History Major | History Minor

General Distribution Requirement

All history courses count toward the general distribution requirement in humanities except for HIST 305, which counts as social science general distribution. Topics courses that are taught by faculty in other departments but are cross-listed with History fulfill the general distribution requirement selected by that department.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and U.S. identities and differences will be posted on the Registrar's web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information regarding the general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements section of this catalog.

Honors Program

The history department participates in the honors program. Students working on honors projects must take HIST 490 in the fall of their senior year and can undertake an independent study under the supervision of their honors thesis advisor the following spring. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the department are available from either the department office or the Academic Programs and Advising Office.

Topics Courses

HIST 194, HIST 294, HIST 394, HIST 494 

Topics courses are occasional, often experimental courses, offered by instructors at their own initiative or in response to student requests. Recent topics courses include: Great Lakes American Indian Histories; Making History: Russian Cinema as Testimony, Propaganda and Art; From Telenovelas to Tacos: Popular Culture in Mexican History; The Victorian Empire: 1830s to 1910; Monks, Lords, War & Pestilence: Europe 950-1350; Ethics of Service; Indigenous Peoples and Museums; Modern German History, 1871-Present; History of Feminisms; US in the 1930s; France & Germany: Neighbors, Nations and Citizenship; French Revolution to European Integration; Medieval Travelers & Their Accounts; Transnational Latin Americas

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of tutorials, independent projects, internships, and preceptorships. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum section of the catalog.

Course levels

Courses numbered 100-199 are introductory in nature. They are introductions both to the study of history and to the history of a particular part of the world. As introductions to the study of history, they all aim at teaching students to think historically and to understand that human activity must be understood in the context of a specific time and place. In addition they contain a number of "skills" components, though, in keeping with the nature of history as a time and placelinked discipline, those "skills" are taught in the context of a particular history rather than as abstract theory. 100-level courses will include attention to understanding the distinction between primary and secondary sources, examining and evaluating evidence, formulating an argument, analyzing competing arguments, and understanding the nature of history as it is constructed by historians. Courses numbered 200-299 are intermediate in nature and are driven by specific content. Some are surveys of a relatively broad period; others may examine a narrower topic. 200-level courses are appropriate to majors and non-majors alike, and may be taken by students of any class-standing though the bulk of students enrolled in these classes will probably be sophomores and juniors. Courses numbered 300-399 are aimed at history majors and minors, though they may also enroll other students who have an interest. They are generally narrower in focus than 200-level courses and many will involve some degree of independent research. Courses 400-649 are advanced seminars and independent projects ordinarily taken by seniors.

History Major

Major Requirements

A history major is planned in consultation with a student's advisor and comprises no fewer than 40 history credits. These credits may include up to four internship credits (HIST 624) approved by the history department, and four independent project credits (HIST 614) carried out under the supervision of a member of the department. Preceptorship in history credits (HIST 634) may not be counted among the first 40 credits for the major but may be a supplement to them. Courses completed for college credit prior to matriculation at a collegiate level institution, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, may not be used in completion of a major. Except with consent of the department, the major will include no more than eight introductory level course credits and no more than eight history credits taught by faculty outside the department.

All history majors are required to take:

  • HIST 290 - History: Then and Now, which examines the different approaches and analytical frameworks of historical scholarship. Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to take this course during their sophomore year.

  • At least 4 credits in a history course at the 300-level, ideally before taking HIST 490 - Senior Seminar.

  • HIST 490, taken in the fall of the senior year, is an advanced study seminar in which a major research paper is written. The college senior capstone requirement is to be met by completion of HIST 490.

  • All history majors complete 16 credits in a thematic or geographic field selected in consultation with the advisor.

  • 4 credits in courses that deal primarily with the history of a period prior to 1800,

  • 4 credits in courses that deal primarily with the period since 1800,

  • 8 credits in courses in global/comparative history.

  • A single course may simultaneously fulfill a chronological requirement, a thematic requirement, and a global/comparative history requirement.

History Minor

Minor Requirements

A minor in history consists of twenty-four credits chosen with the assistance of the student’s departmental advisor. Not more than twelve of these may be introductory level courses and not more than four of them taught by non-departmental faculty.

Develop a history major unique to your goals and interests through the department’s “field” requirement. Dig into a field through a theme or geographic region that piques your interest, with one of our eleven identified options, or create your own field using the self-designed option. Plan your major to include 16 credits (four courses) in one of the fields described at the end of this page.

History Major Reference Sheet

History Fields

Plan your major to include 16 credits (four courses) in one of the following: 

Colonization and Empire

Courses in this field relate to both formal and informal empires, from antiquity to the present, across the globe. These courses relate to the establishment, functioning, and demise of empires and can also engage broader notions of coloniality and decoloniality along with theories of imperialism and decolonization.


Environmental history courses focus on the ways that human society has been shaped by, and in turn reshaped, the natural and built environments, including how technological systems have mediated and structured people’s relationships with the natural world.


This field examines the way states and societies have constructed ideas about gender and how those definitions, meanings, and the lived experience of gender have changed over time. Many of the courses in this field engage with gender and the ways that it has intersected with other dimensions of identity, such as race, class, ethnicity, religion, family, nationality, and sexuality. Focus will also be given to movements for social change and the ways in which activists–broadly defined–have worked towards equality for women, LGBTQ+, trans, and non-binary people. Courses can address any geographic location, and many are comparative or transnational in nature. Gender history is a relatively new field of historical inquiry and continues to evolve and change. This dynamism of gender history is reflected in our course offerings.

Law and Social Justice

Courses in this field emphasize the possibilities and the limitations of the law, legal systems and legal processes broadly defined. Local, national and global human rights problems and solutions are examined, paying attention to the ways in which individuals and communities encounter, engage with, and sometimes resist legal and political structures in order to enact social change. Courses may count for the Legal Studies and/or Human Rights and Humanitarianism concentrations. 

Public History

Public history has been defined as “the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world.” It aims to be in conversation with a wide variety of audiences – including stakeholders, practitioners, academics, and the general public. It values community knowledge alongside academic inquiry and emphasizes collaborative work. Approaches may include oral history, digital history, material culture studies, museum studies, and policy studies. Students are expected to understand theoretical, ethical and methodological concerns as well as to engage in practical applications

Race and Indigeneity

This field examines the historically constructed categories of race and indigeneity. Courses can address any geographic location, but they are focused on themes such as racism, discrimination, scientific theories of race, and anti-racism movements, among others. Courses can tackle additional ideas including, but not limited to: diaspora, group origins, transnational movements, and interactions with majority and other traditionally underrepresented groups. The syllabus should include at least two analytical works to help students interpret the specific categories of race and indigeneity in a scholarly fashion. Some courses may meet the Macalester USID requirement, but not all will.

Self-designed (view two examples here)

Students can propose a thematic field not listed among these options. The proposal will be prepared in consultation with the Student’s advisor and the Department chair and will consist of a 1-2 page proposal naming and describing the field, and identifying the courses that will be counted. This field requires an application prepared in consultation with the student’s advisor and departmental approval. 

Africa and Atlantic World

This course designation covers two discrete areas: courses that deal significantly with the continent of Africa and African diaspora, or courses that address the interactions between continents on the Atlantic seaboard (Europe, North America, South America, and Africa). Courses do not need to satisfy both to get this designation.


Courses designed to consider the national history of an Asian country and/or the major changes in the politics, economy, society, foreign relations and cultural development in East Asia and other regions in Asia.

Global and Comparative

There are several kinds of courses that may meet this requirement: 1. Courses that are billed as “World History” or “Global History” (such as “Intro to Global History” or “The Global in the Local”). 2. Courses that explore processes in history that are fundamentally transnational (For example: colonialism, trade, slavery, immigration, decolonization, the history of international organizations, development). 3. Courses that explore a topic by comparing two or more regions. 4. Courses that explore the history of a region or regions through a transnational lens, with a deep engagement of the way that region is connected to the rest of the globe.


Courses that count towards the Europe field are those that connect directly to the history of all or parts of the European continent (defined by the boundaries of the European continental shelf). Because an important portion of Russia fits within these geographic boundaries, courses that deal with Russian history will also count towards the “Europe” field. “Europe” courses can be related to any time period in European history, from the Classical era to the present. Courses that deal with Europe and its overseas empires will also count towards the “Colonization and Empire” field.

Latin America and the Caribbean

This field considers the history of two American regions that lie at the crossroads of global colonial and political cultures since the fifteenth century: Latin America and the Caribbean. While most courses emphasize the history of the Spanish and Portuguese empires and the independent nations of Iberoamerica, several also place these histories alongside or in dialogue with the British or French Caribbean or the history of the US-Mexico borderlands. Chronologically, courses consider the development of European empires in the Americas and the formation of postcolonial nation-states, cultures, and politics.

North America

Courses in this field address issues that focus primarily on the history of the Americas north of the Rio Grande. These classes that examine the history of the United States and Canada as well as the history of the Anglophone and Francophone empires prior to independence. Some of these courses will cross-list with American Studies or fulfill USID general education requirements.

Current students can find out which courses count for your field of interest by using Degreeworks.