the “A” standard. Honors is normally a three-semester process, with students taking HIST 1992, “History Honors Workshop for Prospective Thesis Writers,” one semester and HIST 1993, “History Honors Workshop for Thesis Writers,” for two semesters. Both classes will be offered every semester, so students may begin the process in either their 5th or 6th semester.

    HIST 1992 is strongly recommended but not required. The class may count as one of the 10 courses required for graduation in history. Students may be admitted into HIST 1993 in one of two ways.
    1. By receiving a grade of A- or above in HIST 1992.
    2. By submitting a thesis prospectus of equivalent quality (A- or above) no later than the first day of their 7th semester. This method of entry into HIST 1993 is geared especially, but not limited to students  who have spent their junior year away from Brown.

    Students who take HIST 1992 in the 5th semester can finish the thesis in the 7th semester. Students who take HIST 1992 in the 6th semester will finish it in the 8th semester.

    Students who contemplate enrolling in the honors program in History should consult the department website. They are also encouraged to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who serves as the honors advisor.
  8.  Transferring Courses: The History Department encourages students to take history courses at other institutions, either in the United States or abroad, as well as history-oriented courses in other departments and programs at Brown. Students may apply two courses taken in other departments/programs at Brown to the ten-course minimum for the History concentration. Students who spend one semester at another institution may apply to their concentration a maximum of two courses from other departments or institutions, and those who spend more than one semester at another institution may apply to their concentration a third course transferred from another institution. The total number of courses from other departments or institutions may not exceed three.

    Students wishing to apply such courses must present to their concentration advisor justification that those courses complement some aspect of their concentration. Courses from other Brown departments may not be applied toward the chronological distribution requirement; courses transferred from other institutions may be applied toward the chronological distribution requirement so long as they clearly are history courses.

    It is normally expected that students will have declared their intention to concentrate in History and have their concentration programs approved before undertaking study elsewhere. Students taking courses in Brown-run programs abroad automatically receive University transfer credit, but concentration credit is granted only with the approval of a concentration advisor. Students taking courses in other foreign-study programs or at other universities in the United States must apply to the Transfer Credit Advisor.

    Final transfer and concentration credit will not be granted until the student successfully completes the course(s) and returns to Brown. Approval by the department advisor for transfer credit will be contingent on satisfactory course content and performance (to be demonstrated by documents such as a transcript showing the grade, syllabi, notes, papers, exams, etc).
  9. Regular Consultation: Students are strongly urged to consult regularly with their concentration advisor or a department advisor about their program. During the seventh semester, all students must meet with their concentration advisor for review and approval of their program.