​Course Descriptions

For an up-to-date list of graduate courses offered by the history department, including course descriptions, please consult the course descriptions page of the latest Graduate Bulletin.

Overview of Course Levels

Apart from independent-study courses, most (but not all) graduate courses in history are offered once a week in three-hour slots.

  • 500-level classes are designed for advanced undergraduates as well as graduate students. Graduate students must meet higher standards than undergraduates, usually including longer papers, additional readings and assignments, and so on, but all students participate in regular course meetings. 500-level history courses tend to be quite focused on a particular period or topic, and generally include a combination of traditional lectures and discussions based on both primary and secondary sources. They also include a substantial amount of writing, ordinarily in one or more papers based on original research in primary sources. (For HST 590, see below.)

  • 600-level classes are known as “colloquia” in the history department. Restricted to graduate students and limited to a small size, they examine major secondary scholarship in a specific field by means of discussion, short papers or reviews, longer historiographical essays, or similar assignments (including exams, in some cases). Colloquia involve a substantial amount of reading, often along the lines of one or two books a week. HST 600, a special colloquium on the history of historiography, is required for the traditional MA. HST 601, another special colloquium, is designed to meet Joint MA/PhD requirements in transnational and comparative history.

  • 700-level classes are research seminars that culminate in a major scholarly paper based substantially on primary sources. In content and scope the model for seminar papers is the professional journal article, and graduate students are accordingly expected to make appropriate use of secondary scholarship in the paper’s area as well, using citation and other standards appropriate to the discipline. Opportunities for discussion, oral presentations and peer critiques will be included. Early review of the appropriate resources and reference tools is essential for the successful completion of research papers. In some cases, graduate seminars are combined with their undergraduate equivalent (HST 496), with appropriately different expectations and requirements in each case. Seminar topics tend to vary each time a given course is offered, ordinarily depending on the instructor’s current research interests or projects. Students interested in a particular area will therefore want to talk to instructors about specific seminar topics, since these will not be listed in the bulletin or course schedule.

Independent Study

Independent-study courses in history are arranged by individual students and instructors and require the submission of a contract outlining the topic, method of instruction and evaluation, and so on. Certain restrictions apply to the number and proportion of independent-study courses in a given program, so be sure to read the Bulletin carefully, to make sure you don’t exceed the limit. The department also encourages students to take as many regular classroom-based courses as possible, given their unique opportunities for scholarly engagement and professional development. But independent-study courses continue to play an important role as students pursue highly individualized projects.

  • Independent readings courses include HST 590 and HST 690, and generally cover approximately 6 books per credit hour. Students must make individual arrangements with instructors for independent study, and both student and instructor Except in special cases arranged with an advisor, graduate students should sign up for HST 690 rather than HST 590.

  • Independent research courses include HST 791, ordinarily designed to produce a seminar paper based on original research in primary sources, and HST 798, which is for MA thesis research and writing (Plan A in the traditional MA program).

  • HST 890 is a doctoral readings course designed for student preparing readings for their comprehensive examinations. It is limited to 9 total credit hours, so students and advisors should plan accordingly: in many cases, a 600-level colloquium can provide similar or supplemental preparation for doctoral fields, with the attendant advantages of a classroom-based discussion course.

  • HST 898 is for doctoral dissertation research and writing. Students may take up to 36 hours of HST 898, but no more than 6 hours can be taken before approval of a dissertation prospectus.

Other Courses

For information on other special courses in the curriculum (e.g., HST 695, HST 700), students should consult their advisor or the director of graduate studies. Many of these are also addressed in more detail in the handbook.