DIEGO ARMUS1, Professor and Co-Chair
TIMOTHY J. BURKE, Professor
BRUCE DORSEY, Professor and Co-Chair
ROBERT E. WEINBERG, Isaac H. Clothier Professor of History and International Relations
FARID AZFAR1, Associate Professor
BUYUN CHEN2, Associate Professor
MEGAN BROWN1, Assistant Professor
AHMAD SHOKR, Assistant Professor
VIVIAN TRUONG, Assistant Professor
MADDIE LESAGE, Administrative Assistant
1 Absent on leave, 2023-2024.
2 Absent on leave, Fall 2023.
Why Study History?
- A 2021 study concluded that a liberal arts education “is what will best equip students with the adaptability and fortitude to navigate the road ahead.” (Lynn Pasquerella, President, Association of American Colleges and Universities)
- To master an academic methodology that allows you to think critically about the past and analyze the political problems of the contemporary world.
- To wrestle with the complex questions of “how” and “why” changes in the human experience occur over time.
- To embark on an intellectual endeavor that provides depth and breadth to your courses in other disciplines and is crucial to a liberal arts education.
- The study of history offers the largest comparative framework possible: all human societies over all time. More importantly, historical inquiry foregrounds the actual complexity of the human experience without the restrictive theories favored in much of the Social Sciences.
- To develop the intellectual and analytical skills that you will need for life after college.
Course Major Requirements
Classes 2023 & 2024
All majors in history must take at least 9 credits in history that fulfill the following requirements:
- They complete at least 6 of their 9 credits at Swarthmore. Only one credit from AP/IB will count toward the 9 credits required for the major. (Read more about our External Credit Policies.)
- They take at least one course or seminar at Swarthmore from each of the following categories: (a) before 1800 (including Ancient History courses) and (b) outside Europe and the United States, specifically Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Near East. This distribution requirement encourages students to explore various fields of history and engage in comparative historical analysis. Students must use different courses or seminars to fulfill this requirement. (Find what courses meet our Distribution Requirement.)
- They complete the culminating project, HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar .
Class of 2025 and beyond
All majors must take at least nine credits (six credits must be taken at Swarthmore) in History that fulfill the following requirements:
- One introductory course (001-010; first-year seminar, survey)
- One credit in historical methodology & theory-preferably taken before the senior year (History 1E; 1R; 28; 32; 63; 67; 67T; 77; 78; 80C; 83; and 84)
- Four courses in one Concentration that focus on more than one geographic region or time period. Please note that not all concentrations may be met over a two- or three-year cycle. It is crucial that majors consult closely with the chair of the department to identify courses that satisfy a concentration. Only one of the four courses can be done outside the Department of History.
- Concentrations: Capitalism; Culture & Identity; Domination & Resistance; Empire & Nations; Gender and Sexuality; Migration, Diaspora and Space; and Science, Medicine, and Environment
- Three other credits in History
- HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar must be taken in the Fall semester of the senior year. Students cannot take this course CR/NC.
Admission to the Department as a course major or minor normally requires a B average in at least two history courses taken at Swarthmore and a satisfactory standard of work in all courses. Courses in Ancient History (ANCH) offered by the Classics Department count toward the two-history-courses prerequisite. The Department reserves the right to withhold evaluation of applications submitted after the deadline. If after applying a student is deferred, the Department will review their application at the end of each semester until the student is either accepted into the major or withdraws their application.
Honors Major Requirements
Honors history majors must complete the same credit and distribution requirements as described above. Seminars are the normal mode of preparation for students studying history in the Honors Program. Honors majors will complete three double-credit seminars. Students may substitute HIST 180 Honors Thesis for one of their seminars. Students wishing to write a HIST 180 Honors Thesis should declare their intention to the Department and secure an adviser by May 1 of their junior year. They will develop their proposal in the summer with the help of their advisor and submit it upon returning to school in September. Honors majors will also be required to complete HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar . Honors students may, if their Honors Program requires it, receive approval from the Department Chair to complete HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar in the fall of their junior year.
Admission to honors is selective and based on an evaluation of the student’s potential to do independent work and to contribute to seminar discussions. A minimum grade of B+ in at least two history courses taken at Swarthmore and a record of active and informed participation in class discussions are required of all students entering seminars. In addition, recommendations from the Department faculty members who have taught the student are solicited.
Sophomores hoping to take history seminars in their junior and senior years should give special thought to the seminars that they list in their Sophomore Plans. Seminar enrollments are normally limited to 10. If you are placed in a seminar at the end of your sophomore year, you will be one of 10 students guaranteed a space and you are, in effect, taking the space of another student who might also like to be in the seminar. Consequently, you should not list any seminar in your Sophomore Plan without being quite certain that you intend to take it if you are admitted.
Honors students are expected to maintain a B+ average to continue attending honors seminars and being an honors student.
Honors and Course Minor Requirements
All minors must take at least five credits at Swarthmore (AP, IB, transfer credits, and foreign study courses do not count). At least two credits must be taken as upper-division courses or double-credit seminars. Only one can be an Ancient History course.
Special Major in History and Educational Studies
Students designing a special major in History and Educational Studies must take six courses in history, including one course in a field other than the United States or Europe (see Distribution Requirements). To graduate with a major in History and Educational Studies, a student must also complete our culminating exercise, HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar . With permission, students can complete a two-semester, two-credit thesis (but one credit of this thesis must be HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar ). Special majors in History and Educational Studies will work with both an Educational Studies faculty member and the HIST 091 instructor(s) to complete their one-credit senior research paper or two-credit thesis.
Admission to the Department as a special major follows similar requirements as course majors. Advisers in each Department should be consulted when designing a plan.
History majors can complete the requirements for teacher certification through a program approved by the state of Pennsylvania. For further information about the relevant set of requirements, please refer to the Educational Studies section of the Catalog.
Introductory Courses: Surveys and First-Year Seminars (001-010)
These courses serve as a gateway to the major by introducing students to the discipline of history and fostering their ability to think, read, and write historically. They prepare students for upper-division courses, which are predicated on previous exposure to coursework in history.
Surveys provide broad overviews of particular times and places in the historical past, but they all focus on major issues of interpretation, analysis of primary sources, and historical methodology. First-year seminars (History 001A-001Z) are limited to twelve students and explore specific historical issues or periods in-depth in a seminar setting.
Historical Methodology & Theory Courses
These courses enable students to explore the question, “how do we know the past,” through a close examination of “how we do history.” The relationship between knowledge about the past and the practices of history writing is interrogated through courses on specific methods (e.g., oral history), theories (e.g. political economy), and analytical frameworks employed in various fields of history. By approaching the study and writing of history as a socially-, culturally-, and historically-embedded practice, students will gain a deeper understanding of how knowing the past is conditioned by our approaches to the past.
Please note that many Methodology & Theory courses also satisfy Concentration requirements.
Upper-Division Courses (011-099)
Upper-division courses are categorized by concentrations that provide depth and breadth to the study of history and address key topics and themes that occupy the attention of historians. Cutting-edge historical scholarship tends to fall into at least one of the following concentrations: Capitalism, Culture & Identity, Domination & Resistance, Empire & Nations, and Science & Medicine.
Please note that some upper-division courses also satisfy the requirement for a methodology or theory course.
Senior Research Seminar (History 91)
All majors must complete HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar , which provides students the opportunity to employ their skills as historians as they write an extended essay based on primary and secondary sources. This course-which counts as one of the required nine credits-satisfies the College’s requirement that all majors have a culminating exercise and is only offered during the fall semester. The Department encourages students to consult faculty members about their topics by the end of their junior year and select their topic prior to the first meeting of the Senior Research Seminar. Juniors are also strongly encouraged to apply for summer research fellowships through the Division of Social Sciences.
We encourage students to use the rich collections of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection and Friends Historical Library, both located in McCabe Library. The Peace Collection houses an unparalleled collection of antiwar and disarmament materials, including those of many prominent social activists. The Friends Historical Library possesses one of the richest collections of manuscripts and printed source material on Quaker history. The holdings of other institutions in the greater Philadelphia area, such as the Hagley Museum and Library (Wilmington, DE), the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the American Philosophical Society, are also accessible to the student-researcher. In addition, we encourage students to use online archival collections such as the National Security Archive.
Double-Credit Seminars (100+)
Double-credit seminars are small courses in which students take responsibility for discussions of the material on the syllabus. The instructor helps facilitate discussions but does not necessarily take a leading role in the learning process. These seminars tend to focus on specific fields of historical inquiry such as gender and sexuality in the United States; slavery; reform and revolution in Latin America; the Enlightenment and European intellectual history; political economy of the Modern Middle East; supranational institutions in Europe; colonialism in Africa; women and gender in China; and the Russian revolution.
Entry into double-credit, honors seminars must be requested through the Department Chair. Our honors seminars are open to students’ applications usually after they have taken two history courses and earned grades of B+ or higher.
Certain designated courses offer the option of a foreign language attachment, normally for 0.5 credit. Arrangements for this option should be made with the instructor at the time of registration.
External Credit: AP, IB Credit and Credit from Other Institutions
For the classes of 2023 and 2024, the Department of History grants one credit for scores of 4 and 5 on AP tests and a 6 and 7 on the IB if you successfully complete one introductory or first-year seminar offered by the Department. Students must receive a grade of C or higher to receive history credit at Swarthmore. The credit for the AP or IB test does not satisfy the Department’s concentration requirement. For classes of 2025 and beyond, AP credit does not satisfy any department major or minor requirements.
Students who want to receive credit for a second AP or IB test must take a second history course at Swarthmore. However, this credit counts toward the 32 credits needed to graduate and not to the major in History.
The Department of History does not grant credit from another college or university in the United States except for courses taken at Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and the University of Pennsylvania. We will only grant an exception for domestic off-campus study experiences validated by our Off-Campus Study or Registrar’s Offices and at our discretion. Such credit does not satisfy the Department’s concentration requirement.
The Department of History grants credit for history courses that are pre-approved by the Department and are part of Off-Campus Study outside the United States. Credit is contingent on successfully completing an introductory course at Swarthmore.
All credit external to Swarthmore to be evaluated by the Department of History is granted on a one-to-one basis. That is, a student must take and complete a history course at Swarthmore-earning a C or better-for each external credit the student wishes to receive. Any combination of external credits designated HIST will not exceed three.
Life After Swarthmore
History majors develop strong analytical, writing, and research skills that prepare them for a wide range of occupations and professions. They can be found pursuing a broad range of career paths, ranging from government service to the world of medicine, from elementary and high schools to trade unions and public interest foundations, from journalism and publishing to consulting, and from the private to the public sector. Many find that studying history is excellent preparation for law school and business. Finally, others have gone onto graduate school in history and now teach at universities and colleges in the United States and overseas.
- HIST 001B. First Year Seminar: Human Rights as History: From Haiti to Nuremberg
- HIST 001C. First-Year Seminar: Why College? The Past and Future of Liberal Arts
- HIST 001E. First-Year Seminar: Global History of Science
- HIST 001F. First-Year Seminar: The Golden Age of Piracy
- HIST 001H. First-Year Seminar: What Ifs and Might-Have-Beens: Counterfactual Histories
- HIST 001I. FYS: Star Wars and Culture Wars: The US in the 1970s
- HIST 001J. First-Year Seminar: London Beyond Control: From the Plague Year to the Public Sphere
- HIST 001N. First-Year Seminar: Chinatowns: Then & Now
- HIST 001P. First Year Seminar: History through the Lens: Latin America, Latinos, Photography, and the Present
- HIST 001R. First-Year Seminar: Remembering History
- HIST 001U. First-Year Seminar: Defining an “Us”: Nationalism, Culture, and Identity in Modern Europe
- HIST 001V. First-Year Seminar: History in the Making: Autocrats, Activists, and Artists in a Changing Middle East
- HIST 001W. First-Year Seminar: Promised Lands: European Settler Colonies 1830-1962
- HIST 001X. First-Year Seminar: Crime and Punishment in America
- HIST 002B. Early Modern Europe: Imperial Origins: Britain, Spain, and France, 1492-1791
- HIST 002F. Early Modern Europe: Rethinking the Scientific Revolution
- HIST 002X. British History, 1066-1720: From the Crusades to the South Sea Bubble
- HIST 003A. Modern Europe, 1789 to 1918: Revolutionaries, Citizens, and Subjects in Europe’s Long 19th Century
- HIST 003B. Modern Europe, 1918 to the Present: Hot Wars, Cold Wars, Culture Wars
- HIST 004. Latin American History
- HIST 005A. Early American History
- HIST 005B. Modern American History
- HIST 006B. The Modern Middle East
- HIST 007B. African American History, 1865 to Present
- HIST 008A. West Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade, 1500 to 1850
- HIST 008B. Mfecane, Mines, and Mandela: Southern Africa from 1650 to the Present
- HIST 008C. From Leopold to Kabila: The Bad Twentieth Century in Central Africa
- HIST 009A. Premodern China
- HIST 009B. Modern China: Reformers, Revolutionaries, and Rebels
- HIST 010. Asian American History
- HIST 020. Leviathan’s Revenge: Reading Thomas Hobbes in 2022
- HIST 021. London Beyond Control: Sex, Fiction, and the Law
- HIST 022. Empire, Slavery, and the University
- HIST 023. Enlightenment and Empire, 1776-1803
- HIST 023B. Climate Enlightenments
- HIST 024. Witch-hunting in the Early Modern World
- HIST 024B. Witchcraft, Heresy, and Demonic Possession in Seventeenth Century Europe
- HIST 025. Colonialism and Nationalism in the Middle East
- HIST 026. Frontiers of Capitalism
- HIST 027. Living with Total War: Europe, 1914-1919
- HIST 028. Aux Armes! History and Historiography of the French Revolution
- HIST 029. The Great Depression: A Global History
- HIST 030. Glory Days? Western Europe’s Postwar 1945-1975
- HIST 031. France in Algeria, France and Algerians, 1830-present
- HIST 032. Holidays in the Empire
- HIST 033. Environmental History of the Soviet Union
- HIST 034. Varieties of Zionist Thought: Judaism, Nationalism, Antisemitism, and the Jewish Question
- HIST 036. Fascinating Fascism
- HIST 037. The Holocaust: History, Representation, and Culture
- HIST 038. Angels of Death: Life under Lenin and Stalin
- HIST 039. Picking up the Pieces: Rebuilding Russia after the Collapse of Communism
- HIST 042. The American Revolution
- HIST 043. Antislavery in America
- HIST 044. American Popular Culture
- HIST 046. The American Civil War
- HIST 047. Politics of Gender and Sexuality in America
- HIST 051. Black Reconstruction
- HIST 052. History of Manhood in America
- HIST 056. Police, Prisons, & Protests
- HIST 057. History v. Hollywood
- HIST 059. Motherhood in American History
- HIST 060. The East India Company, 1600-1857
- HIST 061. From the Ocean to the River: The Indus and the Ganges in Global History
- HIST 063. History from Below: Oral History and Community-based Archives
- HIST 063S. Voices of the Past: Between Oral History and Memory
- HIST 063W. Living History: Archiving AIDS at William Way
- HIST 064A. Cities and Social Movements
- HIST 065. Cities of (Im)migrants: Buenos Aires, Lima, Philadelphia, and New York
- HIST 066. Making Sense of Being Sick: the Social Construction of Diseases in the Modern World
- HIST 067. Digging Through the National Security Archive: South American “Dirty Wars” and the United States’ Involvement
- HIST 067T. The Pandemic of Cigarette Smoking: Habit, Addiction and Public Health in the Big Tobacco Archives
- HIST 069. History of TV in the Americas
- HIST 075. Craft and Technology in China
- HIST 077. Fashion: Theory and History
- HIST 078. China, Capitalism, and Their Critics
- HIST 079. Nature and Power: Environmental History of East Asia
- HIST 080. History of the Body
- HIST 080B. Biopower vs Necropolitics: Empires of Life and Death, 1622-2003
- HIST 080C. The Whole Enchilada: Debates About World Histories
- HIST 080D. Social Media and History: Workshopping r/AskHistorians
- HIST 082. Cultural Histories of Digital Media
- HIST 084. Gender, Science, and Technology
- HIST 086. From Equiano to Oprah: Black Capitalism and Its Histories
- HIST 087. The Little Ice Age: Climate Change in the Early Modern World
- HIST 089. The Environmental History of Africa
- HIST 090E. On the Other Side of the Tracks: Black Urban Community
- HIST 090P. Creatively Adapting the Past
- HIST 090S. Surveillance, Privacy, and Transparency: A History, A Debate, Some Futures
- HIST 090T. African Nationalism and Postcolonialism: 1940-1980
- HIST 090X. Divided America: History of the Culture Wars
- HIST 091. Senior Research Seminar
- HIST 092. Thesis
- HIST 093. Directed Reading
- HIST 114. Cities and Social Movements