History Major/Minor

The history major provides fundamental liberal arts training which prepares students for any job that requires the skills of research, analysis, information management, writing, and speaking.

This major is especially recommended for students preparing for law school. The history major also equips students for jobs specifically related to the study of the past, including careers in education, museums and historic sites, archives and libraries, and as historians of corporations, agencies, and non-profit agencies.

Career Options

Middle and high school teachers; college professors; attorneys; paralegals; researchers; librarians; archivists; curators; reporters and editors. See more.

High School Preparation

Art History; Comparative Government and Politics; European History; Foreign Language; U.S. History; World History

Enhance Your Experience

Students who major in history will oftentimes pursue a minor or double major in educational studies, elementary education, secondary education, or sociology

History Minor

History minors acquire research, analysis, management, writing, and speaking skills, all of which provide an excellent foundation for post-graduate studies and careers.  

Degree Requirements

A. All of the following:

H111 Global History to 1500 (3 cr.)

This course is an introduction to world history from the origins of civilization to 1500. The course focuses on the societies and cultures of Eurasia: Southwest Asia (the Middle East), India, Persia, China, Greece and Rome, Europe, and Africa, and the Americas. Major themes include the founding and development of the world's great religions; political ideas, institutions and practices; law and legal institutions; society and economy; war, conquest and empire; the encounters between cultures; and the richness and diversity of human experience and aspiration in the foundational eras of the world's civilizations. The course also is an introduction to the discipline of history and to the skills of critical reading, critical analysis, and effective communication.

H112 Global History since 1500 (3 cr.)

This course is an introduction to global history since 1500. It focuses on the development of the major societies of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia and also on the interactions between these societies, including trade, colonization, biological exchange, migration, the spread of technology, world war and genocide. The course also is an introduction to the discipline of history and to the skills of critical reading, critical analysis, and effective communication.

H270 Historical Thinking (3 cr.)

This is a sophomore level course for students intending to major in history or history/social science, or those interested in exploring these majors. It is also recommended but not required for history minors. The course introduces students to the discipline of history, and in particular to the skills of thinking historically, of collecting and analyzing historical evidence, of critically reading the work of historians. The course also focuses on close readings of one or more major historical works which make large claims about the human experience by integrating approaches from several disciplines, and also on critical evaluation of the debates generated by these works. The course encourages students to broadly synthesize their learning and to deeply reflect on the nature of the historical discipline.

H370 Research and Writing (3 cr.)

This is a junior-level course required for those intending to major in history or history/social science. It is also recommended but not required for those intending to minor in history, and for those who are social science education majors. It serves as an introduction to the critical thinking skills and dispositions used by historians as well as some of the basic research techniques employed by historians in research papers. The course requires students engage in their own research and writing, but focus on a broad topic of the instructor's choosing that will enable the instructor to introduce students to various source bases, research methods, argument strategies, and theories/ epistemologies that may inform their senior theses. Students are encouraged to start developing their senior thesis projects, especially as a way of transferring the knowledge gained from studying the course's topic to a topic of their own choosing so it can dovetail with the senior thesis course.

H470 Senior Thesis (3 cr.)

This is a writing-intensive course that guides history and history/social studies and social studies education majors through the required research and writing of their senior theses. It builds on H270 Historical Thinking and H370 Research and Writing, which are prerequisites for the course, as it guides students through the finalization of their research topic, the formulation of an argumentative thesis, the identification of relevant primary sources and secondary literature, the proper application of relevant research methods, and the proper usage of Chicago Manual of Style annotation and bibliography.  The ultimate goals of the course are:

  • The writing and organization of a substantial and well-written senior thesis research paper, based on primary and secondary sources
  • The writing of an abstract of that research paper, to be submitted to the Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium and Saint Mary's University of Minnesota's Celebration of Scholarship
  • The presentation of the research paper at these two events, accompanied by a well-organized and professional-looking PowerPoint slideshow
  • The creation of a research project poster, a professional resume for job applications, and a generic application letter that shows the students' ability to articulate the benefits of a liberal arts education and a history major

Seven additional history courses:

Choose seven courses from the following sections:

B. Three courses in American history, two of which must be upper-division:

H113 U.S. History to 1865 (3 cr.)

This course offers an introductory survey of the multicultural history of the United States from the earliest human settlement around 13,000 B.C. to the end of the Civil War in 1865. It introduces students to the diversity of peoples that came to inhabit North America, such as Native Americans, early colonizers from a variety of European nations, slaves from Africa, and the various waves of immigrants that enriched the American population prior to the Civil War. It introduces students to the various historical periods historians recognize, such as the pre-Columbian era, the Colonial period, the era of the American Revolution, the Early Republic, antebellum America, and the era of sectional conflict and the Civil War. The course also introduces students to many of the people, voices, ideas, beliefs, events, and larger historical developments that shaped American history. And it emphasizes the tension that has existed throughout American history between, on the one hand, the forces that work to create a single, unified country out of this multiplicity of cultures, and, on the other hand, the forces that threaten to undermine and tear apart the great republican experiment that is the United States.

H114 U.S. History since 1865 (3 cr.)

This course offers an overview of the history of the United States between the end of the Civil War and the present day.  It emphasizes broad developments that transformed American life:  the transformation of a rural-agrarian into an urban-industrial society; the shift from "isolationism" to internationalism; the rise of liberalism, the growth of the federal government, and the development of the military-industrial complex; the rise of a conservative movement and the subsequent polarization of American politics and life, especially as seen in the Cultural Wars; and the ubiquitous role technology played in these developments.  In addition, the course looks at these transformations through the lenses of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and class, in order to investigate how these broad developments affected people in an increasingly diverse nation.

H305 Race, Slavery, and Revolution in the Atlantic World (3 cr.)

This course focuses on the exchange of goods, people, and ideas between Europe, Africa, and the Americas between 1400 and 1900, with special emphasis on ideas about race and the social structures they engendered, the triangular trade in the Atlantic basin, the transatlantic slave trade, slave rebellions, and the political revolutions and religious upheavals that transformed many slave societies and ultimately ended plantation slavery in the Atlantic World. The course also pays attention to race and slavery prior to the transatlantic slave trade, the racial dimensions of national independence movements, the trans-Saharan slave trade to northern Africa, abolitionist movements, and the diverse cultures of the black diaspora.

H308 From the Constitution to the Civil War (3 cr.)

The writing and ratification of the Constitution are among the United States' proudest historical achievements, while the American Civil War was the Constitution's greatest test. The purpose of this course is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the developments and debates that led to the writing and ratification of the Constitution, the developments of the early national and antebellum periods that fostered greater unity among Americans, and the divisive issues and developments of the 1850s and 1860s that tore the nation apart yet ultimately affirmed the national unity envisioned by the Constitution. The course covers a diversity of social, political, cultural, intellectual and economic topics from the period between 1783 and 1865, such as the development of state constitutions, the development and spread of slavery, the market revolution, the growth of democracy, westward expansion and the removal of Native Americans, early reform movements, growing sectional conflict, and the Civil War. In addition to a broad understanding of the major topics of this period, students gain insight into both the methods historians use to interpret the past and the historiography that surrounds this vital period.

H311 U.S. Foreign Relations in the 20th Century (3 cr.)

A general introduction to the history of American foreign policy in the 20th century, the course seeks to increase students' awareness of the relationship of the U.S. to important issues of war and peace as they unfold in the world. It also pays attention to the linkage between the domestic political environment and its impact on foreign relations. Furthermore, it looks at important events and crises in U.S. foreign relations as well as some theories and practices of U.S. foreign policies. Students acquire a good set of tools to carry on their exploration of the impact of U.S. foreign policy on the rest of the world.

H335 American Environmental History (3 cr.)

The course introduces students to environmental history as an academic discipline and teaches American history through the lens of that discipline. It emphasizes the reciprocal and symbiotic relationship between human beings that historically have occupied North America and their surroundings—the natural environment as these human beings encountered and transformed them. As such, the course introduces students to the various strands in environmental thought, environmental science, environmental practices, religious belief as it pertains to the relationship between human beings and the environment, and environmental politics that have shaped the history of North America and the United States. The course also familiarizes students with the practices of historiography and the specific historiography of environmental history.

H355 U.S. Women's History (3 cr.)

This course is an examination of the image, roles, status, and activities of American women. In addition, gender issues are explored within their socio-political, cultural, and historical contexts. Special emphasis is placed on a comparative approach to the study of women's lives as they interact with race, class, and ethnicity.

H357 The History of Rock and Roll (3 cr.)

This course analyzes the rise, development, and sociocultural impact of rock and roll, broadly defined to include soul, rhythm and blues, punk, reggae, country, hip hop, heavy metal, and other genres that have become essential parts of American popular culture. Through critical analysis of the texts, images, sounds, business practices, and media machinery of rock culture, as well as of rock and roll's profound impact on television, fashion, race relations, gender relations, advertising, and politics students gain an understanding of the functions of popular art and culture in the political, social, and economic life of the United States. The course challenges students to critically examine primary source materials and secondary readings about topics such as the southern roots of rock music, postwar youth culture, race and racism, class, gender and sexuality, technology and mass media, the culture wars, and rock music as an American export, and thereby come to a greater understanding of the development and interaction of modern and postmodern culture.

C. Two courses in European history from the following:

H303 From Republic to Empire: Rome (4 cr.)

The Roman Empire holds a unique place in the world history and in the Western imagination as one of the largest and longest-lived empires in history.  This course surveys the history of Rome from its legendary foundation in 753 B.C. to its fall in 476 A.D.  It focuses on key questions such as how do we explain the rise of Rome and its triumph over so many adversaries?  How did it successfully govern such a vast and diverse empire for so long?  There will be a special focus on the late republic, its crisis, civil war, amazing conquests, its conversion into a monarchy, and the famous and intriguing personalities of the time including Cato the Elder, Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Ceasar, and Antony.  A second focus will be on Rome's fall.  Were internal developments such as the remarkable transformation of Rome into a Christian empire to blame?  Was Rome a victim of its own success, corrupted by wealth and power, or was Rome the casualty of barbarian invaders?  Finally, everyday life in the late republic will also be explored.

H321 From Romanitas to Vikings: The Early Middle Ages (3 cr.)

The first half of a two-semester course sequence that covers the period of history from the later Roman Empire to the demise of the Carolingian Empire.  The course is organized around two ideas.  The first is the creation of Western civilization out of three distinct traditions:  the Greco-Roman, the Judeo-Christian, and the Germanic.  Thus, the early Middle Ages were a time of intense change as this amalgam took centuries to develop.  The second idea is persistence, for example, of the Latin language and the idea of the Roman Empire.  Both ideas reach a temporary synthesis in the guise of Charlemagne, a Frank who is crowned as Emperor of the Romans by the pope.  At the same time the Vikings and the Arabs represent significant challenges to Romanitas or Romanness, and accelerate the internal divisions that undermined the Carolingian monasticism, the creation of barbarian kingdom, the development of the early Byzantine Empire, and the growth of a feudal society.  These topics are explored in particular by close readings of primary sources.

H322 The Age of Holy War and Reason: The High Middle Ages (3 cr.)

The second half of a two-semester course that covers the period of history from approximately 1000 to approximately 1400.  Out of the chaos of the tenth century emerged a mature medieval civilization that still exhibited some paradoxical tendencies.  These include the emergence of the concept of Holy War or Crusade under the leadership of a reformed papacy together with a vigorous revival of classical culture that culminated in the scholastic synthesis.  Other topics include feudal monarchy, chivalry, the revival of towns, and the establishment of the mendicant orders of Franciscans and Dominicans, culminating in the disasters of war, plague, and revolt that mark the fourteenth century and that foretold the end of the Middle Ages.  These topics are explored in particular by close readings of primary sources.

H332 Art, Assassination, and the Individual: The Renaissance (3 cr.)

The Renaissance refers to the greatest outpouring of art in the history of Western civilization.  It also refers to extreme political violence in Italy where war and assassination were regular parts of politics.  The Renaissance was distinguished by a spate of memorable individuals such as Petrarch, Lorenzo de' Medici, and Pope Julius II.  The Renaissance was a time of great religiosity personified by saints such as Catherine of Siena, but also a corruption that pervaded the institutional Church at its highest levels.  All of this happened within the remarkable revival of classical culture and humanism and new theories of education and learning.  Emphasis will be placed on the reading of important Renaissance texts by authors such as Niccolo Machiavelli, and Thomas More.

H333 The Destruction of Christian Unity: The Reformation (3 cr.)

The Reformation refers to the sixteenth-century religious movement that culminated in both the reform of the Latin Church and its division.  The course surveys the state of the Church before Luther, a time of great upheaval with popes in Avignon, the Great Schism, and conciliarism.  It balances a study of the theological issues such as justification, Scripture, and the sacraments, that defined the magisterial Protestant Reformation in its Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican traditions, with its Catholic counterpart associated with the Council of Trent, a reformed papacy, and new religious orders such as the Jesuits, and  Brothers of the Christian Schools.  Special emphasis is placed on the longer and shorter intellectual, political, and social causes of the Reformation, some of which can be traced back to ideas, often heretical, found in the early Church and to medieval scholastic speculation.

H365 Witches, Revolution, and Reason: Early Modern Europe (3 cr.)

The early modern period, from approximately 1500 to 1750 is one of the most tumultuous in Western history.  The period began in a context of religious war and state buildings that culminated in the absolutist France and an England that endured two revolutions, regicide, and an emerging parliamentary system of government.  But perhaps its most distinguishing feature is the great witch-hunts that culminated in seventeenth-century prosecutions that sometimes mutated into hysteria.  This turbulent time ended with two highly influential intellectual movements, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, which radically rejected the religious fervor of the previous centuries for a program that lauded reason, nature, toleration, and new political theories.

H366 Industrialization and Its Discontents: Europe, 1750-1914 (3 cr.)

This course is an introduction to the history of Europe during its explosive period of modernization, beginning with two concurrent world-changing events — the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Using a variety of sources, including works by historians but also primary sources ranging from manifestos and letters to plays and novels, students investigate the ideas and movements which emerged from this "dual revolution" to change the world, including imperialism, liberalism, socialism, feminism, and nationalism.

H367 Europe in the Era of World War 1914–1945 (3 cr.)

This course is an introduction to Europe's "thirty year crisis," from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 to the end of World War II in 1945. Europe's period of progress and optimism was shattered by the "Great War" in 1914. Four years of violence created the crucible out of which the monster of fascism arose. This led to an even larger war only twenty years later. During WWII, mass slaughter became commonplace, from the Nazi Holocaust to the Allies' strategic bombing campaigns, which targeted civilian populations. Using a variety of sources, the course examines the big picture of great power confrontations, but also how the wars were experienced by individuals.

H380 Imperial Russia (3 cr.)

This course is an introduction to the political, social, economic and cultural history of the Russian Empire from its origins to the fall of the Romanovs. The course emphasizes the crisis of the old regime between the period of the Great Reforms of the 1860s and the revolution of 1917. In addition to works by historians, this course uses a variety of primary sources, including memoirs, manifestos, letters, and also works of literature by such authors as Aksakov, Turgenev and Tolstoy. The course seeks to lay a basis for understanding the Bolshevik experiment of the 20th century, as well as Russia's contemporary struggle to define its identity after the collapse of the Soviet state.

H381 Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary Russia (3 cr.)

The Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 new states, the largest of which is Russia, in 1991. This event was widely heralded in the West as a turn to democratic capitalism; a decade later this was no longer so clear. This course lays the basis for an informed understanding of today's Russia by introducing its history in this century. The course highlights the revolutionary period including the Bolshevik seizure of power and Stalin's "second revolution," and also the recent past, including the periods dominated by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. In addition to works by historians, the course uses a variety of primary sources, including speeches, manifestos, eyewitness accounts, novels, and a series of influential Soviet films.

D. One course in non-European/non-United States history chosen from the following:

H315 American–East Asian Relations (3 cr.)

The aim of this course is to do three things: provide a general introduction to the history of relations between the United States and the major countries of the East Asian cultural sphere (China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam); explore the changing images Americans have had of the peoples of these nations, the Chinese and Japanese in particular; and draw connections between both these themes and the experiences of Asian–American during the last century-and-a-half of American history. Special attention is paid to crisis in American–East Asian relations, such as: the Boxer Uprising and the 1900 siege of Beijing, World War II and the Occupation of Japan that followed, the Vietnam War, and contemporary disputes over issues of human rights in China (stemming from the June 4th Massacre of 1989). Through classroom lectures, course readings, and a critical viewing of a variety of visual materials (including excerpts from newsreels, newscasts, and feature films) students look at the process by which crisis involving American interests alter or give new life to enduring Western stereotypes concerning East Asia. A major goal of the course is to provide students with the analytical tools and historical background necessary to put future crises in U.S.–East Asian relations, as well as the American media's coverage of these crises, in perspective.

H317 History of Latin America (3 cr.)

The History of Latin America provides a historical overview of Latin America—broadly defined to include relevant parts of the Caribbean and French America—from the Spanish, Portuguese, and French conquests to the present day. The course pays attention to the following: the role of Indians and Africans in shaping Latin American societies; the conquest of Latin America; sugar and slavery; the role of the Catholic Church and other religions in Latin American cultures; Spanish and Portuguese administration; the independence movements of the nineteenth century; the revolutionary movements and military dictatorships of the twentieth century; Latin America's relationship with the United States and other world powers; liberation theology; and soccer, music, literature, and other expressions of Latin American culture.

H318 The Ottoman empire (3 cr.)

This course examines the history of the Ottoman Empire from its founding in the fourteenth century to is dissolution after World War I.  Topics include formation and expansion of the empire, the religious and ethnic divisions within the empire, their impact on its longevity and its ultimate demise, the effect of attempts at modernization in the 19th century, and its legacy in the contemporary world.

H319 The History of the Palestinian- Israeli Conflict (3 cr.)

This course begins with a brief historical examination of the period from Abraham, whose "many sons" include both the Jews and the Arabs, through the Ottoman collapse and Mandatory Period to World War II.  The chronology then slows and focuses primarily on the developments in the Middle East that have led to the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Underlying this chronological structure, specific themes will be emphasized in each class, along with overarching themes like the roles of nationalism, religion, and victimhood narratives.

H390 Modern China (3 cr.)

This is a survey of Chinese history from the rise of the Qing Dynasty in the mid-17th century to the protest and repression of 1989. It discusses some of the main social, economic, cultural, political, and intellectual features of the "traditional" Chinese world the first Qing emperors ruled. It also covers the way this world changed as China experienced a series of convulsive events, including both threats from abroad and domestic rebellions and revolutions.

H391 Chinese and Chinese–American Films as Cultural Makers (3 cr.)

This is designed to assist students to gain a general knowledge of Chinese history from the feudal dynasties to the present, to stimulate students in thinking clearly and critically about Chinese cultural values, to provide students with fundamental facts and documents of the development of Chinese society through the eyes of several Chinese movie directors, and to develop students' oral and writing communication skills. Specifically, this course investigates how films by such directors as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, and stars such as Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li have shaped Western perceptions of China as well as encoded Chinese culture and history. Beginning with a comparison of The Emperor and the Assassin and Hero, students study how Chinese history is interpreted from two divergent points of view and representative of key Confucian and Daoism concepts. A study of Ang Lee's films offer the opportunity to investigate how a Taiwan-born, American director has been able to reshape and recondition both Chinese and American cultural icons.

E. One upper-division history elective

One upper-division history elective (chosen from the above lists but may not use a course that was used to satisfy B–D above).

History Minor

Six courses in history selected in consultation with the history department chair. A combination of upper- and lower-division courses in U.S., European, and non-European/non-United States History is recommended. Prerequisites: All upper-division history courses (300 and above) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor.