We live in a world shaped by the past. To make sense of the past, we must empathize with people who once thought very differently than we do today. We must learn how to see bygone lives and events on their own terms, to render the strange legible and the unfamiliar comprehensible. As a discipline, History teaches the analytical, interpretive, and expressive skills necessary to study the past and to understand social change over time.
It might seem counterintuitive that one of the best ways to understand the present is by studying the past, but that is precisely why History is so important. When we appreciate that History is not, first and foremost, a body of knowledge – that is, a collection of names, dates, and events – but rather a way of seeing and thinking, it becomes a powerful tool for assessing contemporary challenges and promoting social change. Once we know how to penetrate different modes of thought and human behavior and can understand their inner logic, it becomes easier to make sense of the contemporary world, its diverse peoples and ideas. Studying history cultivates a crucial set of skills that help navigate not only the past, but the present as well.
Suggested Preparation for the Major
Before declaring the History major, students must take one lecture course. They must take a second lecture course within one year of declaring. Fulfilling this requirement are courses numbered HISTORY 1-199 (with the exception of Frosh (xxN) and Sophomore (xxQ) Introductory Seminars).
Degree Requirements Overview
Completion of the major requires planning. History majors should plan to meet with their faculty advisors twice yearly, once in the Autumn and once in the Winter or Spring quarters. These meetings should take place within the first three weeks of the quarter, before the final study list deadline.
Courses comprising the 63 units must be taken for 3-5 units and a letter grade, and the student must maintain a grade point average (GPA) in History courses of 2.0 or higher.
At least nine courses must be taken from within the Stanford Department of History. Transfer students and those who study abroad may be granted exemptions from this requirement at the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
At least six quarters of enrollment in the major. Each candidate for the B.A. in History should declare the major by the Autumn Quarter of the third year of study or earlier, if possible.
One HISTORY 299S Undergraduate Directed Research and Writing taken for 3-5 units and for a letter grade may be applied toward the thirteen courses required for the B.A. in History.
The History department organizes a series of events at which students present their honors theses.
The department encourages students to acquire proficiency in foreign languages and study at one of Stanford's overseas programs. Such studies are not only valuable in themselves; they can provide an opportunity for independent research and a foundation for honors essays and graduate study.
Advanced Placement credits do not fulfill any major requirements.