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Chair, Professor Paul Josephson
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, and the critical evaluation of evidence. The department offers a wide variety of learning experiences, including lectures, individual tutorials, discussion groups, 300-level seminars, and senior research seminars. Students are encouraged to take courses in many areas of history and in interdisciplinary programs and related fields. 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.
Requirements for the Major in History
Twelve semester courses in history, to include History 200 (Introduction to History); a senior seminar; and at least two courses in each of three areas: Category I (world regions other than North America and Europe); Category II (Europe); and Category III (North America). 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 in the department office). 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 12 courses for the major, at least one, and preferably more, must be at the 300 level.
As noted above, all majors must take a designated senior research seminar (which also may count toward fulfilling an area requirement) in which they write a major research paper. During the spring semester of the junior year, students should consult with their advisors about an appropriate seminar choice. Students who choose to do honors in history during their senior year are still required to complete the senior seminar requirement.
Up to four semester courses in history may be transferred from courses taken in history departments at other colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. Students may petition in advance to count up to a maximum of two courses in allied fields at Colby toward the 12-course requirement for the major, but the combined number of courses both transferred from other colleges and universities and counted from allied fields at Colby is restricted to four.
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 advisor and department chair. 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 may apply at 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 by the department faculty as a whole, may be admitted in the first semester of the senior year to the honors program. All senior honors students will register for History 400 in the fall of their senior year. 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, please refer to the History Department’s Web page.
Note: All three- or four-credit-hour courses offered by the History Department fulfill the all-College area requirement in historical studies (H).