History Department

History provides the opportunity to understand the diversity of human experience through the study of one’s own and other cultures and societies as they have evolved over time. It is also a rigorous intellectual discipline involving research techniques, problem solving, the critical evaluation of evidence, and intensive writing. The department offers a wide variety of learning experiences, including lectures, individual tutorials, discussion groups, 300-level seminars, and senior research seminars. Students are expected to take courses in many areas of history in order to achieve a broad training in the discipline. A number of distinguished academic historians began their training at Colby; in addition, many majors find that history is excellent preparation for careers in secondary education, business, law, publishing, and other professions. In recent years, media research, preservation, and museums have offered new opportunities for persons trained in history.


Chair, Professor Raffael Scheck
Professors Paul Josephson, Elizabeth Leonard, Raffael Scheck, Larissa Taylor, James Webb, and Robert Weisbrot; Associate Professor John Turner; Assistant Professors Elizabeth LaCouture, Daniel Tortora, and Arnout van der Meer

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in History

Eleven semester courses in history (of at least three credits each), to include History 200 (Introduction to History); History 276 (Patterns and Processes in World History); a senior research seminar; and at least two courses in each of three areas: Category I (Africa, Asia, and world history); Category II (Europe, Russia, and the USSR); and Category III (the Americas). In each of these three areas, at least one course must be at the 200 level or higher; additionally, one of the courses must be in early history and one must be in modern history, as designated by the department (a detailed list of the distribution of courses among the fields is available on the department website). Because of Category I’s geographical scope, complexity, and extraordinary cultural and historical diversity, students are strongly encouraged, but are not required, to take a minimum of three courses in Category I.

Of the 11 courses for the major, at least two must be at the 300 level. History 200 and 276 are prerequisites for all 300- and 400-level courses unless special permission is granted to take one or both of them later. All majors must take a designated senior research seminar taught by a departmental faculty member, which also may count toward fulfilling an area requirement and in which they write a major research paper. Students who choose to do honors in history during their senior year are still required to complete the senior seminar requirement. Many of these students choose to do the senior seminar in their junior year.

Up to three semester courses in history may be taken from historians at other colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. Please consult with the department chair if you have questions about nondepartmental courses that are approved for the major.

The point scale for retention of the major applies to all courses in history. No requirement for the major may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. No course will count for the history major if the grade is lower than C-. Seniors with a GPA of 3.75 or higher in history courses will graduate with “Distinction in the Major.”

Honors in History

Admission to the year-long honors program requires at least a 3.5 grade point average in the history major and approval by the department. These projects signify a serious engagement with independent scholarship; interested students should plan to devote a large portion of their academic time to the project during their senior year. Students should begin planning for the honors project by the end of the spring semester of their junior year and, at the discretion of the history professor who agrees to act as honors advisor and following approval of a detailed research proposal by the department faculty as a whole, may be admitted in the first semester of the senior year to the honors program. A total of up to eight credits may be given for the year, including January Program credit. The honors thesis must receive at least an A- grade for the student to graduate with “Honors in History.” For specifics on the procedures and expectations for Honors in History, as well as guidelines for writing the research proposal, please refer to the History Department’s website.