Studying History

About the Major

All human happenings are embedded in particular times and places, and to understand the events you have to understand the context. So many of the units in our major concentrate on particular periods, places and cultures, from the medieval through to the present day, from Australia and China to the United States and Europe. Others take a thematic or transnational approach, encouraging you to think comparatively across different societies in relation to one another. All of them teach you how to interpret evidence critically and constructively, how to apply different historical approaches and methods to a particular question or problem, and how to shape an argument.

You begin with 1000-level units teach you skills in interpreting evidence and placing events and trends in context. World-history surveys enable you to think about change over long spans of time and across the globe. After you’ve competed two 1000-level units, you can enroll in 2000-level units. At 2000 level you study the histories of particular cities, nations, and regions, or explore issues (such as capitalism, sexuality, epidemics, scandal, free speech) in a variety of different times and places. 3000-level units are more specialised and offer you a wide variety of topics. For the major, you must also complete at least one 3000-level ‘capstone’ unit (HSTY3901 HSTY3902, or HSTY3903), in which you will draw upon the skills you have developed throughout the major for a project of your own, and the interdisciplinary project unit FASS3999.

What will you get out of a major in History?

  • You’ll develop a deep understanding of more than one period, place or culture of the past.
  • You’ll become conversant with variety of approaches to interpreting the past, including political, economic, social, cultural, intellectual, biographical, and transnational history.
  • You will learn how to set evidence in context and analyse it critically.
  • You’ll be able to articulate a complex problem and devise a research strategy to solve it.
  • You’ll develop the skills needed to construct an evidence-based argument or narrative in written, oral, visual, or digital form.

Requirements for the major

For students who started their degrees before 2018:

  • two 1000-level units in History and/or Ancient History
  • one of the 3000-level ‘capstone’ units (HSTY3901, HSTY3902, or HSTY3903)
  • and five other 2000 or 3000 units in History.

For students beginning in 2018 or later:

  • two 1000-level units in History
  • two 2000-level units in History
  • at least one of HSTY3901, HSTY3902, or HSTY3903
  • and three other 3000-level units in History

The Minor in History

A minor in History follows a similar pathway to the major. The main difference is that the minor doesn’t require such a broad range of subjects at 3000-level. For students beginning in 2018 or later, a minor in History consists of two 1000-level units, two 2000-level units, and two 3000-level units, all selected from the History unit of study table. You don’t have to complete one of the 3000-level ‘capstone’ units (HSTY3901, HSTY3902, or HSTY3903), but you can.

Honours

Honours is a year-long program of advanced study entirely devoted to History. The Honours year dramatically extends what you have learned in your Bachelor’s degree. Honours in History at the University of Sydney is a valuable qualification–many of our Honours graduates go on to rewarding careers in the federal and state government, others in the private sector–because it nurtures both originality and discipline. You take two advanced seminars, one tackling methodological questions and one exploring a particular field (e.g. Australian history, American history) in depth, and you write a thesis on a historical question that you devise and research yourself, with the guidance of a supervisor. For some of you, the Honours year will be a critical step on the path to further study – a first-class Honours degree will equip you to undertake a PhD here or anywhere in the world. For others, it will be the culmination of your formal education, an experience that helps you refine your skills in research, analysis and writing, extend your intellectual range and develop the body of personal and professional skills you need to see a major project through to completion.

Students who started their bachelor’s degrees before 2018 are eligible to do Honours if they have completed a major in history and have an average mark of 70% or higher in their 2000- and 3000-level History units.

If you are beginning your undergraduate study in 2018, you’ll do Honours as the fourth year of the new combined degree of BA/BAS. To be eligible to undertake Honours as part of the BA/BAS you’ll need a major in History and a second major in your bachelor’s degree. Your second major might complement your History major–a relevant language, literary study, or a social science discipline, for instance–or it could have no direct connection with your historical studies. To do Honours you’ll also need an average mark of 70% or higher in your 2000- and 3000-level History units.

Advanced Coursework

The Advanced Coursework program in History consists of 24 credit points of 4000-level History units: two 6-credit-point seminars an industry or community project worth 12 credit points. As well as these 24 credit points in in History, to you take 24 credit points of your choice of electives–including the rest of your second major, if you did not complete it by the end of your third year. The Advanced Coursework option will be offered for the first time in 2021 As an alternative to Honours in the fourth year of a combined BA/BAS.

Degree Requirements

To fulfil the requirements of the Bachelor of Arts degree, you will need to complete:

  • A Major consisting of 8 Units of Study from a single subject area, each worth of 6 Credit Points (48 Credit Points in total). Your Major will be made up of 12 Credit Points of 1000-level units, 12 Credit Points of 2000-level units, and 24 Credit Points of 3000-level units, including a compulsory 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project Unit.
  • 12 Credit Points of Open Learning Environment (OLE) units
  • A Minor or second Major. A Minor consists of 6 Units of Study (36 Credit Points in total) from a single subject area. A Minor will be made up of 12 Credit Points of 1000-level units, 12 Credit Points of 2000-level units and 12 Credit Points of 3000-level units.

If you undertake a fourth year, you will be undertaking a combined Bachelor of Arts*/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (BAS).

The Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies

To fulfil the requirements of the combined BA/BAS degree, you will need to complete:

  • A Major consisting of 8 Units of Study from a single subject area, each worth of 6 Credit Points (48 Credit Points in total). Your Major will be made up of 12 Credit Points of 1000-level units, 12 Credit Points of 2000-level units, and 24 Credit Points of 3000-level units, including a compulsory 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project Unit.
  • 12 Credit Points of Open Learning Environment (OLE) units.
  • A second Major. If you are intending to do Honours in your fourth year, you will need to complete the required second Major by the end of your third year. If you are doing the Advanced Coursework option for the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, you can complete your second Major in your fourth year, alongside the 24 Credit Points of Advanced Coursework History.
  • Either 48 credit points of Honours work in History (two 6 Credit Point seminars and a 36 Credit Point thesis) or 24 Credit points of Advanced Coursework in History.

Pathways through the major

For more information on pathways through the History major see the Department's Undergraduate Guide