Information for New Students

The History Department welcomes you to Whitman College! We are one of Whitman’s largest departments, and offer a curriculum that is incredibly diverse for a school of our size. In small classes you will be able to explore historical phenomena across the globe and across time, in eight distinct fields. From Alexander the Great to the Arab Spring, our courses cover issues that inform the choices that we as global citizens need to make today. All of our 100- and 200-level courses (with the exception of 299), and some of our 300-level courses, are suitable for first-year students, and we invite you to peruse our offerings and contact faculty if you have any questions.

While a few of our recent graduates have gone on to become distinguished graduate students and then professors of history, Whitman history alums have succeeded in a great number of fields. Former Whittie historians are now working as physicians, attorneys (including an Assistant DA in New Orleans), archivists, and non-profit consultants, and one has even become one of the top young photographers in Washington, DC. Our rigorous program teaches comparative methodology as well as skills in critical reading and writing that translate to career opportunities as rich and varied as the field of history itself.

In what follows, you will find an overview of our major requirements and information about AP credit. Please come talk to us—we are eager to begin the enquiry with you!


Advanced Placement

Advanced placement credit for the College Board Advanced Placement Tests in history is granted as follows: students with a grade of 5 on the American History Test will be considered to have completed the equivalent of History 105 and 106 and receive eight history credits. Students majoring in History may only apply four of those credits to the major. Students with a score of 5 on the European History Test will be considered to have completed the equivalent of History 183 and receive four credits in history. Students with a score of 5 on the AP World History Test will be granted four credits, but they will not be considered the equivalent of any course. A student has the option of repeating a course for which AP credit has been granted, but with a commensurate reduction in the advanced placement credit.

The History Major

The history major consists of a minimum of thirty-six credits in history, including History 299 (formally 201), History 401, a “comparisons and encounters” course, and a 400-level seminar. No more than 6 credits at the 100 level will count toward the major. The department offers courses in seven geographical areas: Ancient Mediterranean, East Asia, Europe, Islamic World, Africa, Latin America, and the United States. The major program must be planned by the student and adviser to include at least one course in each of four of these areas at the 200- or 300-level (three areas for students graduating in 2013 or 2014), at least one course treating the pre-modern period (at any level), and two related courses within one geographic field (at 200 or 300 level). In addition, college

The history major is organized to provide, within the limits of the department's size, breadth of knowledge, a base in historical method, and a depth of understanding in a particular area. The major culminates with comprehensive written and oral exams.

At the introductory level, the department offers broad survey courses in Ancient Mediterranean, East Asian, Environmental, European, Islamic, Latin American, and United States history. These courses introduce students to historical evidence, the ways historians have interpreted such evidence, and the writing of history papers. A student's coursework in the major may include up to two of these classes.

The majority of credits in the major will be earned in courses at the 200 or 300 level. Most such courses are organized regionally or nationally and chronologically (e.g. The US Since 1945, 19th-Century Europe, Modern China) or thematically within a region (e.g. courses on gender, environment, revolution, etc). Some are organized comparatively or with a focus on encounters between cultures. All majors must take one class exploring a period before 1500CE (at 100, 200, or 300 level).

Early in the major, but after completion of at least one course at the 200 or 300 level, all History majors study historical research methodology, historiography, and the use of theory in history in History 299 (formerly 201). This course explores various "types" of history (e.g. political, social, oral, quantitative), as well as the "how to" of the discipline, culminating in a major research paper using primary source material.