Current Concentrators

Table of Contents:

Program Overview »
Prerequisites »
Distribution Requirements »
Rules of 8 and 12 »
Field of Concentration »
Cognate Approval »
Study Abroad »
Graduation Requirements and Honors »
Grading Practices »
Academic Integrity »


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History Concentrators


Program Overview

Dickinson sundialThe undergraduate history program is designed to encourage students to immerse themselves in a particular time or place (depth) as well as to gain a broad sense of history (breadth). This is accomplished through both the independent research conducted by juniors and seniors and the distribution requirements that students must take. In their junior year, concentrators write two junior papers, one in each semester. In their senior year, students complete year-long independent research that culminates in the senior thesis.

Concentrators are encouraged to acquire a broad body of knowledge. All students must take four courses that satisfy the department’s Distribution Requirements. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in study abroad programs and to master at least one language in addition to English. Knowledge of a foreign language is virtually essential for senior thesis research on many topics.

History concentrators must take 10 courses in the Department: two prerequisites and eight other departmental courses. The Junior Seminar counts as a departmental. Students should speak with the Departmental Representative if they have questions about satisfying prerequisites or designating cognate courses as departmentals.



Students are required to take and pass at least two departmental courses before they enter the department. At least one of these two courses must come from the list of courses designated as prerequisites. Students who have not fulfilled the 200-level prerequisite must take one of the appropriate courses in the fall of their junior year. Humanities 216-217 or 218-219 may be used as a 200-level prerequisite but cannot be counted as one of the ten departmental requirements. CLA 216, CLA 217, CLA 218, and CLA 219 do not satisfy the 200-level prerequisite but will count as departmental courses.

Students who wish to enter the department but who have not taken two departmental courses before their junior year should consult with the Departmental Representative.


Distribution Requirements

To satisfy the department’s Distribution Requirements, students must take at least one course in each of the following four areas:

  • European history (including Russia)
  • United States history (including Afro-American history)
  • Non-western history (including Asian, Near Eastern, Latin American, or African history).
  • Pre-modern history.

See the Distribution Requirements for a list of courses satisfying each of these areas. (No single course may satisfy more than one of the distribution requirements.)


Rules of 8 and 12

University regulations stipulate that undergraduates must take at least eight, but not more than twelve, departmental courses. Departmental regulations stipulate that undergraduates must pass at least ten departmental courses in order to receive the A.B. degree. History courses taken in the freshman and sophomore years are numbered among the ten to twelve required for graduation. Students may not designate any departmental courses "Pass-Fail" even if the minimum ten courses have been completed. (Readmitted students of the class of 1990 and before must pass at least eight departmental courses.)

Princeton in the Fall

Field of Concentration

There are no formal requirements for most fields of concentration, but students are encouraged to take at least three courses in their chosen field. Two fields of concentration do, however, carry special requirements:

  • History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • United States

The senior thesis is ordinarily written in the field of concentration, but there is no requirement in this regard. Students commonly choose to focus on the following fields of study:


Cognate Approval

The Department encourages students to take courses in other departments that will add depth and variety to their study of history. When taken during the junior and senior year, up to two such courses may be counted as departmental courses i.e., cognates, provided they contribute significantly to the student's field of concentration and/or independent work.

Note that cross-listed courses, e.g., CLA 217 and NES 201, are not cognates; they are automatically considered departmental courses.

The designation of a course as a cognate must be approved by the Departmental Representative who will make an appropriate notation on the student's departmental track-sheet. The designation of a cognate course as a departmental should take place during the enrollment/advising period but no later than the University's "Deadline for 'Free' Course Change" (approximately two weeks after the beginning of the semester). Courses cannot be declared cognates retroactively nor can they be changed later to non-departmentals. Cognate courses do not satisfy distribution requirements; however, they count in the determination of departmental standing and honors.


World Map

Image credit: taoty,


Study Abroad

Students in the Department are encouraged to participate in those programs for foreign study recognized by the University (For further information, consult the Office of International Programs, 36 University Place, Suite 350.) The Department has the following policies and resources for students:


Sophomores intending to major in History may count one history course taken abroad toward the requirement to enter the Department. The course cannot be used as a substitute for the 200-level prerequisite (see section on Prerequisites).  A HIS 400 Junior Seminar is offered each spring for sophomores intending to concentrate in History but who will study abroad in the fall of their junior year.


Juniors majoring in the Department may receive credit for up to four courses in history taken while abroad for either a full year or semester. These courses will require the prior approval of the Departmental Representative, and to secure that approval students will be expected to produce some evidence of the work load and of the materials covered by the courses.

Independent Work

Recognizing the difficulties of doing research without Princeton's many resources, the Department will be flexible regarding deadlines of submission of independent work conducted abroad. (Students must make arrangements for extension of deadlines with the Departmental Representative.)

Junior seminars offered during the spring term will be open to sophomores intending to go abroad in their junior year, thus enabling them to write their first junior paper in the spring of their sophomore year and thereby preparing them to write the second while abroad or in the resident semester of their junior year (if they elect to spend only one semester abroad). Students who meet the requirements of junior independent work while at Princeton will still be expected to undertake a full course load while abroad. Moreover, study abroad should include some research work. In particular, the Department encourages students to take seminars that include a research component.


Graduation Requirements and Honors

In order to qualify for a bachelor's degree a student must (a) fulfill the History Department's course distribution requirements, (b) receive a passing grade on the senior thesis and (c) achieve C or better in a departmental average calculated by the departmental honors formula. Departmental honors are calculated according to the following formula:

  • Departmental course grades equal 45%. (All History department courses taken in the sophomore through senior years and all approved cognate courses taken in the junior and senior years count automatically. Courses taken freshman year will also be counted if they raise the overall average or if they are necessary to meet any of the requirements.)
  • Junior independent work equals 15%.
  • The senior thesis equals 35%.
  • The senior departmental examination equals 5%. Note that this component counts at least as much as one course and often means the difference for graduation with honors.

The Department has no hard and fast statistical averages (or cut-offs) for determining the ranks of honors. These judgments are made at a faculty meeting when the quality of work that has been accomplished by students is reviewed.


Grading Practices

The Department offers the following guidelines on graded work. Students are encouraged to fully engage with course material, both in their papers and their precept discussions.


Academic Integrity

Multiple submission of papers to satisfy one requirement within the Department and one outside the Department constitutes academic fraud unless such submission has been previously authorized in writing by both professors involved. For more details see Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, 2015 ed., Section 2.4.6. See also Academic Integrity at Princeton: "Misrepresenting Original Work."