In the College of Arts and Sciences .
The popularity of history among Cornell students is due to its usefulness as preparation for graduate, professional, or law school and for any career that requires critical thinking and good writing; the reputation of the faculty for scholarship, teaching, and advising; and most of all, the intrinsic interest of the discipline. A wide variety of introductory and advanced courses is offered. The department is particularly strong in ancient, medieval, and modern European history; in American, Latin American, and Asian history; and in the history of science.
B. Strauss, chair; R. Weil, director of graduate studies; A. Sachs, director of undergraduate studies; E. Baptist, E. Bassi, J. Byfield, V. Caron, H. Case, D. Chang, J. Chen, Z. Chen, R. Craib, P. Dear, O. Falk, P. Friedland, M. C. Garcia, D. Ghosh, L. Glickman, S. Greene, T. J. Hinrichs, I. Hull, J. Kohler-Hausmann, F. Logevall, T. Loos, M. Minawi, J. Najemy, M. B. Norton, J. Parmenter, H. Rawlings, E. Rebillard, R. Rickford, C. Robcis, A. Sachs, V. Seow, B. Strauss, E. Tagliacozzo, T. R. Travers, C. Verhoeven, M. Washington, R. Weil, J. Weiss. Emeritus: D. Baugh, S. Blumin, S. Cochran, P. Hyams, J. John, M. Kammen, S. Kaplan, D. Lacapra, W. LaFeber, L. Moore, C. Peterson, R. Polenberg, W. Provine, W. Pinter, J. Silbey, B. Tierney
Students who pass the AP American and/or European History exam with a score of 4 or 5 have two options: (1) use the AP credits to fulfill the Arts and Sciences course credit requirements for graduation, or (2) take introductory American and/or European history courses.
To complete the history major, a student must fulfill the requirements listed below:
Entry requirement: completion of any two history courses excluding first-year writing seminars.
- Take nine history department courses (for either 3 or 4 credits each), completing all of them with a grade of C or better. (Courses taken for entry may count toward fulfilling the major.)
- Of the total nine courses:
- four must be in courses designated as outside U.S. history and
- three must be in courses designated as history before 1800.
Note: a single course may be used to fulfill more than one of these requirements. For example, a course in medieval European history would count as both a course in history before 1800 and as a course outside of American history. A list of courses designated as “pre-1800” and “outside U.S. history” is posted at the History office (450 McGraw Hall) and on our website.
- Two of the nine courses must be seminars taken with Cornell History Faculty, of which one must be a 4000-level seminar. HIST 4000 , HIST 4001 , HIST 4002 and service-learning courses offered at the 4000-level may not be used to fulfill the 4000-level seminar requirement. Students participating in Cornell in Washington, Semester Program and completing a historically oriented research seminar may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies for equivalent 4000-level seminar credit. No other transfer credit will be accepted for the 4000-level seminar requirement.
Five courses within the Department of History (only courses offered or crosslisted in the department)
- All five courses must be taken for letter grade, with a grade of C or better, and either 3 or 4 credits each
- One of the five must be a seminar at the 2000-level or above
- First-year writing seminars do not count for the minor
- Transfer, advanced placement, or study abroad credits are NOT eligible for consideration
The history department offers an honors program for students who wish to research and write a thesis during their senior year. In addition to writing the thesis, honors students must maintain a 3.5 average in their history courses, take HIST 4000 - Honors Proseminar during their junior year plus an additional 4000-level seminar, preferably during their junior year, and complete 10 courses in history (for 3 or 4 credits each). During the second semester of the sophomore year or early in the junior year, interested students should speak to a faculty member or faculty advisor about the honors program.
Before the beginning of the senior year, the candidate presents, in conversation or in writing, a thesis proposal to an appropriate member of the faculty. The faculty member who approves the proposal ordinarily becomes the thesis supervisor. If for any reason it is necessary to change supervisors, this arrangement should be confirmed no later than the fourth week after the beginning of the candidate’s senior year.
Honors candidates should register in HIST 4001 , a seminar course in honors research. HIST 4001 is a 4-credit course that permits honors candidates to conduct research and to begin writing the honors essay in a seminar environment. At the end of the first semester of the senior year, as part of the requirements for HIST 4001 , the student submits to the supervisor a 10- to 15-page overview, or, alternatively, a preliminary draft of some part of the thesis along with an outline of the whole to the instructor of HIST 4001 and to the student’s supervisor. HIST 4002 is a 4-credit seminar course that permits honors candidates to complete the honors essay and to demonstrate their understanding of the ways in which the themes explored in the thesis fit into a larger historical context.
The completed thesis is evaluated by three readers, including the supervisor and a first reader selected by the student, in consultation with his or her supervisor.
The text of the honors essay may not exceed 60 pages except by permission of the chair of the Honors Committee and the student’s supervisor. Three copies are due during the second or third week of April. In May, each honors candidate is given an oral exam administered by the supervisor; the exam focuses on the essay as well as the specific subfield of history in which the student has conducted research (e.g., Periclean Athens, 17th-century science, 19th-century American politics).
To qualify for a bachelor of arts degree with honors in history, a student must (1) sustain at least a 3.5 cumulative average in all history courses and (2) earn at least a cum laude grade on the honors essay and on the oral exam.
Note: History majors who wish both to study abroad (or in Cornell in Washington, Semester Program ) and to enter the honors program should consult their advisors or the DUS as soon as possible after declaring a major. The department requires honors students to enroll in HIST 4000 before writing a thesis in their senior year. So, planning ahead is essential, especially if you intend to spend a full year abroad.
Cornell in Washington Program. History majors may apply to the Cornell in Washington program which offers students in all colleges an opportunity to earn full academic credit for a semester in Washington, D.C. Students take part in small seminars led by Cornell faculty, gain work experience through an internship, and carry out individual research projects while living in Cornell housing in the heart of Washington, D.C. Learn more about Cornell in Washington, Semester Program .