History Major

Program Requirements

  • Total units required: 28

Required Courses

Requirements Units
Introductory courses 6
Upper-level courses 18
Capstone experience 4

Introductory Courses 

  • One introductory survey (100 level)
  • One additional introductory course, chosen from any 100- or 200-level course listed in History and taught by history department faculty*

Note: Students may satisfy introductory course requirements using AP credit if they have earned a score of 5 on the AP European, U.S., or World History examinations.**


This course can be an introductory survey, lecture, or seminar, and it can be either home-based or cross-listed in History. Note: "History department faculty" does not include affiliated faculty.


Students will be awarded 3 units of credit per AP exam for a maximum of 6 credits toward the major or minor. A score of 4 on any of these exams may earn 3 units of elective credit but will not be counted toward the major or minor.

Upper-Level Courses

At least 18 300- or 400-level units plus a capstone experience (for a minimum of 22 advanced units) must be completed. Requirements at this level include the following:

  • At least one course designated "premodern" and one course designated "modern"
  • At least one course from three of the following geographical areas: Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, or the United States or in transregional history (please refer to note 5 below)
  • The capstone experience: History majors must, prior to graduation, complete a capstone experience that consists of the following:
    • Successful completion of the senior honors thesis; or
    • An advanced seminar; or
    • An independent research project with a significant writing component (History 500 Independent Work); or
    • Directed fieldwork in the historical or archival profession, with a significant writing component


  1. Students should register under the History L22 department code for any courses that will count toward the major.
  2. Students much achieve a grade of C- or higher in a course in order for that course to count toward the major requirements. 
  3. International Baccalaureate: The department recognizes the superior preparation that many students have received in this program; however, no credit is awarded for the International Baccalaureate.
  4. The department recognizes that some students take their first history course or develop an interest in majoring in history only during their junior year and then face a dilemma in choosing between required introductory courses and upper-level course work more appropriate to their abilities. Such students, with the recommendation of their advisor in history, may petition the director of undergraduate studies to permit a designated upper-level course to substitute for one of the introductory courses. In all such cases, the minimum number of units remains 18 in the minor and 28 in the major.
  5. All upper-level units must be separate courses that are not double-counted toward a minor or second major. Courses in the major are excluded from the Pass/Fail option.
  6. If a student chooses to count a transregional course toward the geographical requirement, at least one of the two other geographical areas that the student counts toward the major must cover a region that is not included in the transregional course. For example, a student who has completed courses in U.S. and Latin American history could not count a transregional course that examines the comparative history of the United States and Latin America. However, a student who has taken a transregional course on the United States and Latin America could take a course on either U.S. or Latin American history and would then need to take a course covering an area other than the United States or Latin America to satisfy the third area requirement.
  7. Courses taken Pass/Fail do not count toward the major or minor.

Additional Information


History majors are eligible for fieldwork at the Missouri Historical Society or at other museums. Opportunities are also sometimes available in the special collections at Olin Library, with local businesses, and at historical sites.

Study Abroad

The Department of History strongly encourages student participation in the various year and semester abroad programs approved by the College. A maximum of 6 history credits earned from studying abroad may be applied to the major in history. Students must have their courses preapproved by the department's study abroad advisor prior to departure. It is possible to pursue a senior honors thesis after study abroad, but careful planning is required.

Transfer Credits

While the History Department does not restrict the number of transfer credits a student can apply to the major requirements, University policy does specify that at least half of the units for the major must be completed in residence at the Washington University.

Senior Honors

Students who have a strong academic record may work toward Latin Honors. Students graduating with Latin Honors must meet grade point average requirements and satisfactorily complete History 399 Senior Honors Thesis and Colloquium: Writing-Intensive Seminar while writing a thesis during the senior year.

Awards and Prizes

The Department of History annually awards the following prizes: 

  • The Helen and Isaac Izenberg Prize for a superior paper written for an Advanced Seminar
  • The Shirley McDonald Wallace Prize for an outstanding first-year student enrolled in both semesters of Western Civilization
  • The J. Walter Goldstein Prize for an excellent, well-written senior honors thesis
  • The Konig Prize in Law & History for the best-written paper addressing the connection between law and history in any history course

Special Opportunities

Undergraduates interested in history are encouraged to join the Undergraduate History Association, which is the local chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (PAT). Led by the ongoing campus PAT members, the chapter usually holds an initial organizing meeting in the fall of each year. The activities of the chapter vary, but they typically include sponsorship of lectures, films, discussions and social events. Although national PAT membership requires 12 completed units of history courses, the local chapter welcomes the participation of all students interested in history. Each year, PAT publishes The Gateway History Journal, an anthology of the best student historical writing at Washington University.

Contact Info