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UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara


Division of Humanities and Fine Arts
Humanities and Social Sciences 4036
Telephone: (805) 893-2992


Department Chair:  Stephan Miescher


Without knowledge of the past, individuals and societies become prisoners of the present—unable to understand the causes of present circumstances and present problems. As a liberal discipline, history aims to permit students to transcend their own cultural limits and, by the study of other societies in other ages, to open their eyes to the diversity of the human environment. It has often been noted that history is the first truly “interdisciplinary” discipline. This is true because everything, no matter how specialized, has a history, and therefore everything is a proper subject of study for the historian. In this department, for instance, the course offerings range not only from the ancient world to modern times, but also strive to give students a truly global perspective through the study of a diverse array of peoples and places.

The Department of History offers two undergraduate degree programs: the bachelor of arts in history, and the bachelor of arts in the history of public policy and law.

The B.A. in the History of Public Policy and Law combines comparative historical studies with training in related academic disciplines. The goal is to train students to critically examine the policy and law-related  problems of the past with an eye toward understanding the present. Along with extensive course work in history and courses in cognate fields of the student’s choosing, students in the major will acquire competence in historical research and writing using primary and secondary sources, and are encouraged to acquire competence in a foreign language, and in quantitative, digital, and/or qualitative research methods appropriate to their fields of interest. The culmination of the major is a one quarter research seminar or a two-quarter senior thesis project based on original historical research. Along with these studies, students are encouraged to take an internship in public policy and law, by participating in opportunities available through the UC Washington or Sacramento programs, or in other independently arranged venues.

The department offers the M.A. and the Ph.D. in history within two parallel curricula. One, traditional in nature, prepares students primarily, though not exclusively, for teaching careers in higher and secondary education. The second, pioneered at UCSB, is a graduate program in public historical studies, which aims at training historians for careers in the community at large, primarily as researchers and writers.

The discipline of history is highly desirable for careers in many professional fields. The traditional career for the history major has been in teaching, but the breadth of knowledge acquired by studying history is an advantage to those intending a career in business and government service. The stress on the development of research skills, as well as on the ability to think and write clearly, has proven to be excellent preparation for law school and for a wide variety of research and writing jobs.

Students with a bachelor’s degree in history who are interested in pursuing a California Teaching Credential should contact the credential advisor in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education as soon as possible.

Within the department of history, undergraduate and graduate students alike will be able to consult with a variety of faculty and staff academic advisors. The undergraduate B.A. majors and the M.A. and Ph.D. candidates each have separate advisors specializing in those areas. Publications describing both undergraduate and graduate programs and available from the department.

Phi Alpha Theta: Membership in the Gamma Iota Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honorary society, is open to students who have completed at least five courses in history with a grade-point average of 3.1 or better. Graduate students and faculty also belong to the organization. In addition to regular meetings on campus, the society sponsors student papers at regional and national meetings. Further information about the organization is available on the departmental website.

Graduation with Distinction in History (The Undergraduate Honors Program): The Department of History at UCSB is committed to excellence in undergraduate education. In  addition to the lower-division survey courses in world, American, and European history, the department offers equivalent honors courses, History 2AH-BH-CH, History 4AH-BH-CH and History 17AH-BH-CH, for students interested in undertaking additional reading and writing assignments.

In their junior year, students who have maintained a grade-point average in the major of at least 3.5 and have completed at least 4UD courses by the end of Spring quarter (two of which must be completed by the end of Winter quarter) will be invited to join the department’s Senior Honors Seminar, History 194AH-BH, in which students pursue research on a topic of considerable depth and complexity. Students who have successfully completed a research seminar (proseminar or a Directed Reading and Research) will be given priority for this course.

Students admitted into the program will enroll in History 194AH-BH for the two quarters of their senior year. History 194AH-BH and History 195IA-IB may be used to satisfy the proseminar requirement for majors. Please note a petition to have these courses apply may be needed. All 8 units earned in this seminar may be applied to the 40 upper-division units required of all majors. In the fall quarter, honors candidates will read, write papers, and build a working bibliography for their thesis. The remaining quarter of the seminar will be devoted to independent research, conducted in consultation with the thesis advisor. At the end of the seminar, students will submit three copies of the thesis to the department. Students who have completed the honors sequence are eligible for graduation with Distinction in the Major.

Students who have not completed the honors seminar will not normally be eligible, although under unusual circumstances, supported by evidence of superior research and writing done in other history courses (such as the research seminars), a student may petition the department’s honors committee. In order to graduate with Distinction in the Major, a student must complete a paper that is recognized by a history faculty member (normally the honors seminar director) as distinguished. The department honors committee will be responsible for verifying the final list of students nominated for graduation with Distinction in the Major.

Graduation with Distinction in History of Public Policy and Law (The Undergraduate Honors Program): History of public policy majors may also enroll in the Honors Program in History, described above. They will do so by fulfilling the listed requirements as to honors courses and grade-point average. When invited to join the department’s Senior Honors Seminar (History 194AH-BH), which runs for two quarters in the student’s senior year, they will do so with the understanding that History 194AH-BH will substitute for History 195IA-IB, the 8-unit senior thesis course in the history of public policy and law major.