Undergraduate Program

History Major

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.

History Major application - please submit to Judy Yonkin, 450 McGraw Hall.  Paper forms are also available on the fourth floor of McGraw Hall, or a pdf can be requested via email.


History Minor

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:

Note: AP, Transfer, and Study Abroad courses 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.


Independent Research

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.


History Honors

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:

  • 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.

Honors application form

Paper application available in McGraw Hall, fourth floor.  Or email staff if you would like to receive a pdf of the application.

Honors Research Funding Application

Undergraduate Prizes

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) 
  • Annual 

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) 
  • Annual 

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) 
  • Annual 

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
  • Annual 

Litchfield, Anne Macintyre 

Awarded to the top outstanding woman senior majoring in history. 

  • Award Amount: $2,000 
  • Annual 

Lustig, George S. 

Awarded to the outstanding senior who intends to continue the study of history at the graduate level. 

  • Award Amount: $2,500 
  • Annual 

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 
  • Annual 

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. 

West, Bernard E. 

Awarded competitively to the most promising undergraduate research scholar specializing in American history. 

  • Award Amount: $1,000-3,000
  • Annual 




For additional questions, contact:

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Professor Robert Travers
Undergraduate Coordinator:
Judy Yonkin
450 McGraw Hall
In Person Office Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00-12:00 and 1:00-3:00