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Undergraduate Program — History Major

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Major Requirements:

  • 2-semester (6 credit) University Core sequence in history
  • 2-semester (6 credit) sequence in U.S. History
  • 3 credits of The Study and Writing of History
  • 6 credits in non-Western history
  • At least 12 credits of upper-division electives
  • Senior Honors Thesis or Senior Colloquium

The Preferred Sequence

Ideally, majors should take the History Core as freshmen.  The sophomore year should include The Study and Writing of History seminar, and possibly other electives.  Junior and Senior years should be used to complete the remaining requirements.  Upper-division electives (HIST 4001-4901) and the senior colloquia (HIST 5001-5499) are distinguished from HIST 2001-2899 electives by their substantial reading and writing assignments.  


Fields of Concentration

Majors should concentrate in a field that interests them. At least 3 of the electives, including 2 of the upper-division electives, should be in a field approved by the student's History Department advisor. The fields include:


  • Social
  • Cultural
  • Political
  • Intellectual
  • Economic
  • Legal and Constitutional


  • Medieval
  • Early Modern

Area and Nation

  • African and Middle Eastern
  • Asian
  • East European and Russian
  • Latin American
  • Modern European
  • United States

Comparative and Transnational

  • Atlantic World
  • Global
  • International
  • Religion across cultures

Individual Specialized Field

  • by arrangement with the student's History faculty advisor

Advanced Placement Credit

Students who scored a four or five in A.P. European History have fulfilled the History Core requirement. If your course audit does not reflect this, consult the Core Moderator.

For the Classes of 2015, 2016, and 2017, a score of four or five in A.P. American History fulfills the two-semester (6 credit) U.S. History requirement (HIST 2401-2402). For the Class of 2018, a History Major with a score of 4 or 5 on the A.P. test in American History Placement must substitute two U.S. History electives for the HIST 2401-2402 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 Core Moderator.

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. Students intending to study abroad should remember that at least six of the ten courses required for the major must be taken at BC during the regular academic year. Anyone desiring to take a History Core course in summer school must see the Core Moderator.


The Study and Writing of History

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, requiring a significant commitment of time and energy on the part of the student, who is required to research and write a major paper based on primary sources and to submit it in both draft and revised versions.

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.


Phi Alpha Theta

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.