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Overview The University of Virginia and the study of history are, in some ways, synonymous. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 as a secular institution, the University represents a historical moment in American education. History, however, is more than the study of historical moments and monuments; it is a vital process that helps people develop the ability to think intelligently about the past. History students also hone their writing skills and learn to assess often radically differing views of the same subject.
With one of the largest faculties in the University, the Department of History is able to offer courses not only in traditional areas such as European and American history, but also in the history of China, Japan, India, Africa, and Latin America. While many of the departmentís courses deal with public events of political, diplomatic, and constitutional history, a sizable number of faculty members specialize in social, cultural, or economic history and carry their investigations into such topics as the history of villages, cities, witchcraft, gender, literacy, and work. Regardless of their field, all historians seek to explain why people in the past acted and thought differently from the way we act and think today, and to describe the forces behind change over time. The study of history provides students with an opportunity to understand different cultures and ultimately to understand their own culture more fully.
Faculty The forty-five faculty members of the department are nationally recognized for outstanding teaching and scholarship, and several having won major national and international prizes in their fields. Because the department is large, the faculty offers more than 100 courses each year. Many of the faculty have been recipients of University-wide teaching awards. All of the faculty teach and all are firmly committed to undergraduate education, making themselves easily accessible to students.
Students History is one of the largest departments of the University. Currently there are more than 600 students majoring in history. The department offers courses in ten general fields of study: African, American, Ancient, East Asian, English, Latin American, Medieval, Modern European, Russian, and South Asian. Courses outside these fields, such as Canadian or Caribbean history or the history of science, are also available but do not constitute a specific field within the department. Most students begin the study of history in either an introductory survey course or in an introductory seminar. Introductory surveys are usually large and are designed to cover a broad topic or era (e.g., the age of the Renaissance, Colonial Latin America 1500-1824). Seminars, limited to fifteen students, focus on the development of skills in reading, writing, and thinking through the study of a defined historical topic (e.g., the 1960s, El Salvador). Virtually every course in the department, with the exception of discussion sections, is taught by a faculty member. Discussion sections, limited to twenty students per section, supplement all of the large lecture classes and are led by advanced graduate students. Advanced courses generally have enrollments of between thirty and fifty students; fourth-year history seminars, a requirement for the major, are limited to twelve students. These seminars focus on historical research and writing; a substantial thesis is required from each student in the class.
Whatever geographical focus or disciplinary emphasis students choose, they learn to focus clearly and to defend opinions supported solidly in fact and theory. These are the skills demanded by employers in government, law, business, and teaching. A significant percentage of students with this major go on to law school; approximately 10 percent go on to graduate work in history, often at top programs; others go to graduate business school. The majority of history graduates, however, go into business for multinational corporations, governmental agencies, foreign service, and public service organizations.
The Major in History A major in history informs students about the past. It also stimulates thoughtful reading, provokes clear thinking, enlivens critical capacities, and promotes good writing. Historical study provides an outstanding preparation for informed citizenship in an increasingly complex and interdependent world and a firm foundation for many career objectives. To these ends, the department encourages students to work closely with faculty to construct challenging, coherent, and integrated programs of study.
The major in history consists of eleven courses. These may be of three or four credits, and up to four courses may be taken by transfer from other American institutions or through recognized foreign study programs. The decision of the Director of Undergraduate Studies is final in matters of transfer credit. Students are expected to declare history majors before the end of their fourth semester at the University and after the completion of at least one history course with a grade of C or better. Students may not declare history as a first major after the end of their fifth semester.
To develop breadth and perspective, each student must take one course in each of five areas: European history before 1700; Modern European history; United States history; and two courses from the areas of African, Asian, Latin American and/or Middle Eastern history. These courses may be taken at any level and need not be the first five courses that a student takes.
All students must pursue a particular subject in depth through a seminar or colloquium for which they have been adequately prepared. Preparation normally means at least two courses related to the topic of the seminar or colloquium. Preparatory courses may be taken outside the history department but such courses may not be counted toward the major. Students must attain a grade of C or better in the history seminar or colloquium.
There are a few other basic requirements for the major in history. At least five courses must be numbered 300 or above. No more than six courses (including the seminar or colloquium) may be taken in any single area of history for credit in the major; students may take as many elective courses in history as their schedules and interests permit. History majors must maintain a GPA of 2.0 in their major. All majors are required to consult with their major advisors at least once per semester.
Students with AP credit, earned with scores of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement examination, may apply it for the major as follows: European history credit satisfies the course requirement in modern European history; American history credit satisfies the course requirement in United States history. All AP credit accepted by the University applies fully to the 120 hours required for graduation but no student receives more than one major course credit for AP examination results.
The Minor in History The minor in history consist of six courses. These must be distributed in at least three areas of history, and at least two courses must be numbered 300 or above. All courses counted for the minor must be taken in residence at the University.
Distinguished Majors Program Students who seek independent study and directed research may be admitted to the Distinguished Majors Program (DMP). The program consists of a two-year course of study. In the fall of their third year participants take a special colloquium available only to them, and follow this with a regular major seminar or colloquium in the spring. Fourth year is devoted to the preparation of a substantial thesis and to participation in a year-long seminar. Distinguished majors must meet other requirements for a history major. Applications for admission to the program are normally accepted in April of each year from second-year students who are otherwise eligible to declare history majors. Information on the program can be secured from its directors or from the undergraduate director. Participants are eligible for degrees with distinction, high distinction and highest distinction. Levels of distinction are set by a faculty committee based upon the attainment of a minimum GPA of 3.4 for all courses, the quality of the thesis, and the overall quality of a studentís academic record.
The American Studies Program The American Studies Program offers students the opportunity to study the United States in an interdisciplinary context. Students major in the subject of their choice and then concentrate in American studies within their major department. Participants are admitted to the program after a competitive application process that is normally completed at the end of second year. Those accepted take, in their third year, two seminars that are available only to American studies students; American literature; American intellectual and cultural history; and two other courses from any department that focuses on the United States. In their fourth year students may elect to prepare a thesis. American studies students should declare a major of their choice, fulfill all of its traditional requirements, and set aside enough time to complete the American studies courses as a component of their major.
Requirements for Minor in the History of Science and Technology Please refer to section on the Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication in chapter 10.
Additional Information For more information, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Corcoran Department of History, Randall Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-7147; Fax: (804) 924-7891.
Continue to: Course Descriptions
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