About the major

The History major at the University of Sydney equips you to understand change and to look at things from different perspectives, and to assess diverse kinds of information.

At the heart of the first year is The History Workshop. Each student joins a small-group class that takes a particular time and place as the starting point for examination of social, cultural, political, or economic change. This class introduces students to historical thinking and teaches them disciplinary skills in an intensive but informal learning environment. The History Workshop is complemented by units on world history over the past 1000 years that provide students with a broad framework for understanding change and making comparisons.

The major culminates in a capstone unit that, depending on the student’s interests, explores the theory of history, gives the student the opportunity to do extensive research on a topic they choose themselves, or enables them to work with community groups and other organisations to apply their history skills beyond the classroom.

Requirements for completion

A major in History requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in History requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First Year

In the first year students develop an understanding of big-picture and detailed approaches to the discipline of history in world history survey units and the small-group classes. They will begin to learn a range of methods for analysing primary sources, including those of close reading and quantification, and they will be guided in building a historical argument based on evidence in written form.

Second year

In the second year, students build on skills and concepts learned in their first year by deepening their understanding of historical transitions and problems that cross national boundaries and time periods. They will learn how to analyse debates among historians about significant events and processes, becoming conversant with different historical approaches including those of political, economic, social, cultural, intellectual, biographical and transnational history. Working independently, they will examine complex historical problems and learn how to research and analyse those problems.

Third Year

In the final year, students acquire an advanced understanding of the discipline of history through original research, the study of historical theory, and/or projects applying historical skills beyond conventional academic settings. In capstone units, they will learn to apply the key historical skill of contextualization through the in-depth study of a greater variety of periods and places than they explore in the first two years of study. They will demonstrate high-level skills in inventive and responsible research, critical thinking, and the articulation and analysis of complex historical problems. They will learn how to disseminate an evidence-based argument in a variety of forms including oral and visual as well as written. Having completed a history major, they will be able to apply the skills and knowledge of a historian to issues in interdisciplinary contexts.


If you commenced your degree prior to 2018, admission to honours requires a major in History with an average of 70% or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018, admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in History with an average of 70% or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

The honours year gives students a taste of history as a vocation. In seminar work, students grapple with problems in the theory and practice of history; the thesis gives you the experience of formulating a significant historical problem and writing a substantial piece of original research.

Students complete two seminars, each worth 20% of the final honours mark. Each seminar requires 6,000-8,000 words of written work. The thesis is 18,000-20,000 words in length and is worth 60% of the final honours mark.

Advanced Coursework

The requirements for advanced coursework in History are described in the degree resolutions for the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies.

24-36 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2019.

Contact/further information

Website: sydney.edu.au/arts/history

Professor Chris Hilliard
Chair of Department

(02) 9036 6032

Learning outcomes
  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, including political, economic, social, cultural, intellectual, biographical, and transnational history.
  3. Critically analyse and interpret primary evidence in context and in relation to bodies of secondary literature.
  4. Identify a complex historical problem (for instance, a multicausal change or counterintuitive continuity) and devise a research strategy to solve it.
  5. Demonstrate the skills needed to construct an evidence-based argument or narrative in written, oral, visual, or digital form.
  6. Apply historical perspectives and skills (such as the ability to relate asymmetrical bodies of evidence, and an understanding of contingency and the timeframes of different processes) in interdisciplinary contexts.