History FAQs for First Year and New Students

Courses Suitable for First Year Students

Not sure where to start in the History Department? Try one of the following courses that are especially suitable for first year students!

Fall Term 2021:

HIST 4.03 Introduction to the Modern Middle East and North Africa, Professor Andrew Simon
HIST 5.04 Introduction to Korean Culture, Professors Soyoung Suh and Sunglim Kim
HIST 5.13 Modern Latin America, Professor Jorell Meléndez-Badillo

Winter Term 2022:

HIST 1 Turning Points in American History, Professors Robert Bonner and Leslie Butler
HIST 3.01 Europe in the Age of Wonder, 300 – 1600, Professors Cecilia Gaposhkin and Walter Simons
HIST 5.01 Pre-Colonial African History, Professor Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch
HIST 8.01 Body Parts, Body Wholes: An Introduction to the Comparative History of Medicine, Professor Soyoung Suh

Spring Term 2022:

HIST 3.03 Europe in the Age of Violence, 1789 – today, Professor Udi Greenberg
HIST 4.01 The Crusades, Professor Patrick Meehan
HIST 5.05 The Emergence of Modern Japan, Professor Connor Mills
HIST 8.06 The History of Food, Professor Matt Garcia

Frequently Asked Questions

  1.  Why should I take history classes?
    It is impossible to understand today's world without studying how people lived in the past. Historical forces have made every aspect of our contemporary existence, from political divisions to patterns of migration, technological innovation, and ecological devastation. Through history, we grasp that there is nothing "natural" or "inevitable" about our lives; they are the product of past generations' choices, contingencies, and challenges. But while the past fundamentally shapes our present, we can also use this knowledge to effect change; only by studying and understanding how we came to be can we create new possibilities for the present and the future. Through studying history, you will also develop excellent writing, analytical, and above all, critical reading and thinking skills. In particular, history teaches you how to carefully read and assess different sources of information. History therefore offers an outstanding foundation for a wide array of careers: our majors work in every field from law, entertainment, and finance to education and social justice.
  2. What are Dartmouth history classes like?
    Dartmouth history courses emphasize the study of the past as an active and ongoing process. History is not lying out there waiting to be "discovered"; to write history, historians ask new and exciting questions, bring historical sources together in new ways, and engage with and respond to each other. This process of puzzling out and making sense of peoples, times, events, and places different from our own requires creativity, determination, and ingenuity. In order to encourage students to think historically, our courses focus on asking and answering historical questions, drawing from a wide array of historical materials that stretch across time and place. In a history class, you will not only learn about historical events but also read different explanations about how and why history happened the way it did, and think carefully—orally and in writing—about whether you find these explanations convincing. You will read and think about diverse historical sources, from speeches and government memos to novels, songs, and movies. Finally, you will dramatically improve your thinking and writing skills through discussion, written assignments, and digital projects. All Dartmouth history courses focus on encouraging students to express themselves with clarity, conviction, and careful attention to argument and the use of evidence. This emphasis on precise analysis, reading and assessing diverse sources of information, and communication means that the study of history forms an excellent basis for a wide array of careers.
  3. How are history classes organized?  Does a high course number mean the class is more advanced?
    History classes are divided into three basic groups. HIST 1 – 8 are introductory level classes organized around a geographic area and/or a broad theme (with the exception of HIST 7, which are first year seminars). HIST 9 – 94 are upper level courses but the number does not correlate with difficulty. To give an example, HIST 90.04 is not a harder class than HIST 11, it simply has a higher number for organizational purposes. Finally, HIST 96 are advanced seminars designed for history majors. These courses do not admit first year students and can be taken only after you declare a history major or minor.
  4. Do history classes have prerequisites?
    History classes do not have prerequisites. First year students may take any class that is being offered this fall with the exception of HIST 96, 97, and 98. However, if you know that you want to take upper level classes in a specific geographic area or theme, we recommend that you take the introductory level class first.
  5. I took AP history classes, does that mean that introductory classes will be too easy for me?
    The study of history at the college level is very different from high school history courses, even AP level courses. Our entry level history classes seek to help students learn how to think like a historian. They emphasize critically assessing and analyzing historical documents and sources, placing those sources in conversation with different historical contexts, reading and discussing arguments made by other historians, and creating your own historical arguments based on course materials. These courses provide an excellent foundation for advanced historical work.
  6.  How does the history major work?
    The history major requires students to take classes in 4 of 6 different geographical regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the United States) and 2 different time periods (pre-modern and modern). The practice and study of history can differ dramatically depending on the time and place you are exploring, so fulfilling these requirements gives students a broad sense of both historical content and historical practice. Students get to choose the courses that they use to fulfill these requirements and may use the same class to fulfill multiple requirements. History majors are also required to take two advanced seminars, which serve as the culmination of the major. In these small, discussion-based courses, students produce a final project or paper based on original historical research. The department offers a wide array of advanced seminars so that students can choose seminars that interest them and build on their prior coursework.
  7. If I am planning to major in history, where should I start?
    Because all classes in the department, with the exception of HIST 7, fulfill at least one of the major requirements, first year students should choose their classes based on their specific interests. Any class you choose will count towards the major!
  8. Do first year seminars (HIST 7) count towards the major?
    First year seminars (HIST 7) do not count towards the major.
  9. Can first year students take advanced history seminars (HIST 96)?
    Advanced history seminars (HIST 96) are reserved for students who have declared a major or minor in history. Generally, students are first eligible to take these courses during sophomore summer.
  10. Does the History Department have a Foreign Study Program (FSP)?
    Yes! The History Department runs a unique and popular FSP program in London during the fall term. The program is based at University College London (UCL) and students have access to UCL's library and other facilities. History FSP students choose one course at UCL and take a second course on the History of London with the other history FSP students. For their third course credit, FSP students undertake an independent research project using the many archives and libraries available in the London area. Students develop their research topic and question in conjunction with department faculty. You can see more information about the FSP here: https://history.dartmouth.edu/foreign-study/ and watch a short video about the program here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVfdw5Muyas&feature=youtu.be
  11.  I really love history.  How can I get more involved in the History Department and the study/production of history at Dartmouth?
    A group of Dartmouth history majors recently launched a Dartmouth chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society.  Phi Alpha Theta holds events and talks with both historians and history students. It's a great way to get more involved in the study of history at Dartmouth.  You can see their website here: https://sites.dartmouth.edu/pat/The History Department offers a variety of opportunities for independent research, including the FSP program, the advanced seminars, independent studies, and the honors program in which students undertake a year-long senior thesis research project. Students can receive funding for these projects through the history department and/or the office of undergraduate research. The department also runs the Dartmouth Vietnam Project, which trains students in the art and method of oral history by interviewing members of the Dartmouth community about their experiences during the Vietnam War; this is one of several oral history programs on campus. Students also have opportunities to assist professors with their research, funded by the Presidential Scholars Program and the Junior Research Scholars program.
  12. What can I do with a history degree?
    Majoring in history gives you unparalleled critical thinking and writing skills and lays a strong foundation for a diverse array of career paths. Dartmouth history students go on to do just about anything you can think of – including law, journalism and media, tech, healthcare, consulting, film and television, social justice and activism, graduate study, politics, public history and museum work, and education. For more information, the American Historical Association recently released a small booklet entitled "Careers for History Majors".
  13.  Where is the history department?  Who should I contact for more information?
    The history department is located in Carson Hall and is conveniently connected to Baker Berry Library. The department administrator, Bruch Lehmann (bruch.lehmann@dartmouth.edu) is in Carson 309. For questions about classes and the major, you can also contact the department's Vice Chair, Prof. Jennifer Miller (Jennifer.m.miller@dartmouth.edu), whose office is Carson 410.