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.

Concentration Requirements (for students graduating after spring 2015)

1. Basic Requirement: A concentration in History consists of a minimum of ten semester-long courses; of these, at least eight must be offered by the Brown University History Department, including cross-listed courses. (Students who spend more than one semester at another institution, must take at least 7 HIST courses - see “Transferring Courses” below.)

2. Courses below 1000: Students may count no more than four courses numbered below 1000 toward the concentration requirements.  Students considering a concentration in History are encouraged to take First Year and Sophomore seminars, as well as courses in the HIST 0150 and 0200 series, for an 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 a minimum of four courses.  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 take at least two courses in three different geographic areas.  These are:

  • Africa
  • East Asia
  • Europe
  • Global
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Middle East and South Asia
  • North America

“Global” courses are defined as those that deal with at least three different regions of the world. 

5. Chronological Distribution: All concentrators must complete at least two courses designated as “P” (for pre-modern).

6. Capstone Seminar: All concentrators must complete at least one capstone seminar (these will be HIST 1960s and HIST 1970s series courses in the new numbering system.) 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. 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.

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.).

8. 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.

Honors (OPTIONAL):

History concentrators in the 5th or 6th semester may apply for honors. To be admitted, 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.

Students who wish to enroll in honors are recommended to take HIST 1992, “History Honors Workshop for Prospective Students.”  Students who complete honors may count HIST 1992 as one of the 10 courses required for graduation in history.  HIST 1992 students who prepare a prospectus that receives a grade of A- or above will be admitted to the honors program.  Students in their 7th semester who have not taken HIST 1992 (including but not limited to those who are away from Brown during that semester) may apply to the program by submitting a prospectus no later than the first day of that semester.  All honors students must complete one semester of HIST 1993 “History Honors Workshop for Thesis Writers, Part I” and one semester of HIST 1994 “History Workshop for Thesis Writers, Part II.”  Students who contemplate enrolling in the honors program in History should consult the honors section of the department website. They are also encouraged to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who serves as the honors advisor.