Course Descriptions & Thematic Clusters

Undergrad: History 97: Historical Analysis

For questions please consult the History adviser assigned to each House, or the DUS or ADUS. To ensure sectioning if you are joining the concentration late, please consult Laura Johnson (

History 97. Letter graded. This sophomore tutorial introduces students to forms of historical argument and ways of formulating historical questions through the study of a broad theme, emphasizing the development of skills in historical analysis and writing. Students will be sectioned into one of six thematic seminars, each led by a faculty member and supported by a graduate student tutor. The readings and discussions will vary according to the theme of each seminar, but the schedule of assignments and various methodological readings will be common across the seminars. The course will meet as a seminar of 10-15 students for two consecutive weeks and in smaller groups of 4 with the tutor every third week. The course will also include a few plenary sessions, held in the evening, featuring faculty presentations and opportunities for course-wide discussion both formal and informal. History 97 is the cornerstone of the History concentration. It is required of all History concentrators and is normally taken in spring of sophomore year, the first semester in the concentration. Those joining the concentration late should take it at the first opportunity; it is offered only in the spring semester.  The themes of the seminar will vary somewhat from year to year.  The themes of the seminar will vary somewhat from year to year. In Spring 2015, the major themes will be intellectual history; environmental history; material history; legal history; urban history; and biography.

Undergrad: Lectures (1000-1800-level courses)

Letter graded. Lecture courses meet twice or three times a week, and generally have no prerequisite. They are open to all undergraduates, both in History and outside the Concentration. Courses which have more than 18 students may also have weekly discussion sections which are led by Teaching Fellows (TFs). Discussion sections are designed to give students the opportunity to discuss the materials covered in lectures and in the weekly readings. The course grade will take into account regular attendance and participation in section.

Lecture Requirements: Ordinarily, these consist of a one-hour midterm, a 12-15 page term paper, and a three-hour final. Some courses, especially those with sections, may also require weekly response papers. Shorter module papers may replace the term paper. Weekly reading assignments for lecture courses generally run to 150 pages, though some courses may assign more readings. In courses where there are fewer than 20 students, the Registrar allows substitutions for the three-hour final exam. In courses with sections, it is the responsibility of the TFs to grade exams and papers under the close supervision of the instructor. If a course has more than 18 students but no section, the instructor may employ a grader. The grader is ordinarily a graduate student with an interest in the course. Graders are expected to attend all lecturers and be familiar with the assigned readings.

Undergrad: Seminars (13, 70, and 80-level courses)

 Letter graded. Seminars meet for 2 hours per week and are normally capped at 15 students. Seminar topics can run the gamut from courses that focus primarily on historiography to courses that aim to produce a significant research paper. Many instructors will choose to develop seminars whose major writing assignment is a long research paper. Such courses aim to expose students to the historical literature on the topic of the course; to train them in the use of primary source materials; to introduce them to problems of bibliography and historical method; to encourage them to think critically about their sources as they gather them; and to give them an opportunity to write history themselves. In these seminars students are guided through the stages of writing a substantial research paper of 20-25 pages, including an opportunity to receive feedback from peers and the instructor on a draft before final submission. Please note that all students interested in pursuing the thesis track must complete a major research paper in a seminar. Some instructors may prefer to teach a historiographically oriented seminar that introduces students to some of the major readings, primary and/or secondary, in an existing field, or to a new area of study or a new research priority. In these kinds of courses, a mixture of short assignments and response papers and longer bibliographic essays may work best. The department strongly encourages student presentations of their work and/or other devices for peer reading and comment, especially in cases where students have undertaken significant primary research. In such cases, it is normal to designate the last few meetings of the semester at least in part to short oral presentations by students. These oral presentations also offer good practice for the oral presentations made by thesis-writing seniors in November of their senior year.

Please note that conference courses (1900-level) also count as seminars.

Undergrad: History 91r: Supervised Reading & Research

Letter graded and open to junior and seniors only. Occasionally, a student's interest cannot be accommodated by the range of courses offered in a given year. Under the supervision of a member of the History faculty, that student may devise a reading and research course to address his or her particular set of interests. The student is responsible for devising an appropriate reading list, which has to be approved by the faculty advisor. The student must also seek the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies in order to enroll in History 91r. Requirements: The student and the advisor are expected to meet regularly (at least once every two weeks, preferably once a week), to go over the readings and discuss the issues they raise. At the end of the course, the student is expected to produce a paper at least 10 pages long, and to take an oral exam with two examiners, the course instructor and another member of the Department.

Graduate Proseminars (2000-level courses)

Letter graded. A proseminar is a graduate course ordinarily focused on historiography and usually taken to obtain appropriate background in a subject or area in preparation for a more advanced seminar.

Graduate Seminars (2000 and 3900-level courses)

Letter graded. A seminar tends to focus on more advanced and/or specific research topics. It usually limits enrollment to 12-15 students; and emphasizes student presentations and concludes with a significant research paper.

Graduate Reading & Research (History 3010)

Graded SAT/UNSAT. These courses are designed primarily to help students prepare for the General Exams. Students are expected to design an appropriate reading list under the close supervision of the faculty who will administer the Exam in the field being prepared, and to meet on a regular basis with that faculty. There are no formal requirements.

Thematic Clusters:

Book History Courses

Book History at Harvard - See course listings, faculty profiles, and an overview of Book History at Harvard.


Economic History Courses

Economic History at Harvard - See course listings, faculty profiles, and an overview of Economic History at Harvard.

Imperial History Courses

Imperial History at Harvard - See course listings, faculty profiles, and an overview of Imperial History at Harvard.