Read Smith’s UPDATED plans as of November 23, 2020,
for the spring 2021 semester.
The Department of History endeavors to cultivate a critical understanding of past and present human societies that will help students to become informed, thoughtful and engaged participants in the world. By offering our students the opportunity to discover historical inquiry as a meaningful part of their humanistic formation, history contributes directly to the highest intellectual mission of the college.
The Department of History at Smith College endeavors to cultivate a critical understanding of past and present human societies that will help students to become informed, thoughtful and engaged participants in the world. By offering our students the opportunity to discover historical inquiry as a meaningful part of their humanistic formation, history contributes directly to the highest intellectual mission of the college.
The study of history at Smith thus aims to prepare students to:
- Locate, analyze, and craft their own understandings of the past from a wide range of primary sources.
- Place such analyses in the context of historical and interdisciplinary scholarship.
These goals are achieved through developing knowledge and skills specific to the historical profession and humanistic scholarship. Students majoring in History are expected to:
- Distinguish between primary and secondary sources and read them closely and critically.
- Be familiar with major interpretative frameworks in the discipline of history and understand theoretical and methodological issues in historical debate.
- Acquire experience in supervised and independent research.
- Develop analytical and writing skills necessary for research and for presenting findings effectively.
The history curriculum ultimately helps students understand more clearly not only their place in contemporary society but also relationships between longer-term political, social, economic, intellectual and cultural currents in our increasingly globalized world.
Students majoring in history demonstrate their skills and knowledge in the following ways:
a) Taking HST 150 and satisfying the history major’s distribution requirements (geographical, chronological and thematic).
b) Taking a research seminar and writing a major research essay (or completing a major semester-long research project that may include both writing and digital components), which engages both primary and secondary sources and demonstrates command of major interpretative frameworks in history.
c) Honors students write a thesis based on independent research in primary and secondary sources and defend it publicly.
Advisers: Jeffrey Ahlman, Marnie Anderson, Ernest Benz, Joshua Birk, Darcy Buerkle, Sergey Glebov, Jennifer Guglielmo, Richard Lim, Elizabeth Pryor.
Fall 2020 Revision to History Major Requirements
In response to the impact of COVID-19, the college has raised the limit on the number of S/U courses students may apply toward graduation. Normally, the Department of History does not permit S/U courses for credit toward the major. The following exceptions apply:
- In spring 2020, all courses were S/U. Students majoring in History who completed courses in spring 2020 that they wish to count toward the major may do so.
- For fall 2020 or Interterm 2021, students may apply one 100 or 200-level S/U course toward the completion of the history major or minor.
In each instance, students are encouraged to consult with their advisers when choosing this option for major credit.
In December, the department will contemplate next steps, and consider whether or not to extend the policy to spring 2021.
Requirements for the Major in History
The history major comprises 11 semester courses, at least six of which shall normally be taken at Smith, distributed as follows:
- HST 150: The Historian’s Craft.
- Field of concentration: five semester courses, at least one of which is a Smith history department seminar. Two of these may be historically oriented courses at the 200-level or above in other disciplines approved by the student’s adviser.
- Fields of concentration: Antiquity; Islamic Middle East; East Asia; Europe, 300-1650; Europe since 1650 to the Present; Africa; Latin America; United States; Women’s History; Comparative Colonialism.
- Note: A student may also design a field of concentration, which should consist of courses related chronologically, geographically, methodologically or thematically and must be approved by an adviser.
- Additional courses: five courses, of which four must be in two fields distinct from the field of concentration.
- No more than three courses taken at the 100-level may count toward the major.
- Geographic breadth: among the 11 semester courses counting toward the major, there must be at least one course each in three of the following geographic regions:
- East Asia and Central Asia
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- Middle East and South Asia
- North America
Courses both in the field of concentration and outside the field of concentration may be used to satisfy this requirement. Courses cross-listed in the history department section of the catalogue count as history courses toward all requirements.
AP courses do not count toward the major.
The S/U grading option is not allowed for courses counting toward the major.
A reading knowledge of foreign languages is highly desirable and is especially recommended for students planning a major in history.
Note: Students in classes of 2018, 2019 and 2020 may satisfy the requirements for the major with the following amendments:
- A student may count one (but only one) AP examination in United States, European or World History with a grade of 4 or 5 as the equivalent of a course for 4 credits toward the major.
- Instead of HST 150, students may take an additional course described under “Additional courses.”
Advisers: Jeffrey Ahlman, Marnie Anderson, Ernest Benz, Darcy Buerkle, Sergey Glebov, Jennifer Guglielmo, Richard Lim, Elizabeth Pryor.
Requirements for the Minor in History
The minor comprises five semester courses. At least three of these courses must be related chronologically, geographically, methodologically or thematically. At least three of the courses will normally be taken at Smith. Students should consult their advisers.
The S/U grading option is not allowed for courses counting toward the minor.
Students wishing to pursue individualized study in their junior or senior years on campus may enroll in a Special Studies tutorial (HST 404). A student must secure the agreement of a faculty member to supervise a particular project prior to enrolling for a Special Studies. Examples of the kinds of work done in Special Studies tutorials include:
- In-depth reading in an area not covered in another course
- The execution of a research proposal developed in another course (either library research or empirical research); and other options, to be negotiated between the student and a particular faculty member
Director: Elizabeth Pryor
History 430d Thesis
Full-year course; offered each year
History 431 Thesis
Offered fall semester each year
The departmental honors program is a one-year program taken during the senior year. If admitted, students write a thesis in both semesters of the senior year, or they may propose to write the thesis in one semester. Admission requires a grade point average of 3.5 inside and outside the major.
The central feature of the history honors program is the writing of a senior thesis with the guidance of a faculty adviser. Each honors candidate defends the thesis at an oral examination which relates the thesis topic to the historical scholarship of the chosen field. The internal honors deadline for a complete polished draft suitable for review by a second reader is the Monday after spring break. Those drafts will then be evaluated by both the first and second readers. Readers will give comments that allow students to incorporate feedback so that they can turn in the final version by the hollege deadline, (the first week of April). A fall semester thesis is due the first day of the spring semester, with the oral defense normally falling before spring break.
If you would like to be considered for the honors program, meet with a faculty member in the history department to discuss your ideas and develop a proposal with the assistance of the potential thesis supervisor, during the spring semester of your junior year. Your proposal should include a full description of your topic, your planned research methodology (the breadth of sources you will use and how), a brief description of how your project fits into the historical scholarship on this topic, and a preliminary bibliography (including primary and secondary sources). The college requires that the faculty supervisor for the thesis be a member of the department, although you may have a second reader in another department or program. Submit your proposal to the Director of Honors in the History Department before the end of classes in your junior year, with the thesis supervisor’s signature.
Detailed information and the official application for honors are available at the class deans website under guidelines and forms for academic procedures.
The history honors major comprises 11 semester courses, at least six of which shall normally be taken at Smith, distributed as follows.
- Field of concentration: four semester courses, at least one of which is a Smith history department seminar. Two of these may be historically oriented courses at the 200–level or above in other disciplines, approved by the student's adviser.
- The thesis counting for two courses (8 credits)
- Five History courses or seminars, of which four are outside the field of concentration
- No more than two courses taken at the 100–level may count toward the major
- Geographic breadth: among the 11 semester courses counting towards the major there must be at least one course each in three of the following geographic regions
- East Asia and Central Asia
- Latin America
- Middle East and South Asia
- North America
Courses in the field of concentration and outside the field of concentration may be used to satisfy this requirement. AP credits may not be used to satisfy this requirement.
Courses cross–listed in the history department section of the catalogue count as history courses toward all requirements.
A student may count one (but only one) advanced placement examination in United States, European or World History with a grade of 4 or 5 as the equivalent of a course for 4 credits toward the major.
The S/U grading option is not allowed for courses counting toward the history honors major.
Recent honors thesis titles include:
"British and American Women in National-Socialist Propaganda"
"The Chinese Exclusion Era: Media, Politics and Community"
"The Choreography of Crucifixion"
"La Reina, La Loca: The Medieval 'Madness' of Queen Juana I"
"Imagining the Famiy: Neoliberalism and Welfare's End in the United States"
"Rethinking Imperialism: Globalization, Trade, and Tea in the Qing Dynasty"
"Sacral King to Augural Emperor: Transformations in Perspectives of Divination from Numa to Augustus"
"Between Russian and United States: Concepts and Conflicts of Jewish Citizenship and Subjecthood in the Early Twentieth Century"
"When I Need You, I Shall Send For You: An Analysis of Aksumite and Himyarite Authority in an East Roman World"
"Are You Not Entertained? Gladiatorial Munera and the Making of Roman Imperial Careers"
"The Girl Behind the Man behind the Gun": Class Distinctions Among British Women Munitions Workers During the First World War"
"Specters from the Nursery: Issues of Legitimacy and the Impact of Rumor on the Glorious Revolution of 1688/89"
"Sixth-Century Italy: Crisis and Change, Reconciling Frankish Annals with Their Sources"
"we enjoyed Mrs. Woolf but felt her Cambridge was not ours"
"Merit-Based Admissions to Kosher Kitchens: Changing Demands of Jewish Students at Smith College, 1887 to Present Day"
"Caught with their Pants Down: Clausewitz versus Sun Tzu in Light of Hitler's Military Collapse in Normandy"
"From Active Cathar to Passive Dominican: The Evolution of Women's Spirituality in Medieval Southern France"
"The Presentation of a Queen [Elizabeth I of England]"
"The White Woman’s Burden [in India under the British Raj]"
"Mother or Devil: Interpreting the Mistress-Slave Girl Bond [in the United States]"
"From Intransigence to Consensus: A History of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland"
"The Intersection of Public Policy and Social Movements: A Study of Black Power Student Movements at Two Northern Urban Universities 1966-1972"
"The British in Ireland: The Ulster Plantation"
"Stalking a Lost Deed: The End of Democracy in Postwar Czechoslovakia"
"Horsemen of the Apocalypse: German Expressionists and the Process of Political Radicalization"
"A United Front for Peace and Freedom: Anti-Fascism, Activist Politics, and their Impact on Political Culture, 1922-1939 [in the United States]"
"Two Aspects of the Medieval Soul: Medieval Sexuality and the De Amore of Andreas Capellanus"
"Too Jewish? Ethnicity and Assimilation in American Vaudeville 1880-1930"
"The Right to Resistance: The Development of Constitutional Theory in Sixteenth-Century France"
"The Desert with No Walls: Reassessing the Historical Portrayal of Early Egyptian Monasticism"
"Avant-Garde with Mass Appeal: Potemkin and Mother as Popular Cinema"
"National Political Awareness in the Localities Before and During the English Civil Wars"
"Anne Boleyn and the Politics of Religious Reform"
"Excuse me, but did you hear a piercing scream?": British Foreign Policy 1935-38, and the Failure of Collective Security in the Political Cartoons of David Low"
"Blest Be the Tie that Binds: Mennonites, Conscientious Objectors, and the American State, 1917-1947"
"The Constitutions of Clarendon: Their Role in the Dispute between Thomas Becket and King Henry II"
"To Bear, or not to bear...: The marital and maternal choices of Mary and Elizabeth"
"The Propitious Problem of Shell Shock: World War I as a Turning Point for Psychiatry in Britain and Germany"
"Laquelle était la vraie France? Vichy France, Free France, and the International Labour Organisation during World War II"
"An Exploration of the Alta California Presidios as Agents of Colonialism With a Special Focus on the Chumash Revolt of 1824"
"Imperial Insanity: The Role of Imperial Ideology in the Understanding and Treatment of Shell-Shock in the First World War"
"Gendering Reform: Aristocratic Vice, Old Corruption, and the Mary Anne Clarke Affair in the Story of English Reform, 1763-1820"
"The Evolution of Greek Identity in the Roman World: Understanding, Accepting, and Supporting Roman Rule"
"Carriers of the Nation: Changes in Women’s Reproductive Power in the AIDS-era: A Case Study of Botswana"
"The Lobo-Cabernite Affair: A Close Look at the Case Study as History and Historical Problem"
“She’s Not There”: Beyond the Vilifications of Norma Khouri’s Honor Lost "
"Defining Rites: Parliamentary Discourse on the Kenyan Female Circumcision Crisis 1929-1931"
"Swells, Men of the World, and Gentlemen: The Construction of Masculinities in London High Society, 1850-1880"
“Our Republic”: St. Enda’s College 1908-1916"
"Warwick the Queenmaker: John Dudley and the Succession Crisis of 1553"
"The Tenishev School Experiment: Pedagogy and Poetry"
"How Personal Crisis Made the Risorgimento: Mazzini and Cavour Before and After 1836"
“A Very Threatened and Nervous Group of People”: Public Scrutiny of Sexuality at Smith College in Two Historical Moments"
"Ambiguous Selves: Madeleine Pelletier’s Interwar Autobiographical Writing"
"Revival in Uganda: Church, State, and the Mukono Crisis of 1941"
"On Our Backs With a Bad Attitude: A History of the First Lesbian Sex Magazines"
"When the 'Brown Pest' Showed up at the Party: St. Pauli under the Nazi Regime"
"Remembering and Misremembering Louis Antoine Saint-Just""
"I defy anyone to take from me this independent like which I have given myself in the centuries and in the skies': Louis Antoine Saint-Just, Between Man and Myth"
"Stalinist Orientalism: Images of Soviet Central Asians and Deterritorialized National Identities in USSR in Construction"
"Let Us Sing Our Victory Long Live Sound"
"Popular Music in the American and French Revolutions"
"Legend and Myth-making during the Duke d'Enghien Affair"
"The Interim Solution: The Nazification of Hamburg's Germanistikand the Existence of the German University under National Socialism"
"Constructions of Islamic Identity: What is the Role of Islamic Institutions in Response to the Challence of Laicite in France"
History students at Smith choose from more than 50 courses taught by active scholars. The department offers classes in the ancient Mediterranean world, medieval and modern Europe, the United States, the Middle East, East Asia, Latin America and Africa.
HST 200 (L) Modern East Asia
Marnie Anderson, Ernest Benz
HST 202 (L) Ancient Greece
HST 206 (C) Aspects of Ancient History
Topic: Diseases, Health and Medicine in the Ancient World
HST 208 (L) Introduction to the History of the Modern Middle East
HST 214 (C) Aspects of Chinese History
Topic: The World of Thought in China
HST 225 (L) Making of the Medieval World
HST 250 (L) Europe in the Nineteenth Century
HST 258 (L) Modern Africa
HST 269 (L) Vast Early America
HST 270 (C) Anatomy of a Slave Revolt
HST 273 (C) Fake News in Early America
HST 283 (L) Urban Histories of the Global South
HST 288 (C) Aspects of World History
Topic: Childhood and Youth in the Global South
HST 390 (S) Teaching History
Cross Listed Courses
AFR 202 (L) Topics in Africana Studies
Topic: The Black Archive
FYS 142 Pandemic and Popular Protests in the Middle Ages
JUD 288 History of Israel
MES 208 Introduction to the History of the Modern Middle East
MES 213 Sex and Power in the Middle East
Five College Courses
HST 264 Women and Revolutions
HST 278 (L) Decolonizing U.S. Women's History 1848-Present
HST 286 (C) Recent Historiographic Debates in the History of Gender and Sexuality
LAS 264 Women and Revolutions
HST 150 (L) The Historian's Craft
Jeffrey Ahlman, Jordan Taylor
HST 201 (L) The Slik Road and Premodern Eurasia
HST 203 (L) Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World
HST 222 (C) Aspects of Japanese History, The Place of Protest in Early Modern and Modern Japan
HST 226 (L) Renaissance and Reformation? Europe in the Late Middle Ages: Society, Culture, and Politics
HST 229 A World Before Race?: Ethnicity, Culture and Difference in the Middle Ages
HST 234 (C) Global Africa
HST 237 (C) Mobility and Migration in the Modern Middle East
HST 241 (L) Soviet Union in the Cold War
HST 244 Thinking Revolution: Histories of Revolt in the Modern Middle East
HST 246 (C) Memory and History
HST 251 (L) Europe in the 20th Century
HST 254 (C) Liberalism and Socialism
HST 262 (C) The History of the N-Word: Race, Violence, and Language in the United States
HST 266 (L) Emancipation and the Afterlife of Slavery
HST 267 (L) United States Since 1877
HST 275 An Introduction to Public History
HST 296 The American Revolution
HST 350 Sem: Modern Europe
Topic: Gender, History and the Archive
HST 383 Sem: Research in United States Women's History
Topic: Domestic Worker Organizing
AMS 302 Sem: The Material Culture of New England, 1630-1860
ARX 340 Taking the Archives Public
MES 237 (C) Mobility and Migration in the Modern Middle East
MES 244 Thinking Revolution: Histories of Revolt in the Modern Middle East
SWG 305 Queer Histories and Cultues
Prerequisites for Candidates for Admission
- Transcript of undergraduate study giving evidence of academic achievement
- GRE examination
Distribution Requirement of Courses in History for the MAT Degree in History
The distribution requirement of courses in history can be fulfilled by courses taken at Smith College or by comparable courses taken at other colleges or universities prior to enrollment at Smith College. Equivalency will be determined in the manner currently used by the Curriculum Committee of the Department of History in evaluating and, if warranted, granting credit toward the undergraduate major for courses taken while studying away from Smith College. It is assumed that, normally, MAT candidates in history will have had a major or minor in history for their bachelor's degree and that their history courses taken at Smith College will supplement and build on their earlier courses in history at the college level.
For more information about applying to the MAT Program in History visit the Department of Education and Child Study or contact the Office of Graduate & Special Programs, 413-585-3050.Education & Child Study Graduate & Special Programs
Ten history courses at the intermediate or advanced level, comparable to undergraduate courses at the 200 or 300 level at Smith College, distributed in four fields, as follows:
- Two courses in U.S. history
- Two courses in European history (since the Fall of Rome), one of which must treat history in the main before 1789, and one of which must treat history in the main after 1789
- Two courses in ancient Greek and/or Roman history
- Four courses in non-Western history, normally chosen from the following fields:
- Chinese or Japanese history
- Islamic history
- Latin-American history
- African history is also recommended, though it is currently not offered on a regular basis in the department.
- Courses in the history of the Indian subcontinent and of other regions of Asia may also be counted toward the "non-Western" distribution requirement, even though no courses in these fields of history are offered on a regular basis in the department
MAT candidates in history have the option of concentrating two of their four courses in non-Western history in the same field.
Seven history courses (as stated above), distributed in four fields as follows:
- Two courses in U.S. history
- Two courses in European history (since the Fall of Rome), as specified above
- One course in ancient Greek or Roman history
- Two courses in non-Western history, as specified above
L. Clark Seelye Professor Emerita of History
Sophia Smith Professor Emeritus of History and Professor Emeritus of Religion and Biblical Literature
Mary Huggins Gamble Professor Emeritus
Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor of History Emerita
Dwight W. Morrow Professor Emeritus of History
Roe/Straut Professor Emeritus in the Humanitities (History)
Professor of History, Emeritus
Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor Emeritus in the Social Sciences (History)
Professor Emeritus of History
R. Jackson Wilson
Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor Emeritus of History
Sydenham C. Parsons Professor of History and Latin American Studies
The Thomas Corwin Mendenhall Prize
With the support of the Smith College Alumnae Association, this prize is awarded annually for an essay written within the current or the three preceding semesters in a regular history course. Essays originally submitted in seminars, for special studies or as honors theses are not eligible. If an essay was written in response to a specific question or problem posed by an instructor, the stated assignment should be submitted along with the essay.
The essay should indicate for which course and in which semester it was originally written. A hard copy or electronic copy should be submitted to the Department of History, Wright Hall 227, by Friday, April 26, clearly identified as submissions for the Mendenhall Prize competition. A student may submit no more than one essay for the competition.
Gladys Lampert and Edward Beenstock Prize
This prize is awarded for the best honors thesis in American studies or American history. Interested students should submit their theses no later than Friday, April 26, to either Terie Fleury, secretary of the American studies department, Wright Hall 224, or Lyn Minnich, secretary of the History department, Wright Hall 227.
Vera Lee Brown Prize
This prize is awarded for excellence in history to a senior majoring in history in the regular course.
The Merle Curti Prize
This prize is awarded for the best piece of writing on any aspect of American civilization. Interested students should submit an electronic copy of their writing (one essay per student), no later than Friday, April 26, to Lyn Minnich, secretary of the History department, wright Hall 227.
Hazel L. Edgerly Prize
This prize is awarded to a senior honors history student for distinguished work in that subject.
The history department encourages all students to consider studying abroad, especially in an institution that teaches in a language other than English.
A student planning to study away from Smith during the academic year or during the summer must consult with a departmental adviser concerning rules for granting credit toward the major or the degree. Students must consult with their major adviser for study away both before and after their participation in Junior Year Abroad programs.
In recent years, history majors and minors have studied on Smith’s Junior Year Abroad programs in Paris, Geneva, Florence and Hamburg. They have also studied in consortial programs in Spain, Japan and Mexico.
Students have also studied independently in a variety of other countries:
- Cairo, Egypt
- Rabat, Morocco
- Dakar, Senegal
- University of Natal at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
- Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
- Ben Gurion University, Israel
- Amman, Jordan
- Beijing, China
- Yonsei, Korea
- Dominican Republic
- Australia: Trinity College Parkville, Adelaide, Sydney
- Otago, New Zealand
- Vienna, Austria
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- England: Bristol, London School of Economics; University College London; Royal Holloway; King's College London; School of Oriental and African Studies, Oxford; East Anglia; Queen Mary; Westfield Sussex; York
- Athens, Greece
- Ireland: Galway, Cork, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Belfast
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Coimbra, Portugal
- Russia: Yaroslavl, Saint Petersburg
- Scotland: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Saint Andrews
- Madrid, Spain
- New York
- Paris, France
For more information on these and other programs, visit the Study Abroad Office and consult with seniors who have returned from study elsewhere. As most programs are not designed specifically for history majors, students should consult with their major advisers.
Courses taken abroad must be approved to count toward the history major or minor after they have been completed. This is a separate process from the awarding of overall credit toward a Smith degree. Students present a petition through their adviser, with supporting documentation on the courses. The basic rule is that such courses should be roughly equivalent to a Smith course in reading, writing and class time. For further details on petitioning, please consult an adviser.
The same petition process governs other courses taken outside Smith, including at institutions in the United States during a summer or on an exchange program or during a semester of independent study or before transferring to Smith or before becoming an Ada Comstock Scholar.
Master of Arts in Teaching
Smith College offers a master of arts in teaching degree for those pursuing teaching in elementary, middle or high schools as well as for students wishing to do advanced study in the field of education.