University of Sydney Handbooks - 2013 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.

Majoring in History
Students intending to major in History must complete 12 junior credit points of History, Ancient History or Asian Studies (that is 2 units of study). 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. The cross-listing schedule is located on the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences website.

Junior history units of study survey broad periods and regions, and a variety of different approaches, and develop skills of historical analysis and evidence based argument.

Senior history units of study explore the histories of particular nations, predominantly Australia, the United States, China and Medieval, Early and Late Modern Europe, or themes such as genocide, gender, crime and nationalism, in a variety of different times and places. In selecting their units of study for a major, students are encouraged to build concentrations (ie three or more units of study) that cover particular local/national studies or thematic areas.

Students completing senior units will develop critical, situated awareness of the varieties of historical interpretation; accumulate, assimilate and evaluate primary research data and historiographical debates; understand the relationship between research and argument in history, and cultivate communication skills appropriate to the variety of contexts in which history is debated in the academic and wider community.

Honours in History
Those seeking further training in historical research and method can enrol in honours, which is a one-year program undertaken at the end of the Bachelor of Arts degree. The program involves seminars in which students explore historical fields and approaches, and a thesis on an independently framed and researched historical problem. For some people, the honours year is a critical step on the path to further study. For others, the fourth year is the culmination of their formal education, an experience that helps them refine their skills in research, analysis and writing; extend their intellectual range; and develop the body of personal and professional skills needed to see a major project through to completion.

To be eligible to undertake Honours a student must have completed 48 senior credit points of History (i.e. 8 units of study), including HSTY2691: Writing History, and have an average grade of credit or above in those units.

Contact/further information
All History students should obtain a copy of the History booklet available free of charge from the SOPHI office.

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

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