Requirements: History

Social Sciences Division

As historians we look for and examine what women and men of the past have left behind, what they have created, and what marks they have left on the world. We listen to the stories others have told and look at the pictures others have painted of those pasts. We shape and articulate our own narratives and understandings of historical evidence. We discern and analyze varieties of and connections among human experiences. Through departmental course offerings, the major and participation in interdisciplinary studies, we teach students to join us in exploring the world's past. We encourage off-campus study and foreign language study, sponsor diverse speakers and arrange formal and informal gatherings to encourage students to reflect on the human past as a way to understand their world.


New Students

The department has developed the course HIST 100, "Making of the Contemporary World," as a historical introduction to the 20th century. With an emphasis on small group discussion and the exploration of primary sources, this is an ideal course for first-year students. In addition, courses numbered between 100 and 199 are designed as introductory courses, suitable both for those who plan further work in the field and for those who intend to enroll in only one history course during their college career. The department recommends them as appropriate first courses. Nevertheless, unless otherwise noted, all courses numbered below 300 are open to any interested student. Courses numbered from 300 to 498 are seminars. Enrollment in seminars is limited, and normally not recommended for first-year students. Interested first-year students should consult the instructor about enrolling in a 300-level course.

The Curriculum

The department believes a sound history curriculum presents the following seven elements:

  1. authentic research and writing opportunities
  2. a variety of classroom interactions
  3. a blend of studies focusing on breadth with studies focusing on depth
  4. opportunities to learn about different world cultures
  5. engagement with events that occurred well before recent times
  6. an introduction to the ways historians do their work and the theoretical considerations that undergird that work
  7. an obligation to integrate the various discrete courses that the curriculum offers.

The requirements for the major are designed to ensure that all history majors experience these elements.

Requirements for the Major

History majors at Kenyon must receive credit for at least 11 courses taught by the History Department or in extra-departmental courses approved by the History Department. No more than two courses may be earned outside the department by students who choose not to study off-campus. Students who choose to study off-campus may earn up to two courses of outside history credit. For information on non-departmental courses that count for history credit, see the department chair.

The 11 required courses must include:

  • Four courses in a defined field within the major
  • HIST 387 Practice and Theory of History
  • HIST 490 Senior Seminar OR HIST 497-498 Senior Honors Seminar
  • One advanced seminar (any 300- to 400-level seminar except HIST 387, 490, 497 or 498). This seminar must be one of the four courses in the defined field. Students may and usually do take more than one advanced seminar. 
  • Four elective courses

Electives and the four courses taken in the field within the major must include courses that meet the following distribution requirements:

  • Two courses in the history of Asia and/or Africa
  • Two courses in the history of the Americas and/or Europe
  • Two courses in pre-modern history
  • Two courses in modern history
    Some courses do not fulfill either modern or premodern requirements; see course description in the catalog for the modern/premodern tag.

Fields within the Major (four courses)

The purpose of fields is to give students the opportunity to organize their history courses into a coherent thematic or geographic area of specialization within the major. When students declare a major, they will submit to the department chair and their department advisor a brief proposal that defines their anticipated field. The field proposal identifies: (1) the geographic or comparative thematic area that the student will explore; (2) the courses that the student proposes to take to complete the field; (3) the reasons for these choices; and (4) the role, if any, that off-campus study will play in the field.

Courses taken within the field must include: one 100-level survey; one additional 100-level or 200-level survey; one 300- or 400-level seminar, and an additional course at any level.

Students may select their field from the list below:

  • Regional
    Americas (Latin America, U.S.)
    African American
  • Comparative (Courses are tagged in the course descriptions.)
    Women's and Gender
    Some courses do not fulfill a regional field requirement, for example HIST 100 or HIST 275. In case of doubt, consult the chair of the department.

Senior Research Conference

The Senior Research Conference, which is held each January, usually on the first Sunday after classes begin, culminates the work that students carry out for the Senior Seminar, HIST 490. Participants are divided into panels based on common themes that emerge from their papers and speakers present a 10 to 12 minute version of their theses, followed by a period of discussion. As a result students gain experience summarizing a larger project and giving a public presentation. All seniors are required to attend, and the conference is open to the entire Kenyon community. The Senior Research Conference, as a collaborative event, is a particularly meaningful experience for the participants because it serves as a turning point in the research process, culminating the collective work they did in the senior seminar and providing feedback as they begin the individual work of the Senior Capstone.

Senior Capstone

The Senior Capstone in History is usually conducted in the spring semester. It consists of:

  • a newly prepared and significantly revised version of the research paper completed in the senior seminar, along with a brief explanation of the chief ways it differs from the senior seminar paper.
  • a 45-minute oral examination that will focus on prominent themes in the student's field and their relation to the student's research project.


Honors candidates are chosen by the history faculty and are invited to participate in the program based on their grade point averages (3.33 overall and 3.5 in history courses by the end of the junior year) and demonstrated ability to do high-quality independent research. Prior to their senior year, honors candidates should have completed HIST 387. In their senior year, honors candidates enroll in HIST 497-498. The one (1) unit of credit earned in HIST 497-498 may be counted towards the 11 courses required to fulfill the history major. Senior Honors fulfills the senior seminar requirement.

More information is available from the Department of History about admission to the program and the program's structure and expectations.

The History Minor

A minor in history will consist of at least five courses, which include:

  • At least one course in premodern and one course in modern history 
  • At least two seminars at or above the 300 level
  • Courses with at least two different professors and in two different fields or areas of the world

A minor should include no more than three courses taken with the same professor.

Students desiring to declare a minor in history should consult the department chair. One course in Roman (or Greek) history taught in the Kenyon Classics Department, or one history course taken on an off-campus study program may be counted toward the minor at the discretion of the department chair. 

Transfer Credit Policy

Majors may earn no more than two courses of history credit outside the department if they do not study off-campus. Students who do study off-campus may earn two additional courses of history credit. (For information on nondepartmental courses that may count towards the history major, consult the department chair.)

Minors may earn up to one course of history credit outside the department or outside Kenyon, at the discretion of the department chair.

Advanced Placement

AP credit cannot be used to satisfy any of the requirements of the history major or minor.

Off-Campus and Foreign Language Study

Faculty members in the department believe that study in another country strengthens academic work in history. Students may meet the above requirements with courses taken off campus, but only with departmental approval. Students contemplating off-campus study should consult with their advisor to clarify whether they may receive departmental credit for off-campus work. History majors should give serious consideration to foreign language study. Foreign language competence not only enriches study abroad, it enhances opportunities for historical research at Kenyon.