Undergraduate Major in History
Students seeking information about the Department of History and its programs may consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies or any History faculty member. A list of faculty office hours is posted outside Nau Hall 333 and on the departmental website.
A major in history informs students about the past. It also stimulates thoughtful reading, provokes clear thinking, enlivens critical capacities, and promotes good writing. Historical study provides an outstanding preparation for informed citizenship in an increasingly complex and interdependent world and a firm foundation for many career objectives. To these ends, the department encourages students to work closely with faculty to construct challenging, coherent, and integrated programs of study.
The major program is structured flexibly to achieve breadth while permitting students to specialize in an area that is of particular interest. In consultation with their faculty adviser, students should plan a program that combines small, specialized classes with large introductory ones. Students are encouraged to explore new areas by taking courses that focus on periods and regions with which they are not familiar.
Many history majors choose to study abroad, and faculty advisers are happy to work with students in incorporating foreign study into their major.
The history department sponsors lectures, seminars, symposia and conferences which students are encouraged to attend.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAJOR
- To declare a History major, students must have completed at least one university-level (i.e., UVa or transfer) history course with a grade of C or better. AP and IB courses do not satisfy this prerequisite.
- Eleven history courses of 3 or 4 credits each, taken for a letter grade.
- one in pre-1700 European history (HIEU).
- one in post-1700 European history (HIEU).
- one in U.S. history (HIUS).
- two from one or more of the following fields: Africa (HIAF), East Asia (HIEA), Latin America (HILA), Middle East (HIME), South Asia (HISA).
- one Major Seminar (HIXX 4501 or 4502) or Major Colloquium (HIXX 4511 or 4512).
- Major Seminars and Colloquia are offered in a wide range of topics. Students should select a Major Seminar or Colloquium whose topic is familiar to them based on their work in at least two previous History courses.
- A grade of “C” or better is required for the Major Seminar or Colloquium to count toward the major.
- five additional courses chosen from among the total offerings of the department.
- Of the eleven courses required for the major:
- five -- including the Major Seminar or Colloquium -- should be numbered 3000 or above.
- no more than six courses may be taken in any one field of history. (For purposes of this requirement, each History Department mnemonic – i.e., HIAF, HIEA, HIEU, HILA, HIME, HISA, HIST, and HIUS – represents a distinct field of history.)
- No more than two 1500-level history seminars may be counted toward the eleven courses required for the major. HIST 4501/4502 or HIST 4511/4512 count as the Major Seminar or Major Colloquium.
- Courses with the General History (HIST) mnemonic count towards the major, HIST 4501/4502 and HIST 4511/4512 courses count as the Major Seminar or Major Colloquium.
- Advanced Placement (AP)/ International Baccalaureate (IB) courses:
- Students with AP and IB courses cannot apply both toward the major. This is a clarification of the requirements for the History major.
- One Advanced Placement (AP) History course with a score of 5 may be applied toward the major. The AP course does not fulfill departmental requirements in the fields of United States (HIUS) or European (HIEU) History. The AP course will transfer as HIST 2000T. This is a revision of the requirements for the History major. It is effective for all students whose AP credits transfer to the University after the Spring 2010 semester.
- International Baccalaureate (IB) courses with a grade of 6 count as one course toward the major; courses with a grade of 7 count as two courses toward the major. The IB course will transfer as HIST 2000T, with either three or six credits.
- Up to four approved transfer courses may be applied toward the major. Courses taken before matriculation transfer toward the major if they have been approved by the University and are on SIS with a History mnemonic (HIAF, HIEA, HIEU, HILA, HIME, HISA, HIST, HIUS). Courses taken after matriculation require departmental approval. Consult the Transfer Credit Approval Procedure link.
- Courses taken in other departments may not be counted toward the major unless cross-listed in the History Department (e.g., ECON 2061/HIUS 2061).
- Students must complete the eleven courses toward the History major with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.
HOW TO DECLARE
You should spend some time with your faculty adviser planning your program of study. You may change your mind about some courses, or you may find that courses you had hoped to take are not offered when you expected them to be. The major has sufficient flexibility to take account of necessary or desirable changes in your program of study. It is important, however, to face squarely what is involved in majoring in history.
- Fill out the College's Declaration of Major for the B.A. Degree and the History Major Advising Record (both forms are available outside Nau Hall 323 ) and bring these forms and a copy of your course history or VSTAA form to any member of the History faculty during his/her office hours. If the faculty member is able to take you on as an advisee, s/he will review and sign the forms, which should then be submitted to the Undergraduate Studies Administrative Assistant in Nau Hall 323. If s/he is unable take you on as an advisee, you may either approach another member of the faculty or see the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The DUS will review and sign these forms and assign you to an adviser.
HISTORY MAJOR ADVISING
Declared majors consult with their faculty advisers at least once per semester, usually a week or two before the registration period. Special problems or questions can be addressed at this or any other time. The advising system can be an extremely valuable aid to students as they negotiate their way through the department's program. Students circumvent it at their peril.
Declared majors will be assigned a temporary adviser if their regular advisor goes on leave. Students will be informed of the change at the beginning of the semester. Unless you are informed otherwise, you will automatically be reassigned to your regular adviser when he or she returns from leave.
TYPES OF UNDERGRADUATE COURSES
The Undergraduate Record contains a list, with a brief description, of all departmental courses. This list is current to within about one year of the nominal date of the Record. Not all courses listed in the Record are taught in any given year; some are taught rarely.
For detailed descriptions of current courses, see: http://history.virginia.edu/course/courseList
The following types of courses are available to undergraduate students.
- 1500-LEVEL INTRODUCTORY SEMINARS are small classes for first- and second-year students. Enrollment is limited to 15 students per seminar. The purpose of these seminars is to introduce students to the study of history at the University level. Five to ten of these seminars, on a wide range of topics, are offered each term. These courses, which emphasize reading, writing, and discussion, automatically fulfill the College’s Second Writing Requirement. They meet once a week for 2.5 hours and are usually taught by regular department faculty.
- 2000-LEVEL SURVEY LECTURE COURSES are offered every semester in many areas of history. These courses cover a long period of time over an extensive geographic area. They are as intensive and demanding as 3000-level courses. Overall enrollment in these courses ranges from 40 to 180 students. These courses often feature two 50-minute lectures and a small 50-minute discussion section (maximum of 20 students) per week. In some cases, however, these courses meet twice a week in a combined 75-minute lecture/discussion format. Survey courses are offered by regular faculty, and discussion sections -- when offered as part of such a course -- are typically led by advanced graduate students.
- 3000-LEVEL SPECIALIZED LECTURE COURSES are offered every semester in many areas of history. These are specialized courses that allow for deeper investigation of a topic or period than would be possible in a 2000-level survey. Overall enrollment in these courses ranges from 30 to 180 students. These courses often feature two 50-minute lectures and a small 50-minute discussion section (maximum of 20 students) per week. In some cases, however, these courses meet twice a week in a combined 75-minute lecture/discussion format. These courses are offered by regular faculty, and discussion sections -- when offered as part of such a course -- are led by advanced graduate students and/or faculty.
- MAJOR (4501/4502) SEMINARS AND MAJOR (4511/4512) COLLOQUIA Every history major must take either a Major Seminar or a Major Colloquium. Over a dozen of these courses are offered each semester on a wide range of specialized topics. Students should have completed at least two History courses that are related in a fairly direct way to the topic of their Major Seminar or Colloquium. For this reason, majors typically take the Major Seminar or Colloquium in the third or fourth year. Enrollment in each of these courses is limited to 12 students, and is by instructor permission. (Non-majors may enroll if space is available and with instructor permission.) These courses meet once a week for 2.5 hours and are taught by regular faculty or by advanced graduate students who are completing dissertations in the subject area of the course. These courses automatically fulfill the College’s Second Writing Requirement.
- Because all history majors are required to take a Major Seminar or Major Colloquium, the department has special policies in place for registration. For details, see: http://history.virginia.edu/course
What is the difference between a Major (4501/4502) Seminar and a Major (4511/4512) Colloquium? Major Seminars are typically offered in areas of history that feature an abundance of English-language primary sources. The goal of the Major Seminar is for each student to produce a ca. 25-page research paper based on primary sources. Major Colloquia, by contrast, tend to be offered in areas of history in which there are few English-language primary sources available. As in a Major Seminar, students in a Major Colloquium are expected to produce ca. 25 pages of written work, although this written work is usually divided among several assignments of roughly equal length. Another difference between Major Seminars and Major Colloquia is that students in the latter often rely more on secondary sources (i.e., scholarly interpretations of the past) rather than on primary sources (e.g., diaries, memoirs, diplomatic papers) in their written work.
There is no foreign language requirement for any of the Major Seminars or Major Colloquia. As in all undergraduate-level history courses, all readings are in English.
NOTE: Only courses numbered 4501, 4502, 4511, or 4512 meet the Major Seminar/Major Colloquium requirement of the history major.
- 4591 SEMINARS are small classes (maximum of 15 students) that focus on a particular area or topic of history. They are usually taught by regular faculty and emphasize reading, writing, and discussion. These courses meet once a week for 2.5 hours and are open to all undergraduates. They do NOT fulfill the Major Seminar or Major Colloquium requirement of the History major. Some, though not all, of these courses meet the College’s Second Writing Requirement.
- 5000-LEVEL SEMINARS are small classes (maximum of 15 students) that focus on a particular area or topic of history. They are usually taught by regular faculty and emphasize reading, writing, and discussion. These courses, which are intended for upper-level undergraduates and beginning graduate students, meet once a week for 2.5 hours. While lower-level undergraduates may enroll in a 5000-level seminar, they are strongly advised to consult with their faculty adviser and the course instructor before doing so. Some, though not all, of these courses meet the College’s Second Writing Requirement.
DISTINGUISHED MAJORS PROGRAM
The Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) offers opportunities for methodological training, independent study, and directed research beyond those available in the regular undergraduate history curriculum. DMP students must fulfill all requirements of the History major. In addition, they take HIST 4890 (DMP Colloquium, 3 credits) during the fall semester of their third year and HIST 4990 or 4991 (DMP Seminar, 6 credits) during the fall and spring semesters of their fourth year.
In HIST 4890, DMP students receive an intensive introduction to historical methods and approaches. In HIST 4990 or 4991, DMP students research and write a ca. 80-page thesis. These special DMP courses -- HIST 4890 and HIST 4990/4991 -- count as three of the eleven courses required for the major.
Students of demonstrated ability -- a GPA of at least 3.4 in all university, college, and department courses is required for an honors degree -- may apply to the Director of the DMP for admission. For further information, see Distinguished Majors Program
PRIZES AND AWARDS
History majors are eligible for certain prizes and awards that are typically given at the department's spring graduation ceremony. The prizes and awards, not all of which are given each year, include the following:
- Jacob Bunn Prize for the outstanding essay in business or economic history
- Bernard Peyton Chamberlain Memorial Prize for the outstanding DMP thesis in a field other than U.S. or European history
- Bernard Peyton Chamberlain Memorial Prize for the outstanding DMP thesis in early American history
- Margaret Coughlin Award in East Asian history
- Kate Cabell Claiborne Cox Scholarship for the outstanding rising fourth-year history major
- Richard Heath Dabney Prize for the outstanding DMP thesis in European history
- Richard Heath Dabney Prize for the outstanding DMP thesis in U.S. history
- Tom and Lynda Garnett Prize for the best research paper on the history of the University of Virginia
- Thomas Hammond Award for the outstanding graduating College student in Russian studies
- Stephen Innes Memorial Prize for the best essay by a graduating College student on the subject of “community in history”
- Edward A. and Barbara Younger Award for the outstanding graduating student in history
For further information about prizes and awards, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.