Studying History

Student Enquiry Helpline

The University of Sydney will be closed from December 18 2014, reopening on 5 January 2015.
If you have queries regarding enrollment during this period please call the Student Enquiry Helpline on 1800 793 864 (excludes public holidays).


Information for students who commenced prior to 2014 should refer to the major requirements in the Faculty Handbook from the year in which you commenced – links to previous handbooks are available here.

About the Major

History is the study of the past and its interpretation in the present. Historians make sense of the past by analysing evidence from written, oral, visual, digital and material sources in light of historical context. Using a range of approaches, they examine past events, processes and relationships, interpreting their origins, significance and consequences.

In a major in history you can study different periods, places and cultures, from the Medieval through to the present-day, from Australia and China to the United States and Europe.

You begin with junior units that survey broad periods and regions and a variety of different approaches, and develop skills of historical analysis and evidence-based argument. In your second and third years you take senior-intermediate units focused on the histories of particular nations or themes explored in a variety of different times and places, and expand your research skills and ability to employ historical methods. You complete the major with a senior-advanced unit involving an independently framed and researched project centred on primary sources, history outside the classroom or historiography.

When you have completed your major in History you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of more than one period, place or culture of the past.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the variety of approaches to interpreting the past, such as political, economic, social, cultural, intellectual, biographical, transnational, ethnographic and gender history.
  3. Identify and interpret written, oral, visual, digital and material primary sources and secondary materials such as monographs, scholarly articles, websites and documentaries.
  4. Examine historical issues by undertaking research that begins with a problem, establishes its historical context, and uses methodologies chosen from a range of disciplines to solve that problem.
  5. Analyse historical evidence, scholarship and changing representations of the past, using the skills of sifting through information to weigh its significance and close reading of various texts.
  6. Construct an evidence-based argument or narrative in audio, digital, oral, visual or written form.

Pathway through the major

A major in History requires 36 senior credit points, including at least 24 credit points of core units of study of which 6 must be taken at 3000 level.
The units of study for the major can be found in the Table A unit of study table for History. The table, found in in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Handbook, shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year.

A complete list of units of study available to the History major can be found here. Please note that this list is for information purposes only and not all units of study will be on offer each year.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

Junior units of study survey a broad period and region and a variety of different approaches. You can choose from three different units of study in the first semester and four in the second, according to your interests. To progress to senior-intermediate (2000 level) units of study you complete any 12 junior credit points in History or Ancient History.

Each junior unit in History involves two hours of lectures and one hour of tutorials each week, and 4500 words of assessment including a source analysis, outline and final essay answering a set question, and an exam that examines the breadth of your knowledge, as well as your participation in tutorials.

Senior-intermediate units of study (2000 level)

You must complete two junior units before you can do a 2000 level unit. You have a choice of approximately 8-10 units each semester, focused on the histories of particular nations or themes explored in a variety of different times and places.

Each senior intermediate unit involves two hours of lectures and one hour of tutorials each week, and 4500 words of assessment, including a bibliography, outline and a final essay, an exam or journal, and participation in tutorials.

Senior-advanced units of study (3000 level)

You must complete at least three 2000 level units before you can do a 3000 level unit. You have a choice of three units. In ‘History in the Making’, you have the opportunity to write an original piece of history based on your own research. In ‘History and Historians’ you will focus on the history of history – the way practitioners have thought about the ‘what, why, and how’ of their discipline over time. And in ‘History Beyond the Classroom’ you will look at the way history is used or framed in such venues as museums, archives, or documentaries.
Each senior unit involves a one-hour lecture and one-hour tutorial each week, and 6000 words of assessment, involving a proposal, bibliography, outline, drafts and a final 4000-word project.

Sample degree plan including a major in History

There are many ways to structure the Bachelor of Arts degree. The following diagram provides an example of how students enrolled full-time in a Bachelor of Arts (ie 24 credit points per semester) over 3 years, completing one majory, might structure their degree in order to major in History.

Sample History Pathway

Credit Points

*Other pathways are possible. Please see ‘Pathway through the Major’ on page 4 of this booklet

First Year
(Junior)

S1

History Major
Junior Pre-req Unit*
- choice of 3

Arts (Table A) Junior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A) Junior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Junior Unit Choice

24

S2

History Major
Junior Pre-req Unit*
- choice of 4

Arts (Table A) Junior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A) Junior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Junior Unit Choice

24

You must complete 6 units of study at senior level, including at least one 3000 level unit.

 

Second Year
(Senior)

S1

History Major Senior Intermediate (2000) Unit
- Choice of 8

Arts (Table A) Senior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

24

S2

History Major Senior Intermediate (2000) Unit
- Choice of 8

History Major Senior Intermediate (2000) Unit
- Choice of 8

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

24

Third Year
(Senior)

S1

History Major Senior Intermediate (2000) Unit
- Choice of 8

History Major Senior Advanced (3000) Unit

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

24

S2

History Major Senior (2000
or 3000) Unit

Arts (Table A) Senior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

Arts (Table A or B) Senior Unit Choice

24

 

TOTAL =

144

Choosing your Senior units of study

A guide to choosing senior units of study can be found here