Majors are required to complete 29 credits of history courses or courses approved by a History Department advisor (see below). Majors are required to specialize in a geographic or temporal field, and to take 13 credits within this specialization. At one time, these specializations were set in stone, but now you can pretty much make one up on your own. Nevertheless, you are required to take at least one course among several areas of concentration outside your own, including Premodern (pre-1750), Modern Europe, the non-West (including Africa, Asia, and the Middle East) and the Americas. If your specialization crosses geographical or temporal lines, departmental advisors will help recommend a distribution requirement that reflects a diverse courseload and a perspicacious understanding of world history.
Advising for undergraduate history majors is undertaken by the Undergraduate Education Committee (known by the appropriate acronym UNDED, pronounced as you might imagine). At the beginning of each year, students are required to meet with an UNDED representative to have their Plan of Study course (essentially ensuring completion of the major requirements) approved.
Undergraduate history community
There exists an Undergraduate History Council to help facilitate a community among history majors, as well as publishes the Columbia Undergraduate Journal of History, which history majors can contribute to.
To receive honors in the History Department, undergraduate students must complete a senior thesis. This document is usually around 50-80 pages, and must include substantial original research. Students writing theses either take seminars or work independently with individual advisors. While one cannot receive honors without writing a thesis, it is not, however, a graduation requirement.
For those juniors with a set thesis topic who require summer travel to undertake research, the department offers the Edwin Robbins Summer Research Fellowships, as well as smaller grants awarded during the year of thesis research, typically in January.
Honors and Awards
Those theses receiving honors must not constitute more than 10% of the number of history majors in a given year. In addition to honors, the history department awards several prizes for theses and other work of note. These include:
- The Charles A. Beard Senior Thesis Prize
- The Chanler Historical Prize
- The Lily Prize
- The Albert Marion Elsberg Prize
- The Garrett Mattingly Prize