BA in History

History embraces the sum of the human experience and facilitates imaginative encounters with the past. The study of the past not only prepares students for understanding the present, but also arms them with important research and professional skills: the ability to evaluate evidence, which is often contradictory or incomplete; construct plausible interpretations of, or arguments about, that evidence; and present their interpretations in a coherent, persuasive manner. The BA in History prepares students for careers in teaching, law, business, publishing, and media.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge of past societies and familiarity with patterns of social, political, economic, and cultural change; and appreciate how historical perspective can enrich understanding of contemporary developments and problems.
  • Recognize how varied sources can be used as historical evidence and analyze the role of evidence in the construction of historical arguments.
  • Understand the challenge of weighing multiple perspectives and evaluate the merits of competing interpretations.
  • Conduct research using both primary and secondary sources and assess their relative use.
  • Construct persuasive and evidence-based arguments about historical change and present them in written formats.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in History will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy most BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic and Historical Interpretation, Scientific and Social Inquiry, and Diversity, Civic Engagement and Global Citizenship, as well as some requirements in Communication and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

Number of Courses

All majors must take at least twelve 4-credit courses, including the core methodology course (CAS HI 200) and two seminars, and fulfill the distributional requirements described below.

Required Courses

  • All majors are required to take CAS HI 200 (The Historian’s Craft), ideally in their sophomore year (students who declare the history major later than the second semester of their sophomore year must take HI 200 in their next semester of registration).
  • Students must also take at least two history seminars, or small discussion-oriented classes focused on more specialized topics at the 400 or 500 level.

These three courses must be taken on the Charles River Campus or through Study Abroad programs administered directly by Boston University. Students pursuing a more specialized path toward the major are advised, but not required, to take seminars related to the geographical/thematic plan of study they have designed.

Distributional Requirement (four courses)

At least one course is required in each of the following geographical areas: American history, European history, and world history. In addition, students must take one course that focuses on premodern history; a list of courses satisfying this requirement is available in the department office and in the Course Areas section of the departmental website.

Course Level

No more than three history courses below the 200 level may be taken for credit toward the major.

Grade Requirement

A grade of C or higher is required for all courses counted toward the major.

Honors in the Major

Senior History majors possessing the requisite grade point average (at least 3.0 in all courses, and at least 3.5 in all history courses) can choose to complete the History Department’s Honors in the Major by enrolling in CAS HI 401/402, a two-semester seminar that will guide students through the research and writing of an honors thesis. Over the course of the academic year, students will work with both a specialized advisor in their field and the instructor of CAS HI 401/402, who will collectively assess the individual student’s work. The ultimate goal will be the production of a 45–60-page honors thesis on a subject of the student’s choice, grounded in primary research.

Double Majoring in History and Other Disciplines

Students interested in double majoring are encouraged to consider choosing history as one of their majors. In the past, History has worked especially closely with students majoring in History of Art & Architecture, English, International Relations, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion.

A student may use no more than five principal or required courses from a given major toward another major.

Language Study

The department strongly recommends that all history majors, but especially those planning graduate study in history or any related discipline, be proficient in reading at least one foreign language, and if possible two, by the time of their graduation. Majors should consult with their advisors early in their history program to determine their language needs.

Previously Earned Credits

Students who complete CGS SS 102, SS 201, and SS 202 with a grade of C or higher will receive credit for CAS HI 102, HI 176, and HI 334 (formerly HI 350 and HI 290), respectively. Students who complete CGS SS 103 and SS 104 with a grade of C or higher will receive credit for CAS HI 101 and HI 102. Students who complete the four-semester humanities sequence of the College of Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum with a grade of C or higher will receive credit for CAS HI 101 and HI 102.

Transfer Students

Of the courses required for the major, at least seven must be taken at Boston University: the core methodology course (CAS HI 200), the two seminars, and four additional courses at the 200 level or above.