College Bulletin 2022-2023 
    Jun 13, 2024  
College Bulletin 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]




DIEGO ARMUS, Professor and Co-Chair
BRUCE DORSEY, Professor and Co-Chair
ROBERT E. WEINBERG3, Isaac H. Clothier Professor of History and International Relations
FARID AZFAR, Associate Professor
BUYUN CHEN, Associate Professor
MEGAN BROWN, Assistant Professor
AHMAD SHOKR, Assistant Professor
VIVIAN TRUONG, Assistant Professor
MADDIE LESAGE, Administrative Assistant

1 Absent on leave, fall 2022.
2 Absent on leave, spring 2023.
3 Absent on leave, 2022-2023.

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.

The Academic Program

Course Major Requirements

Classes 2023 & 2024

All majors in history must take at least 9 credits in history that fulfill the following requirements:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

Acceptance Criteria

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.

Acceptance Criteria

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.

Acceptance Criteria

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.

Teacher Certification

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.

Course Types

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.

Language Attachment

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.

History Courses