Information for Majors
Students are required to take and pass at least two departmental courses before they enter the department. At least one of these two courses must come from the list of courses designated as prerequisites. (See Distribution Requirements.) Students who have not fulfilled the 200-level prerequisite must take one of the appropriate courses in the fall of their junior year. Humanities 216-217 or 218-219 may be used as a 200-level prerequisite but cannot be counted as one of the ten departmental requirements. CLA216, CLA217, CLA218, and CLA219 do not satisfy to 200-level prerequisite but will count as departmental courses.
Students who wish to enter the department but who have not taken two departmental courses before their junior year should consult with the Departmental Representative.
Rules of 8 and 12
University regulations stipulate that undergraduates must take at least eight, but not more than twelve, departmental courses. Departmental regulations stipulate that undergraduates must pass at least ten departmental courses in order to receive the A.B. degree. History courses taken in the freshman and sophomore years are numbered among the ten to twelve required for graduation. Students may not designate any departmental courses "Pass-Fail" even if the minimum ten courses have been completed. (Readmitted students of the class of 1990 and before must pass at least eight departmental courses.)
Field of Concentration
Students at the end of their senior year must pass a comprehensive examination in a departmental field of concentration. (See section on Departmental Comprehensive Examination.) The senior thesis is ordinarily written in the field of concentration, but there is no requirement in this regard.
There are no formal requirements for most fields of concentration, but students are encouraged to take at least three courses in their chosen field. Two fields of concentration do, however, carry special requirements:
United States History
Those students choosing to concentrate in American history must take a minimum of two courses in pre-20th century American history. (See Distribution Requirements.)
History of Science
History majors wishing to concentrate in the history of science need not meet the departmental prerequisites or distribution requirements. But they must take ten to twelve courses that satisfy the following requirements:
Two courses in science, engineering, or mathematics in addition to those used to fill the University's science distribution requirement.
Four of the following courses:
- EGR277/HIS277, Technology and Society
- HIS 290, The Scientific World View of Antiquity and the Middle Ages
- HIS 291, The Scientific Revolution and European Order, 1500-1750
- HIS 292, Science in the Modern World
- HIS 293, Science in a Global Context: 15th to 20th Century
- HIS 294, What is the Scientific Revolution?
- HIS 391, History of Contemporary Science
- HIS 392, History of Evolution
- HIS 393, Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America
- HIS 394, The Rise of Modern Biomedicine
- HIS 395, History of Medicine and the Body
- HIS 396, History of Biology
- HIS 397, Translation in the History of Science
- HIS 398, Technologies and Their Societies: Historical Perspective
- HIS 399, In the Groove: Technology and Music in American History, from Edison to the iPod
- HIS 490, Perspectives on the Nature and Development of Science
- HIS 491, History of Ecology and Environmentalism
- HIS 492, Problems in the Development of the Life Sciences
- HIS 493, Science and Religion: Historical Approaches
- HIS 494, Broken Brains, Shattered Minds
- HIS 495, The Soviet Science System
- HIS 498, History of Pseudoscience
- HIS 499, THINGS
- Note - with the permission of Prof. Gordin, one of these courses may be replaced by a cognate course from another department.
3. Four other history courses.
The independent work and departmental comprehensive examination requirements are the same as for all other departmental majors.
Before registering each term, each student majoring in history consults a faculty member who provides advice on designing a program of courses for the coming semester and signs the course planner/tracksheet. Juniors are advised during the fall term by the directors of their respective junior seminars. During the spring term they are advised by the supervisors of their spring-term junior papers. Seniors are advised by the supervisors of their theses. (Students planning to study abroad or to be readmitted after a leave of absence should consult the Departmental Representative.)
The Department encourages students to take courses in other departments that will add depth and variety to their study of history. When taken during the junior and senior year, up to two such courses may be counted as departmental courses i.e., cognates, provided they contribute significantly to the student's field of concentration and/or independent work.
Note that cross-listed courses, e.g., CLA 217 and NES 201, are not cognates; they are automatically considered departmental courses.
The designation of a course as a cognate must be approved by the Departmental Representative who will make an appropriate notation on the student's departmental track-sheet. The designation of a cognate course as a departmental should take place during the enrollment/advising period but no later than the University's "Deadline for 'Free' Course Change" (approximately two weeks after the beginning of the semester). Courses cannot be declared cognates retroactively nor can they be changed later to non-departmentals. Cognate courses do not satisfy distribution requirements; however, they count in the determination of departmental standing and honors.
Departmental Distribution Requirements
Students must take at least one course in each of the following four areas:
1. European history (including Russia)
2. United States history (including Afro-American history)
3. Non-western history (including Asian, Near Eastern, Latin American, or African history).
4. Pre-modern history.
See the Distribution Requirements for a list of courses satisfying each of these areas. (No single course may satisfy more than one of the distribution requirements.)
The Department encourages all of its students to master at least one language in addition to English. Knowledge of the relevant language is virtually essential for senior thesis research on many topics in the history of Europe or the non-western world.
Junior Independent Work
In the first semester, junior independent work takes place within the department's junior seminar, History 400, which all juniors must take as one of their fall-term courses. Topics are cross-national and comparative in nature, e.g. "The United States and Latin America in the Twentieth Century," "The Black Atlantic World: Black Encounters with Europe, Asia, and the Americas," "The Cold War as International History," "The Medieval City," and "Seeing the Sea: The Mediterranean in History." Students will select their seminar using TigerHub. The junior seminars are designed to introduce juniors to the tools, methods, and interpretations of historical research and writing. They result in the student's first historical research paper: the fall-term junior paper.
Two independent grades are recorded, one for History 400 as a course, and the other for the fall-term junior independent work, a research paper of approximately 30-35 pages.
In the spring term, junior independent work takes place outside the normal course load. Students write a research paper of approximately 30-35 pages under the guidance of a faculty adviser. At the beginning of the semester, students are asked to rank three preferences from a list of faculty members available for advising junior papers. Assignments of advisers are made as far as possible on the basis of student preferences. In consultation with their advisers, students may select any topic for the spring- term junior paper, subject to the provision that the spring-term topic and the written work accomplished during the fall-term junior seminar fall into different geographical areas and time periods. Geographical areas are defined as (a) Africa, (b) Asia, (c) Australia, (d) Europe, including Russia, (e) Latin America, (f) Near East, and (g) United States and Canada. Students may arrange to have a faculty member from another department serve as adviser for the spring- term independent work. However, the Departmental Representative must be notified of such arrangements.
Senior Independent Work
In the senior year, history majors write a senior thesis. The prescribed minimum length of text, excluding appendices, charts, and bibliography, is 75 pages. Maximum length is 100 pages. (Permission of the thesis adviser must be obtained if a thesis is to exceed 100 pages.) The thesis should be an original historical study that demands a significant amount of time and effort. The extent and type of research entailed e.g., the mix of primary and secondary materials, vary substantially from topic to topic, and students should discuss these matters in detail with their adviser early in the year. Senior thesis advisers are assigned at the beginning of the fall term of senior year. Every effort is made to honor students' preferences.
The senior adviser serves for the entire year. Faculty members of other departments may serve as senior advisers, but second readers of the thesis will be drawn from the History Department.
The Department sponsors fellowships for juniors who wish to spend part of the summer between the junior and senior years accomplishing research for their theses. A second round of fellowship applications is offered during the fall term.
Departmental Comprehensive Examination
The departmental comprehensive examination is taken at the end of the senior year after the submission of the senior thesis. It consists of a five-day take-home essay assignment in the student's field of concentration. Below are listed the fields of possible concentration and what is expected of a student.
Africa: The comprehensive examination in African history will focus on sub-Saharan Africa and will draw on material from the three major time periods into which the history of the continent is customarily divided: precolonial; colonial; and independent. In addition to being familiar with these three eras, students are expected to have deepened their knowledge of Africa by studying one of the major regions (South Africa or West Africa, for example) or an important topic (slavery and the slave trade, Islam, or nationalism, for example).
Ancient Greece and Rome: The comprehensive examination in the field of Ancient Greece and Rome is meant to cover the period from Homer (1000 B.C.) to the end of the Roman Empire in the West (476 A.D.) Questions will take account of what it is possible to know about this period from the courses in Classics, Religion, Near Eastern Studies, and History, currently offered on campus; but it is intended to test a student's ability to identify and discuss the larger problems of development, political and social structures and/or religious changes in either Greek and/or Roman history. Knowledge of the non-Greco-Roman world (e.g., Ancient Egypt, Israel, Persia or the Barbarians) is always welcome, though not obligatory, for efficient performance in the exam.
Asian History: Questions will focus on Japanese and Chinese history since 1600, although the comparative section will offer students the option of incorporating their knowledge of Korea and south Asia. Topics include the rise and fall of early modern regimes, commercialization/industrialization and its social consequences, state-society relations, nations and the modern world, interrelationships between domestic events and foreign policy, questions of national and other identities, and the divergent paths taken by modern China, Japan, Korea, and south Asia.
Europe since 1700: Students will be responsible for major political, social and intellectual developments in Europe since 1700. Topics may include: absolutism, the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial revolutions, Victorianism, Imperialism, nationalism and state-building, labor movements, the two world wars, fascism, Nazism, communism, the emergence of the welfare state, the origins and conclusion of the Cold War.
Gender and Sexuality Studies: Students choosing the examination in the Gender and Sexuality Studies field should be familiar with the economic and cultural underpinnings of changes in the gender system, as well as the political development of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century women's movements.
History of Science and Technology: Students should have an understanding of the history of science, technology, and medicine at various times and in various places and be able to address questions concerning the conceptual and institutional development of these activities in relation to the societies that pursue them.
Intellectual and Cultural History: While students concentrating in intellectual and cultural history are encouraged to study ideas and culture in societies beyond the influence of Europe, the core of the examination field is Europe and the United States. Students taking the field should be prepared to write about both "high" ideas and cultural and ideological phenomena more generally defined, and be able to reflect on the relationships between important texts or figures and the political and social contexts from which they sprang.
Latin America: Students will be required to know something about the main impact of conquest, and the social, political and economic structures of Latin American colonialism. For the more modern period, students will be expected to account for the turmoil of the nineteenth-century, the social aspect of re-entry into the world economy, and the recent struggles for democracy.
Medieval and Renaissance Europe: The comprehensive examination in the field of Medieval and Renaissance Europe is meant to cover the period roughly from 500 to 1600. Questions are intended to test a student's ability to identify and discuss large patterns of development over the entire period or a substantial portion of it, although there may also be more focussed questions on particularly important issues. Preparation that is limited just to Mediterranean Europe or just to England and France will clearly be inadequate.
Modern Imperialism and Colonialism: Students will be expected to know the major political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of imperialism and colonialism since the 1500s. While students will draw on their coursework in different national/regional histories to set the history of imperialism and colonialism in particular regional contexts, the primary focus will be on drawing connections between regions and sketching general trends.
Near East: Students will be expected to have a broad knowledge of the civilization of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, including the successor states to the Ottoman Empire. The history of North Africa and, where relevant, the northern Mediterranean coasts, will also be included under the rubric of the Near East.
Russia: Students will be expected to be familiar with the social, cultural, and political history of both Imperial (1700-1917) and Soviet (1917-1991) Russia.
United Kingdom: Students are expected to be familiar with the major trends in politics, society, economics, and religion in England and the United Kingdom from the late 15th to 20th centuries.
United States History: Questions in United States history will cover major issues in social, political, economic, regional, and cultural history from the 17th century to the present. Successful examinations will integrate material across centuries and from different courses.
War, Revolution and the State: This field is intended to examine a student's understanding of the main forces that have shaped political history. Both the causes and effects of war and revolution have contributed to the development of the state, and students should have a general understanding of the ways social and economic change are related to political history. Questions will be comparative.
The comprehensive examination must be submitted on time; no extensions will be granted. Students who submit a comprehensive examination of otherwise passing quality after the due date will receive a failing grade (F) that will be averaged into their honors calculation. These students will be permitted to graduate, provided that their average is higher than the departmental cut-off. Comprehensive examinations received after the last day of spring term exams will not be consider "late" but will be treated as if they were not taken.
Students who submit the comprehensive exam but receive a failing grade will not be allowed to graduate. The grade of F will be recorded on their transcripts. Students in this category will be allowed to retake the comprehensive examination at a later date, and the grade they receive will be averaged into their honors calculations.
Students who do not complete the comprehensive examination will receive a failing grade (F) and will not be permitted to graduate. They will be allowed to take the comprehensive examination at a later date, and the grade they receive on this examination will be averaged into their honors calculation.
Graduation Requirements and Honors
In order to qualify for a bachelor's degree a student must (a) fulfill the History Department's course distribution requirements, (b) receive a passing grade on the senior thesis and (c) achieve C or better in a departmental average calculated by the departmental honors formula. Departmental honors are calculated according to the following formula.
Departmental course grades equal 45%. (All History department courses taken in the sophomore through senior years and all approved cognate courses taken in the junior and senior years count automatically. Courses taken freshman year will also be counted if they raise the overall average or if they are necessary to meet any of the requirements.) Junior independent work equals 15%; the senior thesis equals 35%; and the departmental comprehensive examination equals 5%. Note that the latter component counts at least as much as one course and often means the difference for graduation with honors. The Department has no hard and fast statistical averages (or cut-offs) for determining the ranks of honors. These judgments are made at a faculty meeting when the quality of work that has been accomplished by students is reviewed.
The Department annually awards prizes for the best theses in European history, American history, American colonial history, History of Science, and the history of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. An annual prize is also given for the best spring-term junior research paper. Certain history theses are eligible for prizes administered by interdepartmental programs. In addition, the Department anually awards a prize to the junior and the senior with the highest overall academic standing in their departmental work.
Students in the Department are encouraged to participate in those programs for foreign study recognized by the university (For further information, consult the Office of International Programs, 36 University Place, Suite 350.) The Department has the following policies:
1. Juniors majoring in the Department may receive credit for up to four courses in history taken while abroad for either a full year or semester. These courses will require the prior approval of the Departmental Representative, and to secure that approval students will be expected to produce some evidence of the work load and of the materials covered by the courses.
2. Sophomores intending to major in History may count one history course taken abroad toward the requirement to enter the Department. The course cannot be used as a substitute for the 200-level prerequisite (see section on Course Prerequisites). A HIS 400 Junior Seminar is offered each spring for sophomores intending to concentrate in History but who will study abroad in the fall of their junior year.
3. Recognizing the difficulties of doing research without Princeton's many resources, the Department will be flexible regarding deadlines of submission of independent work conducted abroad. (Students must make arrangements for extension of deadlines with the Departmental Representative.)
4. Junior seminars offered during the spring term will be open to sophomores intending to go abroad in their junior year, thus enabling them to write their first junior paper in the spring of their sophomore year and thereby preparing them to write the second while abroad or in the resident semester of their junior year (if they elect to spend only one semester abroad). Students who meet the requirements of junior independent work while at Princeton will still be expected to undertake a full course load while abroad. Moreover, study abroad should include some research work. In particular, the Department encourages students to take seminars that include a research component.
Multiple submission of papers to satisfy one requirement within the Department and one outside the Department constitutes academic fraud unless such submission has been previously authorized in writing by both professors involved. For more details see http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/rrr/ Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, 2009 ed., page. 61. See also http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/integrity/pages/intro/index.htm Academic Integrity at Princeton: "Misrepresenting Original Work."