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

About the major

History helps us to understand the forces that have shaped the world in which we live. It allows us to perceive, and to challenge, patterns of political, social and cultural life established over time. History also helps us to appreciate our own place in the world, and to understand the ways in which lived experience, in many different times and places, has both influenced and been shaped by larger currents of thought and social change. In a History major, you will learn about the rich complexity of the human past, and about how historians seek to interpret that past.

There are many ways of doing history. Historians make sense of the past by using a broad variety of evidence - written, oral, visual, digital and material - and a diverse range of approaches. What they share is a belief that time and context matter: that all human happenings are embedded in particular times and places that must be studied thoroughly. Many of the units in our major therefore 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.

Completing a history major will not only give you broad knowledge about how the modern world was formed, it will also equip you with specific skills that are useful for other academic fields or for different kinds of employment. Writing history cultivates strong research skills: it teaches you how to analyse, interpret and contextualise evidence and helps you to marshal that evidence into a coherent argument or compelling narrative. These so-called ‘generic skills’ - in research, writing, analysis, interpretation, and argumentation - are crucial not just for history, but for fields ranging from law and international relations to English and political science, so a history major is a great complement to those studies. To judge by the experience of past students of our department, you will have excellent prospects of a career in a wide range of fields: from media, journalism, advertising, public relations, law, politics, the not-for-profit sector and public administration to museum curatorship, teaching, librarianship, and arts administration.

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 full list of units of study for the major can be found in the Table A unit of study table for History. You will also find information regarding a full list of units of study available to the major on the departmental website.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

Junior units of study survey a broad period and region and a variety of different approaches. These units focus particularly on the skills you need to read, interpret, and contextualise primary source material (that is, evidence about the past). 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 units (2000-level)

You will be able to choose from approximately 8-10 senior intermediate (2000) level units each semester, focused either on the histories of particular places or on themes explored in a variety of different times and places. You might for instance study Renaissance Italy, or you might focus on a theme, such as the history of war or the history of sexuality. Senior intermediate units are designed to extend and deepen your research skills and your capacity for critical engagement with ideas and context.

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 units (3000-level)

To complete your History major you must take one senior advanced (3000) level unit, choosing from the three that will be offered each year. You must complete three 2000 level History units (18 credit points) before you can do a 3000 level unit. In these units you draw upon the skills you have developed throughout the major to produce your own historical analyses and projects. 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 advanced 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 4000-4500 word project.


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 a variety of 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, it 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 an average of 70 percent or above in 48 senior credit points of History including HSTY2691: Writing History or any one of the senior advanced (3000 level)units on offer from 2015.

Contact/further information

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

email: , website sydney.edu.au/arts/history