The Major: Students wishing to major in history typically declare their intention sometime in the fourth semester of College. The requirements for a major in history emphasize both a broad exposure to different time periods and regions of the world, as well as a rigorous engagement with the practice of history as a discipline grounded in the use of primary sources. The curriculum also serves to further the College’s learning goals through an emphasis on critical analysis, methodological training in the discipline of history, strong writing and communication skills, independent research, and critical self-assessment and reflection.

Related Programs and Opportunities: The study of history is much bigger than one department, and students are strongly encouraged to complement their major program with related programs and offerings from across the campus, the Five Colleges and beyond.

The History Major


  1. A minimum of 36 credits (9 courses) in history, no more than half of which may be at the 100 level. Of these 36 credits, students must also meet the following requirements:
    • One course each from three different regions, chosen from the following: Africa, Asia (including the Middle East), Europe, Latin America, North America.
    • A minimum of three 300-level courses, to include: (1) one research seminar, taken in the department (any course numbered between 302-394); and (2) two additional 300-level courses, of which only one may be History 395.
    • One course with substantial content in a period prior to 1750
  2. A statement of topical, chronological, or geographical concentration based on four courses, at least three of which must be history courses (history courses may be counted from the 36 credit requirement). The major advisor must approve a statement of this concentration during the second semester of the student’s junior year. 

The department encourages students to pursue independent work at the 300 level during the senior year. Students who intend to pursue independent work in the senior year should plan to complete their research seminar during the junior year. Students interested in senior independent work, who also plan junior years at institutions other than Mount Holyoke College, will need to take special care to meet this requirement. For more information on independent work leading to a Senior Thesis, see the information located in the side menu. 

To see if you have satisfied the requirements for the major in history, please consult the department’s online Checklist of Graduation Requirements.

The History Minor


  1. A minimum of 20 credits (5 courses) in history. Of these 20 credits, students must also meet the following requirements:
    • One 300-level research seminar
    • Four courses above the 100-level

Independent Study

Though not required for the history major or minor, an independent study course is often one of the most rewarding experiences in the history curriculum. Whereas 100-300-level survey and seminar courses introduce students to periods and themes designed by members of the faculty, an independent study course allows a student to chart her own intellectual path. With this independence comes the freedom to ask questions of one’s own choosing, the creativity to construct original insights to these questions and the challenge of learning self-motivation and self-discipline outside of a structured classroom environment. Independent work thus moves students beyond the study of history to its actual practice as a discipline of critical humanistic inquiry.

The first step in undertaking an independent study is to find a faculty supervisor, most often a faculty member who shares the student’s interest in the proposed topic and with whom she has already taken courses. Students typically register for independent study at either the 200-level (295) or 300-level (395). A 295 independent study often involves extensive reading of secondary source literature related to a particular historical question, sometimes in anticipation of further primary source research carried out in a subsequent 395 course.  Senior independent study courses can be taken on their own (without any prior 295 work), or as part of a two semester independent project that may, as a result of consultation among the writer, her advisor, and other faculty, become a senior thesis. More information on senior independent study leading to a senior thesis can be found in the Practice History section of this website. 

Any student considering a course of independent study should consult with a member of the history faculty.

NEXUS: Curriculum to Career Program

The History Department contributes to a number of the College's pre-professional nexus programs, and the history department encourages students to consider pairing a major in history with a NEXUS Minor. Students often use history courses to complete these NEXUS programs:

Teacher Licensure in History

Students interested in pursuing licensure in the field of history can combine their coursework in history with a minor in education. In some instances coursework in the major coincides with coursework required for licensure; in other cases, it does not. For specific course requirements for licensure within the major of history, please consult your advisor or the chair of the history department. See the Department of Psychology and Education's Teacher Licensure Program for more information.

Study and Research Abroad - History

History is and has long been a discipline structured around the study of particular places and their pasts. Study abroad offers an opportunity to bring historical understanding into sharper focus, through direct experience and engagement with a another culture and language. History courses taken abroad can count towards history major requirements with the approval of the chair. Students will find it useful to consult with members of the department as they make plans for study abroad, not only to clear the classes they wish to take for history credit in advance, but also to take advantage of insights faculty may have regarding the proposed study location. HIstory majors conduct summer research leading to senior independent study projects all over the world. 

Connect with Historians outside of the department

Historians can be found in many guises, including in other College departments 

.. and on the other five college campuses