Prospective Students

History at the University of Chicago is rigorous and rewarding. We train you to interrogate your most fundamental assumptions about human nature and society and ask you to understand past cultures and ways of being that are very different from your own. At the same time, we teach you to analyze past societies from a critical distance and to examine how humans choose to remember their past—and what they choose to forget. You will benefit from the intellectual challenges of our program and acquire crucial skills of thinking, writing, and speaking that will prepare you for success in many fields. As a historian at the University of Chicago, you will:

  • wield both facts and stories. You will learn to balance sophisticated analysis of evidence with a deep understanding of narrative, uniquely positioning yourself to understand and mediate a wide variety of viewpoints.
  • excel at historical inquiry, research, and analysis. You will learn a method of encounter with the world that demands critical inquiry, the use of evidence, and sophisticated evaluation of information. You will understand change over time, the complexity of human experience, the contexts of multiple times and spaces, the causal relationship between historical events, and the contingency of historical outcomes.
  • live the life of the mind. You will develop lifelong learning and critical habits that are essential for effective and engaged citizenship. You will exit the doors of the Social Science Research Building with a body of historical knowledge that reflects multiple geographical regions, multiple temporalities, and a variety of theoretical approaches.
  • understand complexity and detail. You will distinguish between primary and secondary sources, provide a sophisticated analysis of their credibility, voice, and value, and assemble meaning from conflicted narratives and evidence.
  • ask and answer big questions. The history major has three tracks that allow you to shape how you ask and answer those questions. If you pursue our colloquium track of undergraduate study, you will generate your own research project in a junior colloquium. If you pursue the research track, you will produce a senior thesis.  If you pursue the capstone track, you have freedom to choose a format to present your research: options include a podcast, documentary, fiction, etc.  Whichever track you choose, you will have the opportunity to hone your skills as an historian by undertaking original writing and research held to the standards of the field. You will gather, sift, analyze, order, synthesize, and interpret evidence. You will identify, summarize, and enter into conversation with the arguments of other scholars; and
  • practice historical thinking as engaged citizenship. You will learn to engage a diversity of viewpoints in a civil and constructive fashion, working cooperatively with others to develop positions that reflect deliberation and differing perspectives.

Adapted from the American Historical Association's Tuning Project.