History Majors


Students who intend to major in history should consult a member of the department in their sophomore year to plan their academic programs. The history major requires a minimum of eleven courses, eight in the area of concentration and three outside the area of concentration. Six of the eleven courses must be classes taken at Barnard or Columbia.

The 11 required courses must include:

  1. Three introductory survey courses (i.e., 1000-level courses in American and European History, or their 3000-level equivalents in all other historical areas, chosen in consultation with adviser).  One of these must be in the area of concentration. Students with AP credits may substitute an advanced course(s) for introductory course(s), although AP credits may not be counted toward the 11 required courses.

  2. Two seminars, one of which must be taken at Barnard or Columbia.

  3. The two-semester senior research seminar (HIS BC 4391-92).  The Senior Thesis must be taken in sequence over two semesters, beginning in the Fall and continuing through the Spring.

Majors may, with the approval of their advisers, take two of their 11 courses outside the department, provided that such courses are closely related to their concentrations. American Studies seminars may be substituted for history seminars.

Students may choose to focus their study of history on a region (such as Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, South Asia), period (such as ancient, medieval, early modern), or theme (see below).


Thematic Majors

Urban History

Investigates the history of cities, urbanization and urbanism.  Examines the economic, social, demographic and spatial processes that fuel urbanization and shape urban systems.  Explores the development of cities and urban processes through a variety of issues: economic activities, social structures, material conditions, political institutions, built environment, spatial form, urban cultures, and everyday life.  Interrogates the historical agency of cities: their impact on individuals, social groups, and the larger society.

Sample courses:

HIST BC 3408 Emerging Cities: 19th Century Urban History of the Americas and Europe

HIST BC 3978 20th Century Cities: Americas and Europe

HIST BC 4360 London: From Great Wen to World City

HIST BC 4830 Bombay/Mumbai and Its Urban Imaginaries

HIST BC 4651 Jewish Tales from Four Cities: The Immigrant Experience in New York, Buenos Aires, Paris and London

HIST BC 4456 The Craft of Urban History

HIST BC 4323 The City in Europe

HIST W3441 Making of the Modern American Landscape

HIST W 3575 Power and Place: Black Urban Politics

AMHS W4462 Immigrant New York

URBS V3308 Introduction to Urban Ethnographies

URBS V3315 Metropolitics of Race and Place

For additional urban related courses outside of the Barnard-Columbia History Departments, see the Urban Studies website for a regularly updated course list   http://urban.barnard.edu/

Intellectual History

Explores the history of the interplay between ideas and culture. Examines how religious, scientific, economic, and political ideas are shaped by society and how in turn they influence the formation of societies. Compares different periods and regions to gain appreciation for both intellectual continuities and change over time.

Sample Courses:

HIST BC 3321 Colonial Encounters

HIST BC 3062 Medieval Intellectual Life

HIST BC 4909 History of Environmental Thinking

HIST W3478  US Intellectual History

HIST BC 4119 Capitalism and Enlightenment

HIST BC 4064  Medieval Science and Society

HIST BC 4324  Vienna and the Birth of the Modern

HIST W4305  European Enlightenment

HIST W4127  Enlightenment and its Critics

HIST W4644  Modern Jewish Intellectual History

Rights, Law, and the State

Investigates efforts by individuals, groups, and the state to claim, delineate, and exercise power. Examines topics including state formation and modes of governance, the evolution of law and policy, and changing conceptions of citizenship and civil society, as well as movements and ideas of civil and human rights contesting the power of the state and other authorities.

Sample courses:

HIST BC 3321    Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Culture of Empire

HIST BC 3323    European Women in the Age of Revolution

HIST BC 3567    American Women in the 20th Century

HIST BC 3805    Law and Society in South Asia

HIST BC 4423    Origins of the Constitution

HIST BC 4672    Perspectives on Power in 20th Century Latin America

HIST BC 4788    Gender, Sexuality, & Power, Colonial to Contemporary Africa

HIST W 3330      Europe since 1945

HIST W 3926      Historical Origins of Human Rights

HSEA W4891     Law in Chinese History

Empires and Colonialism

Focuses on the economic, social, political, and cultural encounters fostered by imperial expansion and decline. Explores issues such as the complex relationship between metropolitan and colonial societies, the circulation of peoples, goods, and ideas through imperial networks, great power rivalries, the intimate lived experience of colonization, forms of resistance, and the impact of empire on the postcolonial world.

Sample courses:

HIST BC 1760    Introduction to African History: 1800 to Present

HIST BC 1801    Colonialism and Nationalism in South Asia

HIST BC 3180    Merchants, Pirates and Slaves

HIST BC 3321    Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Culture of Empire

HIST BC 3494    Era of Independence in the Americas

HIST BC 3855    Decolonization: Studies in Political Thought & Political

HIST BC 3803    Gender and Empire

HIST BC 4763    Childhood and Youth in African History

HIST W 3719      History of the Modern Middle East

HIST W4325       Central Asia: Imperial Legacies, New Images

HIST W 4434      Atlantic Slave Trade

HSEA W 3869     Modern Japan, 1800 to the Present

Race and Ethnicity

Examines the cultural, social, legal, and political construction of racial and ethnic differences in societies historically. Considers how these categories have emerged, how they have functioned in society, how they have been deployed by states, and how they have been resisted.  Topics include racial slavery; scientific racism; the interaction of class, gender and ethno-racial constructions; social movements; immigration and citizenship; nationalism and nationhood.

Sample courses:

HIST BC 3321y  Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Culture of Empire

HIST W 3661y   Latin American Civilization II 

HIST BC 3414x  The United States in the World 

HIST BC 3440x  Intro to African American History 

HIST BC 3803x  Gender and Empire 

HIST BC 3676x  Latin America: Migration, Race, and Ethnicity 

HIST BC 3855y  Decolonization: Studies in Political Thought and Political History

HIST BC 4651x  Jewish Tales from Four Cities: The Immigrant Experience in New York, Buenos Aires, Paris and London 

HIST BC 4411y  Race in the Making of the US 

HIST BC 4669y  Inequalities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Latin America

AFRS BC 2510x  Ethnicity and Food

AFRS BC 3150y  Race and Performance In The Caribbean

Women and Gender

Explores the political, economic, social, and cultural history of women cross-culturally and examines gender, the socially constructed differences between women and men, as a central element of power relations.  Coursework engages with topics such as: sexuality, colonialism and empire, labor, reproduction, race, consumerism, citizenship, migration, childhood, the body, the state, and feminism.

Sample courses:

HIST BC 3803x Gender and Empire

HIST BC 3664x Reproducing Inequalities: Families in Latin American History

HIST BC 3567y American Women in the 20th Century

HIST BC 3865y Gender and Power in China

HIST BC 4327x Consumer Culture in Modern Europe

HIST BC 4763x Children and Childhood in African History

HIST BC 4788y Gender, Sexuality, and Power from Colonial to Contemporary Africa

HIST BC 4861y Body Histories: The Case of Footbinding

HIST BC 4879x Feminist Traditions in China

WMST BC3509y Gender, Knowledge and Science in Modern European History

WMST W3915 Gender and Power in Transnational Perspective

Markets, Money, and Labor

Examines the historical specificity of markets, money, property, and labor relations and explores the interdependence between the economy and politics, society, and culture. In addition to asking how and why economic systems change, students will also examine how philosophers, politicians, and other historical actors, have theorized and sought to change economic relations.

Sample Courses:

HIST W4789  Poverty in Africa: Historical Perspectives

HIST BC4062 Medieval Economic Life and Thought ca. 1000-1500

HIST BC3116 Merchants, Pirates, and Slaves in the Formation of Atlantic Capitalism

HIST BC3180 Filthy Lucre

HIST W4434  Atlantic Slave Trade

HIST BC3380 Social and Cultural History of Food in Europe

HIST BC3321 Colonial Encounters

HIST BC4327 Consumer Culture in Modern Europe

HIST BC4886 Fashion

HIST BC4905 Capitalism, Colonialism, and Culture: A Global History

HIST BC4669 Inequalities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Latin America

HIST W4008  Wealth and Poverty in the Classical World

Science, Technology, and Environment

Studies people’s dynamic interaction with nature, climate, and geography and explores the cultural, economic, political, and social contexts of science and technology. Students investigate how the natural world has deeply informed the development of human societies and in turn how societies have endeavored to change nature, climate, and the environment to suit their historically specific interests.

Sample Courses:

HIST BC3380 Introduction to the History of Modern Science since 1800

HSPB W3950 Social History of American Public Health

HIST W3103  Alchemy, Magic, and Science

HIST W3544  Science and Technology in the United States from Franklin to Facebook

CSER W3222 Nature and Power: Environmental History of North America

HIST BC4064 Medieval Science and Society

HIST W4437  Poisoned Worlds: Corporate Behavior and Public Health

HIST W4584  Race, Technology, and Health

HIST BC4909 History of Environmental History

HIST W4911  Medicine and Western Civilization

INSM C3940  Science Across Cultures

The Atlantic World

Investigation of the formation of a unique hybrid culture involving people and places touching the Atlantic, including Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean Islands.  Focus may include commercial ventures, political and religious impulses, revolutions, migrations, slavery, and the movement of ideas, technology, animals, crops, goods, and germs.

Sample courses:

ARS BC 2006  Introduction to African Diaspora

CSER W31040  Critical Approaches to the Study of Ethnicity and Race

HIST BC 3180  Merchants, Pirates and Slaves

HIST BC 3321  Colonial Encounters:  European and the Culture of Empire

HIST BC 3424  Early American Maritime History

HIST BC 3440  Introduction to African American History

HIST W 4434  Atlantic Slave Trade

HIST W 3660  Latin American Civilization I/Colonial Latin America

HIST W 3661  Latin American Civilization II/Modern Latin America

ECON BC 3103  Economic History of the US:  From Colonial Settlement to the Great Merger

Religion, Belief, and Values

The study of religious institutions, movements, and belief systems, including the formation and maintenance of affiliations; debates over leadership and gender; reform, resistance, and rebellion in relation to religious institutions and power; involvement in philanthropy, military or missionary colonial projects; debates over gender, sexuality, and the family; humanitarianism and social activism.

Sample courses:

HIST BC 4788  Gender, Sexuality, and Power in Africa

HIST W 3716  History of Islamic Society

HIST W 4434  Atlantic Slave Trade

HIST W 3616  Jews and Christians in the Medieval World

REL V 2405  Chinese Religious Traditions

HIST BC 3803  Gender and Empire

ASCM W 4400 God in Muslim Life

REL V 2615 Religions of Harlem

HIST W Religious Conversion in Historical Perspective

HIST 3321 Colonial Encounters

Premodern History

Explores the roots of the modern world and also considers ancient, medieval, and early modern societies around the globe on their own terms.

Sample courses:

HIST BC 1062 Introduction to the Later Middle Ages

HIST BC 1101 European History, 1500-1789

HIST BC 3062 Medieval Intellectual Life

HIST BC 3180 Merchants, Pirates, and Slaves

HIST W3103 Alchemy, Magic, and Science

HIST W1011 Ancient Greek History

HIST W3072 Daily Life in Medieval Europe

HIST W3810 History of South Asia I

HIST W3611 Jews and Judaism in Antiquity

HIST W3060 Laws of War in the Middle Ages

HIST W3020 Roman Imperialism

Barnard history courses are numbered to reflect the type of course and world region:
By course type:

1000-level: introductory lecture courses
3000-level: other undergraduate lecture courses
4000-level: undergraduate seminars
By world region/epoch:
x000-x059: Ancient
x060-x099: Medieval
x1xx-x199: Early Modern Europe
x2xx-x299: East Central Europe
x3xx-x399: Modern Western Europe
x4xx-x599: United States
x600-x659: Jewish
x660-x699: Latin America
x700-x759: Middle East
x760-x799: Africa
x800-x859: South Asia
x860-x899: East Asia
x9xx-x999: Research, Historiography, Trans-National