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, Associate Professor John Turner
Professors Paul Josephson, Elizabeth Leonard, Raffael Scheck, Larissa Taylor, and Robert Weisbrot; Associate Professor John Turner; Assistant Professor Arnout van der Meer; Visiting Assistant Professor Sarah Duff; Faculty Fellows Erik Reardon and Viktor Shmagin; Visiting Instructor Lauren A. Parker

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in History

Eleven semester courses in history (of at least three credits each), to include History 276 (Patterns and Processes in World History); two 300-level courses; a senior research seminar at the 400 level; and at least one course in each of three areas: Category I (Africa, Asia, and world history), Category II (Europe, Russia, and the USSR), and Category III (Colonial and Native America/United States). At least two courses must be in premodern history, as designated by the department (a detailed list of the distribution of courses among the fields is available on the department website).

Of the 11 courses for the major, no more than three may be at the 100 level. The two 300-level courses must be taken at Colby. All majors must also take a designated senior seminar (400-level) taught by a departmental faculty member in which they write a major research paper. The two 300-level courses and the senior seminar may also count toward fulfilling an area requirement. Students who choose to do an honors thesis 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 yearlong honors program requires at least a 3.5 grade point average in the history major and approval by the department. Honors 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.