The Undergraduate Program

History Curriculum

The History Department offers a large number of courses, taught by approximately sixty faculty, that cover all periods of recorded human history. The Barnard History Department offers its own set of courses, most of which are open to Columbia College and General Studies students. There are additional history courses and historians in related departments (Classics, Religion, MESAAS, EALAC, etc.).

Courses address the histories of the Ancient World, Europe, Middle East, Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Some courses cut across geographical boundaries to deal with transnational themes. Other courses focus on religious, intellectual, social, economic, legal, or political history, as well as historical theory and method.

There are two types of Undergraduate courses: lectures and seminars.

Lectures: Normally worth 4 points, lectures meet twice a week for 1 hours and 15 minutes each session; in general, they have no pre-requisites.  History lectures usually have additional required discussion sections that meet once a week.  Lectures range from the very large to (over 300 students) to the very small (fewer than 25).  Most lecture courses require a midterms and a final examination; many also require written assignments and final papers.  For identification purposes, history lectures are numbered at the 1000 or 2000 level (exceptions exist for courses taught in the summer, which are sometimes listed at the 3000 level).

Seminars: Worth 4 points, Seminars are more intensive; most are capped at 15 students.  Seminars explore focused topics through concentrated reading in secondary literature, primary-source research, or both.  They meet once a week for 1 hour and 50 minutes.  The workload for seminars is generally heavier than for lectures, with more reading and more written work.  Seminars normally do not have a final examination but often require a substantial paper.  Students who have taken lecture courses in related fields will often find themselves better prepared to address the seminar’s content.  Some seminars have prerequisites, which are noted in the Directory of Classes.  In many cases, students must receive permission from the instructor prior to registering for a seminar.  History seminars are numbered at the 3000 or 4000 level. 

Some seminars are open to all, while some require permission from the instructor.  All seminars that require instructor permission will include a note in SSOL with instructions.

If a seminar requires permission students should:

  1. Register for the seminar to be added to the waitlist and check course note for instructions.
  2. If requested, students should email the instructor an application to join the course. (seminar application)
  3. If selected, the instructor will move the student from the waitlist into the course.

Students who intend to write a senior thesis are strongly encouraged to enroll in a seminar for which they will write a substantial research paper during their junior year. Students should confirm with the seminar instructor that they will be asked to write a research paper. Please see the Undergraduate Handbook for more information on seminars and thesis requirements.


For course listings please visit the Courses page. 

Courses in the Department are categorized as follows:
  • UN 1xxx UN 2xxx – Lectures (undergraduate students only)
  • UN 3xxx Seminars (undergraduate students only)
  • GU 4xxx – Seminars open jointly to undergraduate and graduate students
  • GR 5xxx – Courses open to MAO students only
  • GR 6xxx – Survey/Core/Introductory Courses (graduate students only)
  • GR 8xxx – Graduate Colloquia and Seminars (graduate students only)
  • GR 9xxx – Graduate Independent Study Courses (graduate students only)