The popularity of history among Cornell students is due to its usefulness as preparation for graduate, professional, or law school and for any career that requires critical thinking and good writing; the reputation of the faculty for scholarship, teaching, and advising; and most of all, the intrinsic interest of the discipline. A wide variety of introductory and advanced courses is offered. The department is particularly strong in ancient, medieval, and modern European history; in American, African, Latin American, Caribbean, and Asian history; and in the history of science.
Requirements for the History Major:
- 9 history courses (with a grade of “C” or better)
- 3 of the nine courses must be in history before 1800 (Courses that fulfill the Arts & Sciences historical breadth requirement do not necessarily fulfill the History pre-1800 requirement.)
- 4 of the nine courses must be taken from one each of the following five categories: Asian, North America, European, Global South (Africa/Caribbean/Latin American and Middle East), and Transregional (Transregional, Comparative, and Methodological).
- 2 of the nine courses must be seminars, and one of these seminars must be a 4000-level seminar. Service-learning 4000-level courses, HIST 4001, HIST 4002, may not be used to fulfill the 4000-level seminar requirement.
Note: a single course may fulfill more than one requirement as long as the total number of history courses is nine. For example, a course in medieval European history that is also a seminar would count for that requirement, as well as both a course in history before 1800 and as a course in European History.
The History Minor is designed to be a straightforward opportunity to sample the offerings of the department. Students may choose to take courses in a few different regions and time periods or to focus on the one particular area of history they’re most interested in. Either way, students will have the chance to deepen their knowledge of the past and sharpen their analytical and writing skills.
Requirements for the History Minor:
- 5 courses within the Department of History (that is, only courses offered or crosslisted in the department)
- All five courses must be taken for letter grades, with a grade of C or better, and either 3 or 4 credits each.
- First-Year Writing seminars do not count for the minor
- 1 of the five courses must be a seminar at the 2000-level or above
Note: Transfer, advanced placement, or study abroad credits are not eligible.
Please complete the online application and submit to Judy Yonkin, or print a jpeg of the application to fill out and take to 450 McGraw Hall (forms are also available on the fourth floor of McGraw Hall or a pdf can be requested via email).
Interdisciplinary Minor in the History of Capitalism
Capitalism has delivered unrivaled prosperity, but with many social costs. Understanding capitalism’s past is essential to understanding our world today—as well as tomorrow. How has it been defined? How has it developed at different times and in different parts of the world? Students undertaking the minor will be exposed to many different perspectives on capitalism, enabling them to critically reflect on economic institutions and ideas, as well as understand how our global economy has come to be.
The minor is designed to provide students with the basic vocabulary of economics and business, but to deepen it with a longer, critical perspective on the development of capitalism. “Capitalism” has had many different meanings over time and students in the minor will also learn how its meanings have changed across time and how they continue to differ across place.
Requirements for the Interdisciplinary Minor in the History of Capitalism:
- 5 approved courses in History, ILR, Econ and other units. Students may request the inclusion of non-approved courses.
- All five courses must be taken for letter grades, with a grade of C or better, and either 3 or 4 credits each.
- 1 course must be HIST 1540 - American Capitalism (AMST 1540/ILRLR 1845) OR HIST 3081 Stability and Crisis: Capitalism and Democracy, 1870 to the present.
- 1 course in Economics or Business (approved list)
- 3 historical courses (approved list/email staff for inclusion of additional courses)
Note: AP, Transfer, and Study Abroad courses are not eligible.
Public History Minor
Public history is any form of historical engagement that moves beyond the traditional classroom and scholarly publication, including monuments, museums, oral history, historical preservation, walking tours, as well as historically-engaged performance and documentary film. The Public History minor provides students opportunities to think critically about diverse modes of historical learning and storytelling and the many ways historical knowledge circulates in public life: Whose histories are privileged and silenced? What strategies can we use to uncover and share knowledge of the past? How does history shape experiences of identity and community? And how can public and community-engaged history help us to better understand society and politics today? Courses in the Public History minor also emphasize applied forms of historical engagement—archival research, community-based oral history projects, and curation. To learn more about the Public History Minor, please visit the Public History Initiative website.
Requirements for the Public History Minor:
Students must take at least 5 courses from a list of courses that count, totaling at least 15 credits, including:
- At least 1 course from the list of core courses (lecture classes intended to introduce students to a wide range of public history forms, methods, and questions).
- At least 2 courses from the list of history courses (courses in or cross-listed with history). Core courses can count towards the two-history course requirement.
All classes must be taken for letter grades, unless classes are only offered as S/U. First-year writing seminars do not count for the minor. Only one class counted for the Public History minor may be counted for the student’s major or an additional minor. Transfer, advanced placement, or study abroad credits are not eligible.
Please complete the online application or pick up a paper application on the fourth floor of McGraw Hall and submit to Judy Yonkin, 450 McGraw Hall.
Students may petition the Public History minor committee to have a course that does not appear on the list count towards the minor. To learn more about the petition process, visit the PHI website.
Students may participate in an Independent Study with history faculty. Students must complete an Independent Study Form (for either HIST 2001 Supervised Reading, or HIST 3002 Supervised Research) with a faculty supervisor for determining requirements and permission to enroll through the online system (https://data.arts/cornell.edu/as-stus/indep_study_intro.cfm). Student then work with their faculty supervisor throughout the semester for successful completion and grading of the agreed upon requirements.
Students may also apply for research funding for travel through the history department Research Funds (Information posted at the beginning of each semester), through the Cornell University's Office of Undergraduate Research, or through the Presidential Research Scholars Program.
The history department offers an honors program for students who wish to research and write a thesis during their senior year. In addition to writing the thesis, honors students must maintain a 3.5 average in their history courses, take HIST 4000 - Introduction to Historical Research during their junior (or sophomore) year, and complete 10 courses in history (for 3 or 4 credits each).
Honors in History requirements:
- 10 history courses (with a grade of “C” or better), which include:
- History 4000 (Introduction to Historical Research), taken in junior year. Majors wishing to continue to HIST 4001 are required to find a thesis supervisor by May 15th of their Junior year.
- History 4001 (Honors Guidance: Thesis Research) taken in the first semester of senior year
- History 4002 (Honors Guidance: Thesis Writing) taken in the second semester of senior year.
- At least a 3.5 average within the History department.
- 3 of the ten courses must be in history before 1800.
- 4 of the ten courses must be taken from one each of the following five categories: Asian, North America, European, Global South (Africa/Caribbean/Latin American and Middle East), and Transregional (Transregional, Comparative, and Methodological).
- 2 of the ten courses, must be seminars. One of these seminars must be a 4000-level seminar. Service-learning 4000-level courses, HIST 4001 and HIST 4002 may not be used to fulfill the 4000-level seminar requirement.
Note: History majors who wish both to study abroad (or in Cornell-in-Washington) and to enter the honors program should consult their advisors or the DUS as soon as possible after declaring a major. The department requires honors students to enroll in History 4000 before writing a thesis in their senior year, and may not enroll simultaneously in 4000 and 4001 (the first term of thesis-writing). So planning ahead is essential, especially if you intend to spend a full year abroad.
Paper application available in McGraw Hall, fourth floor. Or email staff if you would like to receive a pdf of the application.
The following prizes are offered by the department for undergraduate majors
Chalmers, Messenger (Undergraduate)
Awarded to an undergraduate with the thesis giving evidence of the best research and most fruitful thought in the field of human progress and the evolution of civilization during some period in human history or during human history.
- Award Amount: $2,500-$5,000 (2 awards 2021)
DeKiewet, Cornelis W.
Awarded to an outstanding history major (junior) who has demonstrated unusual promise and excellence in the field.
- Award Amount: $5,000 (2 awards 2021)
Duniway, Clyde A. (Book Prize)
Awarded to one student (junior), who is deemed to be the best history/government student in the College of Arts and Sciences graduating with the respective majors.
- Award Amount: $500 (to be used in the purchase of books)
Lang, Bernard and Fannie
Awarded for best senior honors thesis in US History or American Studies. This prize is to be administered by the History Department Chair, and the winner will be decided by an ad hoc committee of faculty members to be appointment by the Chair.
- Award Amount: $500-$750
Litchfield, Anne Macintyre
Awarded to the top outstanding woman senior majoring in history.
- Award Amount: $2,000
Lustig, George S.
Awarded to the outstanding senior who intends to continue the study of history at the graduate level.
- Award Amount: $2,500
Norton, Mary Beth (Undergraduate Research Scholarship – Fall)
Awarded to the research request for funding judged best and most worth/needy by the honors committee.
- Award Amount: $300-500
Tyler, Moses Coit
(est. 1936 by William Austen in his honor) Awarded for the best essay by a graduate or undergraduate student in the fields of American History, literature, or folklore.
- Award Amount: $2,000 (2 awards 2021)
- For more information and directions on submitting electronically (only electronic submissions accepted): https://english.cornell.edu/prizes-competitions
West, Bernard E.
Awarded competitively to the most promising undergraduate research scholar specializing in American history.
- Award Amount: $1,000-3,000
- Cornell in Washington
- Cornell Undergraduate Historical Society
- Courses of Study 2022-2023
- 2022-23 academic calendar
- Information for Transfer credit (printable application)
- History Major Requirements Worksheet
- Course Flyers
- Student Course Enroll Portal
- Pre-1800 is coded as HPE / World Areas are coded as HAN, HNA, HEU, HGS, HTR. To search for Major Requirement Codes, go to Courses of Study and enter the code in Search.
For additional questions, contact:
Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Professor Derek Chang
450 McGraw Hall
In Person Office Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00-12:00 and 1:00-3:00