Selecting Courses

Where to Begin Your Study of History

Some students prefer to start with the kind of broad introduction available in a survey, to learn about the diversity of peoples, places, and ways of living that have come before us and out of which the world as we know it has emerged. Others prefer to dive into an area of history that seems particularly intriguing or relevant to their interests, and perhaps turn to one or another survey later to gain a broader understanding of the past. Since history always involves the interplay between broad contexts and particular places in time, you can begin on either end of the spectrum. You are not required to begin at the 100 level.

Fall Courses Recommended for First-Year Students

Welcome first-year students! History can help us to appreciate radically different ways of seeing and living in the world. It can also help us discern connections that illuminate the world as we know it, the forces that seem to keep it rolling forward in its tracks, and possibilities for the future hidden in the shape of things we see around us in the present. I hope you will join us in a history class this year.


  • HIST-124-01 Modern South Asia
  • HIST-137-01 Modern East Asia
  • HIST-138-01 Modern Jewish History
  • HIST-151-01 Modern & Contemporary Europe
  • HIST-170-01 The American Peoples to 1865
  • HIST-180-01 Introduction to Latin American Cultures

Topical Course:

  • HIST-224-01 Busy Silk Roads
  • HIST-227-01 Ancient Greece
  • HIST-260PW-01 Postwar Societies
  • HIST-281-01 African American History
  • HIST-283MC-01 We Didn't Start the Fire

The courses listed above have no prerequisites.

General Advice

The department offers courses at several levels.

More advanced levels do often involve heavier reading and writing assignments, but critical reading and clear writing are valued in all history courses, and the distinction between levels is often as much about the kinds of questions asked as the level of rigor involved. Many courses can be taken without any prerequisites. First Year Seminars are only open to first-year students and introduce history as a field of inquiry and stress the development of basic writing, arguing and research methods

    • 100-level regional surveys focus on particular geographic areas; they have no prerequisites and are open to all students
    • 200-level courses examine particular times and places in history and range in size from large survey courses to small seminars. All students are welcome to enroll
    • 300-level courses (colloquium and research seminars) offer opportunities to examine topics in depth; some do have prerequisites or require permission of the instructor. If permission is required, please complete and submit the 300-Level Application Form

Take one history course and you will undoubtedly want to take more!

For those wishing to study history in greater depth, the department offers both a major and a minor curriculum. In addition to the major/minor requirements, this section contains other steps you will take as a student of history at Mount Holyoke. If you have any further questions about how to study history with us, please inquire with a member of the department or at the department office (Skinner 309).