Academic program

History has been defined as the collective memory of things said and done, arranged in a meaningful pattern. Such knowledge of the past supplies context, perspective, and clarity in a diverse and changing world. The members of the history department offer widely differing views of the history of a broad variety of peoples, yet they agree that the study of the past provides meaning in the present and informed choices for the future.

The study of history teaches an appreciation of both change and continuity, the critical examination of evidence, the construction of arguments, and the articulation of conclusions. In addition to teaching and to graduate studies in history and law, majors find careers in related fields such as work in museums and archives, public service, indeed any profession requiring skills of research, analysis, and expression.

Courses in the history department are designed to be taken in sequence: first, introductory survey courses (100-level), then more specialized intermediate courses (200- and 300-level), and ultimately advanced seminars (390). While nonmajors are welcome in any history course, all students are encouraged to begin their study of history with 100-level courses. More information on the history department is available on the website (

Major Requirements.

1) One of the following:
HIST 199. Introduction to Historical Methods.
HIST s40. Introduction to Historical Methods.

2) Primary Concentration. Majors choose a primary concentration from one of the following five fields:
East Asia
Latin America
United States
Premodern History

The primary concentration includes five courses in the chosen field: 1) one 100-level survey course; 2) two more specific courses in that field, which may include 200- or 300-level courses, one Short Term course, or a first-year seminar; 3) a 390 seminar; and 4) the senior thesis (HIST 457 or 458).

3) Majors must take two courses from one of either of the two following fields: East Asia or Latin America. Students whose primary concentration is in one of these two fields must take two courses in any other field. Courses that are listed in two fields may be counted in either field, but not in both.

4) Any two other history courses. Students considering a career in the field of history are advised to take a wide variety of courses covering a range of times and places. An intermediate level of competency in a foreign language (the equivalent of four semesters of college-level instruction) is a bare minimum for graduate work in history.

Majors and minors who transfer to Bates as rising juniors, with only two years at the college, must take the mandatory methods course (HIST 199 or S40) in their junior year, but have greater freedom than three- to four-year students to apply courses taken elsewhere to their departmental requirements, after consultation with the chair.

Mandatory Methods Course. All history majors must complete HIST 199 or HIST s40, Introduction to Historical Methods, which focuses on critical analysis, research skills, and historiography. Students are strongly advised to take this course in their sophomore year, and must do so by the end of their junior year. This course is a prerequisite for registering for the senior thesis.

Senior Thesis. A senior history major writes a thesis in the fall (HIST 457) or winter semester (HIST 458). Thesis writing develops the skills learned in previous courses and demonstrates the ability to work independently as a historian. To facilitate thesis planning and advising, all majors must complete a thesis proposal (information available on the department's website) before taking either HIST 457 or HIST 458. Ordinarily, students should be on campus the semester prior to writing the senior thesis.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the major.

Departmental Honors. Each spring, the department invites outstanding junior majors to become candidates for graduation with departmental honors. There are three principal advantages to this program for the qualified student: first, the two-semester schedule, with two course credits, allows more time for the maturation of the project and grants twice the academic credit for the related research and writing; second, the mutual understanding of the honors candidate and the thesis advisor that the completed work is to be presented to other interested readers also contributes to an enhanced relationship and a shared commitment that it be brought to a satisfactory conclusion; third, the quality of this relationship and of the completed work can inform much more substantive letters of recommendation, based on the student's demonstrated competence, discipline, and independence, the personal characteristics most sought by professional schools and potential employers alike.

Departmental invitees must discuss proposed topics with the preferred advisor before the beginning of the academic year. They must produce sufficient written work of sufficiently good quality by the end of the fall semester of the senior year to justify formal nomination by the history department to the college's honors committee. They must also present their work to a faculty panel, including an outside examiner, at the end of the winter semester in an oral defense.

External Credits. Majors must take a minimum of eight history courses from Bates faculty members. This means that students may use a maximum of two credits taken elsewhere (transfer or off-campus study courses) toward the major requirements. Advanced Placement credits, awarded for a score of four or five on the relevant examination, may count toward overall college graduation requirements but do not count toward the history major or minor.

Minor. The minor in history consists of at least six courses, five of which must be taken from Bates faculty members. The history department's offerings cover an enormous range in space and time. Like history majors, minors should focus their studies in one of the department's areas of specialization and also sample at least one other area outside of the modern U.S. or European experience. The six courses must consist of:

1) At least three courses in one of the history department's areas of concentration: United States, Europe, Latin America, East Asia, or premodern. Of these three, one must be a 100-level survey course.

2) At least one course must be in Latin American or East Asian history, or if the focus is in one of these areas, at least one course must be in any other area of concentration.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Courses applied toward a minor in history may not be taken pass/fail.