University of Sydney Handbooks - 2012 Archive

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The Department of History is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).

To study history in our department is to equip oneself with the knowledge and analytical skills necessary for global citizenship. The questions we ask of, say, early modern China, medieval and modern Europe, the US civil war, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and colonial Australia, are those we pose to make sense of our world today. How did these societies function? How were they experienced by their members? How and why did they change over time? Who wielded power in them? Equally important are the enduring facets of human experience that literally make us who we are today – individual and collective violence, political ideologies, love, sex, and work. Sydney historians especially investigate the way in which everyday life and larger political and social forces have transformed one another. The study of ideas in action unites our work, prompting us to ask how ideas and categories were produced, lived with or worked through in particular situations.

We explore our questions in a variety of eras and national contexts, with many of us working across national borders.

In taking our units, students learn to work as individuals and in groups, to communicate effectively using verbal and written forms, and to analyse problems and present answers in a scholarly manner.

The History junior units of study offer broad overviews of geographical areas (eg 19th-century Europe), emphasising important transitions in social, economic, political and cultural life.

The History senior units of study examine particular societies in greater detail (eg the cultural history of New York), or they highlight a particular theme (eg gender, eugenics, medicine, nationalism, genocide). They aim to develop critical, situated awareness of the varieties of historical interpretation; to accumulate, assimilate and evaluate primary research data and historiographical debates; to understand the relationship between research and argument in history; and to cultivate communication skills appropriate to the variety of contexts in which history is debated in the academic and wider community.

The senior curriculum offered at the University of Sydney includes the following components:

A variety of national and regional studies: predominantly in the areas of American, Australian, Chinese, and Medieval, Early and Late Modern European history.

A variety of thematic and/or transnational studies: predominantly in the areas of cultural history, race, transnational/imperial/global history, war and society, politics, urban and social history, and gender, identity and social life.

To major in History, students must complete at least 36 senior credit points of History (i.e. 6 units of study). Up to 18 credit points (i.e. 3 units of study) may be cross-listed units.

In selecting their units of study for a major, students are encouraged to build concentrations (i.e. three or more units of study) that cover particular local/national studies or thematic areas.

Those seeking further training in historical research and method, and who have at least a credit average are warmly invited to take honours, which is a one-year program undertaken at the end of the Bachelor of Arts degree. Intending honours students must enrol in HSTY2691: Writing History. In fourth-year honours, students undertake supervised research and seminars designed to advance their skills in the theory and practice of history. Students write a major thesis based on original research.

Departmental Information
All History students should obtain a copy of the History booklet, available free of charge from the SOPHI office, Level 3, Quadrangle A14.

Reading in languages other than English
The ability to read one or more languages other than English is a valuable asset in many history units of study. Students should note that the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences offers introductory and senior units of study in many languages. Some History Honours thesis topics require reading knowledge in a particular language.

Contact/further information
The SOPHI office is on Level 3, Quadrangle A14, phone +61 2 9351 2862, fax +61 2 9351 3918, email:

or consult our website at