Research Track—12 Courses Total

  • 10 regular history courses
    • 6 courses in your major field
    • 4 electives
    • 1 history research colloquium (HIST 29600). A research colloquium taken prior to spring quarter of third year may count toward either the 6-course major-field requirement or the 4-course elective-field requirement.
  • 2 BA seminars (HIST 29801 BA Thesis Seminar I and HIST 29802 BA Thesis Seminar II)

Courses without a HIST number may be used only with departmental permission; you should submit a petition to the associate director to have them considered (see Petitioning for Credit below). You may use one Civilization sequence (up to three courses in the same sequence) to count towards history-major requirements, but only if these courses are not also being used to count towards Core requirements.

Major Field

You are required to take six courses in, or directly related to, your chosen main field. You construct the main field and choose your other courses in close consultation with the associate director, subject to final approval by the faculty chair of the Undergraduate Studies Committee.

The major field is usually defined by time and space. Examples are nineteenth- or twentieth-century US history, colonial Africa, the Atlantic world in the early modern or modern period, ancient Greece, or medieval Europe. Thematic major fields are also possible; for example, African American, Jewish, or gender history. Major fields may also be methodologically defined: for example, intellectual, economic, political, or urban history. If you pursue a major field in urban history, for example, you might take courses ranging from "Jewish Spaces and Places: Imagined and Real" to "Cities from Scratch: The History of Urban Latin America"; a focus on economic history might include "Economic Change in China" and "The History of US Capitalism." In the case of thematically or methodologically defined major fields, it is particularly important to consult closely with the associate director to ensure coherence.


You must also take a number of elective courses. If you are pursuing the research track, you take four electives and complete the major with two seminars for the BA thesis. Electives should complement your main field, extend the range of your historical awareness, and explore varying approaches to historical analysis and interpretation. You are encouraged to take courses that introduce significant civilizational or chronological breadth into your studies, or a different methodology or theme than you are studying in your major field.

Research Colloquium

As a history major you must take at least one history colloquium (HIST 29600s) though you are welcome to take more than one. If you are interested in pursuing the research track, you should take a colloquium prior to spring of your third year. The colloquia are offered on a variety of topics each year and enable advanced College students to pursue research projects. Depending on the topic, the colloquium may count as one of the six courses comprising your major field or as one of your history electives.

These courses expose you to the methods and practice of historical research and writing. You are required to compose an original research paper that is at least fifteen pages in length. If you plan to begin graduate study the year following graduation, the colloquium provides you with the opportunity to produce a writing sample based on primary sources that you can use for your applications.

Application to Research Track

You submit a major form and a short description of your proposed BA thesis topic to the associate director by sixth week of winter quarter during your third year. With the approval of the faculty chair of the Undergraduate Studies Committee, the committee places students into a BA thesis seminar before the end of winter quarter. In the seminar you develop a research proposal, which you submit at the end of spring quarter. The committee also assigns each student a BA thesis advisor from among the Department of History's faculty.

BA Thesis Seminars (Hist 29801 & 29802)

In the research track you complete a BA thesis and the two BA thesis seminars. The BA thesis is a three-quarter-long research project in which you develop a significant and original interpretation of a historical issue of your choosing. The thesis culminates your history program and ranges from forty to sixty pages in length, but there is neither a minimum nor a maximum requirement. The BA thesis seminars assist you in formulating approaches and developing your research and writing skills, while providing a forum for group discussion and critiques.

You register formally for two quarters during the spring quarter of your third year (HIST 29801 BA Thesis Seminar I) and winter quarter of your fourth year (HIST 29802 BA Thesis Seminar II). If you are out of residence in spring of your third year, you take BA Seminar I in autumn quarter of your fourth year (see "Study Abroad" below). The BA Thesis Seminar I meets weekly in the spring of the third year, but only every other week during autumn and winter terms of the fourth year. Throughout the period of researching and writing the thesis, you benefit from the company of your peers and the guidance of your preceptor, who is an advanced history graduate student, serves as the seminar instructor, and is the second reader of the thesis. You must receive a B grade in BA Seminar I to continue in the research track and enroll in BA Seminar II.

BA Thesis

The deadline for submission of the BA thesis is the second Friday of spring quarter. If you wish to complete you papers in a quarter other than spring quarter, you must petition the department through the associate director. If you are graduating in a quarter other than spring quarter, you must turn in your thesis by Friday of seventh week of your final quarter. When circumstances justify it, the department establishes individual deadlines and procedures.

With approval from the undergraduate faculty chairs in two departments, you may be able to write a BA thesis that meets requirements for a dual major. You must consult with both department chairs before the end of spring quarter of your third year. A consent form, to be signed by both chairs, is available from your College adviser. It must be completed and returned to your adviser by the end of autumn quarter of the your year of graduation.

You are eligible to apply for research funding for summer research from the Department of History and the PRISM (Planning Resources and Involvement for Students in the Majors) program. You are also encouraged to take advantage of funding that is available for language-study abroad through the Foreign Language Acquisition Grant (FLAG) program. Consult the associate director for details on funding.


Readers submit BA theses for departmental honors that they judge to be of particular distinction. Candidates must have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher, and a GPA of 3.7 or higher in the twelve courses counting towards the major. If the department concurs, students are awarded honors. Students who fail to meet the deadline for submission of the BA thesis are not eligible for honors consideration. The College makes the final calculations of GPAs; if you have concerns about your calculation, please talk with your College adviser.

Reading and Research Courses

If you are interested in pursuing a program of study that cannot be met by means of regular courses, you have the option of devising a reading and research course (HIST 29700 Readings in History) that is taken individually and supervised by a member of the Department of History faculty. Such a course requires the approval of the associate director and the prior consent of the instructor with whom you would like to study. Note: Enrollment in HIST 29700 is open only to students who are doing independent study that is not related to the research or writing of the BA thesis. As a general rule, only one reading and research course can be counted towards the History major.

Petitioning for Credit

The Department of History offers a wide variety of courses each quarter, and you are encouraged to take history courses to fulfill the requirements of the concentration. In some instances, courses that originate outside the department can be used to fulfill the course requirements of the major. To receive history credit for nondepartmental courses, you must petition the Undergraduate Studies Committee for approval. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Petitions must include a course description, a syllabus, and a statement of purpose that addresses the value of the course for your proposed course of study.
  • Allow sufficient time for committee review and to enable you to take one or more additional history course(s) should your petition be denied.
  • You should give your petition to the associate director, who shares it with the chair of the Undergraduate Studies Committee.
  • Courses taken abroad may also be used towards the major, pending approval of the petition, however more than half of the requirements for the major must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.
  • Petitions for courses abroad must include course syllabi, descriptions, and course work.
  • Generally, no more than two petitions per student will be approved. All petitions must be complete by the end of winter quarter of the fourth year.


Courses counting towards the history major are normally taken for quality grades. The History Research Colloquium (HIST 29600s), HIST 29801 BA Thesis Seminar I, and HIST 29802 BA Thesis Seminar II must be taken for quality grades. In exceptional circumstances, you may petition to allow a course taken for a pass grade (work of C– quality or higher) to count towards the requirements of the major. You should consult with the associate director and your College adviser about the appropriateness of a pass grading in your larger program of study.

Double Major

We encourage you to double major in history and another discipline, with the following stipulations:

  • Double counting: courses that are cross listed with another department may be used for both majors.
  • BA thesis and seminar: Double majors pursuing the research track must fulfill the requirements pertaining to the BA thesis, including taking part in the BA seminar.

Study Abroad

We strongly supports study abroad and have arranged the coursework requirement to make that possible, but a little planning is required, especially if you are pursuing the research track. If at all possible, it is best to study abroad during autumn and/or winter quarters of your third year. However, if a full-year study-abroad experience is desired, that is still compatible with the research track history major. One section of the BA seminar (combining requirements of BA Seminar I and II in an accelerated manner) meets in autumn to accommodate fourth-year students who have been abroad third year; these students register for BA seminar II with the rest of their third-year cohort. All tesearch-track majors are required to be on campus for autumn and winter of their fourth year in order to complete the BA thesis.

Course Numbering

History courses numbered 10000 to 29999 are intended primarily for College students; 10000-level courses are introductory. Some 20000-level courses have 30000-level equivalents when they are open to graduate students. To register for 20000/30000 cross-listed courses, undergraduates must use the undergraduate number (20000). History courses numbered 40000 to 49999 are intended primarily for graduate students, but are open to advanced College students with the consent of the instructor. Undergraduates registered for 40000-level courses are held to the graduate-level requirements.