Undergraduate Program


The History Department at the University of Kansas is particularly distinguished in undergraduate teaching. In Spring 2007, the History Department was awarded the Excellence in Undergraduate Advising Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In addition, many History faculty members have won individual awards for their teaching, such as the Kemper Prize and Distinguished Professor awards. The department as a whole ranks well above the University average in student evaluations.

  • Faculty in the department are often nationally and internationally recognized leaders in their field, and they bring this advanced knowledge to bear on their teaching.
  • Courses in the department are usually small, and the larger courses always include Teaching Assistants, so students can receive individual attention and feedback on their work.
  • Flexibility is a given in the department: students have only two required courses—a course on historical methods and a senior research seminar—and a choice of concentrating on any of ten fields, as well as the opportunity to design their own major. The department and faculty also have links to interdisciplinary work in Environmental Studies, African and African-American Studies, Indigenous Nations Studies, and other area studies programs.
  • Resources for history research at KU are rich. Watson and Anschutz libraries help make up a major research library collection, and the Spencer Library offers such resources as the Wilcox Collection on extremist politics, the University Archives, and major collections in British history, among others.
  • For more information, see the History Major Program Description.

Why History?

“Dead rubbish buried here.”…That's what Thomas Carlyle, the 19th-century English intellectual, thought of the study of history.

We like to think he was wrong, and yet historians as well as undergraduates sometimes need to be convinced that studying history is not a pointless excavation of dead rubbish.

Always study history because you take pleasure in it, of course. History offers the opportunity to enlarge your imaginative life beyond the boundaries of your mere lived experience. But studying history seriously has its uses beyond diversion.

In a culture that places primary value only on living in the present, studying history can offer a rare foundation for critiquing or at least comprehending the current state of the world. Valid history helps you cut through the myths that cloud our understanding of ourselves and others, and offers a depth of comprehension that few other disciplines can promise.

Few limits exist to what you may study. Politics, sexual relations, art, economics, literature, rebellion, power, war—history draws no boundaries between what you may and may not examine in your attempt to analyze the "dead rubbish" that constitutes the history of human societies.

You will learn a great deal about certain subjects, and you will also develop the historian's primary skills: the ability to analyze complex questions; a detective's eye for finding information (without having to beat it out of a suspect); and the power of writing and thinking clearly.

What to tell Mom & Dad

So your relatives all think that majoring in History is a one-way ticket to working the Fryolator? You just tell them:

  1. History majors often take their overstuffed brains and analytical powers to advanced degrees or careers in the law, journalism, business, social welfare, education, and even medicine, and they find that their history training has prepared them exceptionally well for these fields.
  2. A recent survey of History Department alumni uncovered unanimous agreement that training in history had been very useful in the "real world" of work, both because of the research and writing skills students had developed and because of the greater depth of understanding history had provided.

    Some of them said:

    • "It opened many avenues for further intellectual exploration—in politics, business, government, international relations, art, and culture."
    • "Really, knowledge of history gives you such an advantage over historiophobes that you can run all over them in long-term business planning. Applies in U.S., Europe, Asia."
    • "Invaluable."
    • "I believe my background in history gave me a broader perspective on events than my counterparts received in Journalism school. My history classes also encouraged a clean writing style suitable for the media and business—there's no room for flowery prose there." (from a journalist)
    • "Professors Greaves, Ciencala, Sponholz, Hiner, Paludan, and Brundage made a tremendous impact on my life. I am forever grateful."

    Actual results may vary, but these graduates all found that studying History at KU had practical as well as intellectual benefits.

  3. Maybe there's nothing wrong with being an intellectually fulfilled fry-cook.

Major and Minor in History

If you're enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, you can take history courses. You can become a History major by going to the departmental office (3650D Wescoe) and filling out a Major Declaration Form. There's no set time for doing this, but you should try to contact the department early for advising, preferably before the end of your sophomore year.

If you're double-majoring, you should plan early and carefully. You should be advised each semester by both of the departments in which you plan to major. Many history students also major in political science, English, a foreign language, biology, philosophy, women's studies, economics, or area studies, such as East Asian studies.

You can get either a B.A. or a B.G.S. in History. The department encourages the B.A. for the foreign language skills you will develop, but the department does not require it.

Requirements for the Major

(How to Major in History)

The history department is organized into 10 fields of study. For the purposes of the undergraduate major, these fields are divided into two categories, reflecting a Western or non-Western orientation.

Category I

  • Ancient
  • History of Science
  • Medieval
  • Modern Western Europe
  • Russia/Eastern Europe
  • United States

Category II

  • Africa
  • East Asia
  • Latin America
  • Native America

The minimum requirement for a major in history consists of 30 credit hours representing both Categories I and II, as follows:

  1. Five courses (15 hours) in either Category I or Category II
  2. Three courses (9 hours) from the other Category
  3. HIST 301 The Historian's Craft
  4. HIST 696 Seminar
  5. 24 hours numbered 300-699

(i.e., no more than 2 courses numbered 100-299)

Exceptions to any of the above requirements must be by petition to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

First- and Second-Year Preparation

Prospective majors are invited to contact a history department advisor to discuss the major program as soon as they arrive at KU. Only two courses are required for the major: History 301 (Historical Methods), ideally taken as soon as the student decides to major in history, and must be taken before a student can register for the other required course, History 696 (Senior Research Seminar). HIST 696 is normally taken during the senior year. Students with at least a 3.5 grade-point average in history and a 3.25 cumulative grade-point average may also apply to complete an 2-semester Honors Thesis class (HIST 498 and HIST 490) instead of HIST 696. We urge every major to work closely with an advisor to develop a coherent course of study that reflects his or her intellectual interests.

Special Field

You may construct your own special field of concentration outside of the fields listed above in consultation with a major adviser. Such special fields may be topical—for example, in women's history, or military history—or they may be chronological. You should consult with a departmental major adviser to construct an integrated and coherent program of study.

How to Minor in History

Minoring in History can add depth and breadth to your undergraduate major, whatever department you may be in. Requirements are 18 hours (or 6 courses) in History; at least 12 hours (or 4 courses) must be at the 300 level or above; two courses in category one, two courses in category two, and two electives.

Policies and Information


Amanda Contreras
Undergraduate Program Administrator

Nathan Wood
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Katie Rockey
Advising Specialist
To schedule Appt. call 785-864-3500

Department of History
Undergraduate office
3650 Wescoe Hall
1445 Jayhawk Blvd.
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66045

Summer at KU in KC

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