History explains why the world is the way it is. Yale’s history department offers a range of courses that help students explore the past, make sense of the present, and shape the future. Students of history investigate why societies have changed and developed over time and how human beings both make the world and are made by it. The study of history develops not only an understanding of the significant ideas and experiences of the past, but also such skills as organizing research projects, writing expository prose, and presenting effective oral arguments.
History courses cover a wide range of topics; there is no single introductory course. The department offers several freshman seminars each year, and most History lecture courses are open to all students, including first-year students. History departmental seminars require the instructor’s permission for enrollment and are open chiefly to majors.
The History major is one of the largest, most diverse, and most popular majors at Yale. Before they enter the major, students must take two term courses in history, preferably in the first two years. Most students begin with a freshman seminar, Directed Studies, or introductory lecture courses in areas that interest them. These courses count toward the major requirements. Upon declaring their major, students select either the global track, which emphasizes a broad understanding of world history or the specialist track in which students specialize in a region (such as U.S. History), or a thematic pathway (such as politics, law, and government) within their History course work. A list of pathways and regions, along with the courses relevant to them is available on the History department website.
After graduation, History majors enter many fields, including law, medicine, public policy, business, journalism, and the arts. Some go on to graduate study in history.
Questions about history courses may be addressed to the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) or to the DUS assistant at 320 York Street, Room 237. Students who want to combine history with another major, study abroad, or accelerate should consult the DUS in the fall.