Requirements: History

Social Sciences Division

As historians, we look for and examine what women and men of the past have left behind, what they have created, and what marks they have left on the world. We listen to the stories others have told and look at the pictures others have painted of those pasts. We shape and articulate our own narratives and understandings of historical evidence. We discern and analyze varieties of and connections among human experiences. Through departmental course offerings, the major and participation in interdisciplinary studies, we teach students to join us in exploring the world's past. We encourage off-campus study and foreign language study, sponsor diverse speakers and arrange formal and informal gatherings to encourage students to reflect on the human past as a way to understand their world.

The Kenyon College faculty voted to change from Kenyon units to semester hours. This change will go into effect for all students who start at the College in the fall of 2024. Both systems will be used throughout the course catalog with the Kenyon units being listed first.


New Students

The department has developed the course HIST 100 (Making of the Contemporary World) as a historical introduction to the 20th century. With an emphasis on small group discussion and the exploration of primary sources, this is an ideal course for first-year students. In addition, courses numbered between 100 and 199 are designed as introductory courses, suitable for both those who plan further work in the field and those who intend to enroll in only one history course during their college career. The department recommends them as appropriate first courses. Nevertheless, unless otherwise noted, all courses numbered below 300 are open to any interested student. Courses numbered from 300 to 498 are seminars. Enrollment in seminars is limited, and normally not recommended for first-year students. Interested first-year students should consult the instructor about enrolling in a 300-level course.

The Curriculum

The department believes a sound history curriculum presents the following seven elements:

  1. Authentic research and writing opportunities
  2. A variety of classroom interactions
  3. A blend of studies focusing on breadth with studies focusing on depth
  4. Opportunities to learn about different world cultures
  5. Engagement with events that occurred well before recent times
  6. An introduction to the ways historians do their work and the theoretical considerations that undergird that work
  7. An obligation to integrate the various discrete courses that the curriculum offers.

The requirements for the major are designed to ensure that all history majors experience these elements.

Requirements for the Major

History majors must receive credit for at least 11 courses taught by the history department or extra-departmental courses approved by the history department. No more than two courses from other departments at Kenyon can be used to fulfill history major requirements. For information on such courses, see the department chair. For history courses from other institutions, see the transfer credit policy below. Students can keep track of their progress through the major by download this checklist

The 11 required courses must include:

  • Four courses in a defined field within the major
  • HIST 387: Practice and Theory of History
  • HIST 490: Senior Seminar or HIST 497-498: Senior Honors Seminar
  • Five elective courses

Electives and the four courses taken in the field within the major must include courses that meet the following distribution requirements:

  • Seminar requirement:
    • Two advanced seminars (any 300- to 400-level seminar except HIST 387, 490, 497 or 498), at least one of which must be in the student's defined field. Students are strongly encouraged to take more than two advanced seminars. 
  • Two courses in the history of Asia and/or Africa
  • Two courses in the history of the Americas and/or Europe
  • Two courses in pre-modern history
  • Two courses in modern history
    Some courses do not fulfill either modern or premodern requirements; see course description in the catalog for the modern/premodern tag.

Fields within the Major (four courses)

The purpose of fields is to give students the opportunity to organize their history courses into a coherent geographic or thematic area of specialization within the major. Courses taken within the field must include: one 100-level survey (if offered) or 200-level survey; one additional 100-level or 200-level survey; one 300- or 400-level seminar; and an additional course at any level. Note that some courses do not fulfill a geographic field requirement, for example HIST 100 or HIST 275. In case of doubt, consult the chair of the department. Students also write their senior capstone research paper on a topic within their field.

A required major areas form or history major checklist must be completed and submitted to the Registrar's Office, indicating the courses for the student's field within the major. A description and list of available courses for each field can be downloaded by clicking below.

Senior Research Conference

The senior research conference, which is held each January, usually on the first Sunday after classes begin, culminates the work that students carry out for HIST 490 (Senior Seminar). Participants are divided into panels based on common themes that emerge from their papers. Speakers present a 10- to 12-minute version of their theses, followed by a period of discussion. As a result, students gain experience summarizing a larger project and giving a public presentation. All seniors are required to attend, and the conference is open to the entire Kenyon community. The conference, as a collaborative event, is a particularly meaningful experience for the participants because it serves as a turning point in the research process, culminating the collective work they did in the senior seminar and providing feedback as they begin the individual work of the Senior Capstone.

Senior Capstone

The Senior Capstone in history is usually conducted in the spring semester. It consists of:

  • A newly prepared and significantly revised version of the research paper completed in "Senior Seminar," along with a brief explanation of the chief ways it differs from the seminar paper.
  • A 45-minute oral examination that will focus on prominent themes in the student's field and their relation to the student's research project.


Honors candidates are chosen by the history faculty and are invited to participate in the program based on their grade-point averages (3.33 overall and 3.5 in history courses by the end of the junior year) and demonstrated ability to conduct high-quality independent research. Prior to their senior year, honors candidates should have completed HIST 387. In their senior year, honors candidates enroll in HIST 497-498. The one unit of credit earned in HIST 497-498 may be counted toward the 11 courses required to fulfill the history major. Senior honors fulfills the "Senior Seminar" requirement.

More information is available from the Department of History about admission to the program and the program's structure and expectations.

The History Minor

A minor in history will consist of at least five courses, which include:

  • At least one course in pre-modern and one course in modern history 
  • At least two seminars at or above the 300 level
  • Courses with at least two different professors and in two different fields or areas of the world

A minor should include no more than three courses taken with the same professor.

Students desiring to declare a minor in history should consult the department chair. One history course at Kenyon outside the history department may be counted toward the minor at the discretion of the department chair. 

Transfer Credit Policy

Students who study off campus or who are transfer students may use up to two history courses per semester at other educational institutions to fulfill history major requirements. 

One history course per semester outside Kenyon can be used to fulfill history minor requirements. Any exceptions to this policy are at the discretion of the department chair.

Advanced Placement

AP credit cannot be used to satisfy any of the requirements of the history major or minor.

Off-Campus and Foreign Language Study

Faculty members in the department believe that study in another country strengthens academic work in history. Students may meet the above requirements with courses taken off campus, but only with departmental approval. Students contemplating off-campus study should consult with their advisor to clarify whether they may receive departmental credit for off-campus work. History majors should give serious consideration to foreign language study. Foreign language competence not only enriches study abroad, it enhances opportunities for historical research at Kenyon.