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History (HHS)

The Discipline and the Major

The mission of the History Department is to produce graduates who possess a fundamental understanding of and proficiency in the academic discipline of history. The major provides an opportunity to examine the evolution of past civilizations and to learn about their achievements, institutions, and cultural values. History majors learn to study ideas critically, to sift through a variety of historical evidence, and to draw conclusions about different societies and events in a clear and concise way. By understanding the complexity of historical events, students become more aware of the contemporary political, social, cultural and military issues that are important to our own society.

The goals of the major include proficiency in historical methods, writing and analysis; awareness of historical context, causation and culture; understanding of the trends, forces, and individuals that shaped the past as well as the historical roots of contemporary affairs; appreciation of the diversity of the human experience across time and place; and understanding of the importance of history to the profession of arms. The major consists of ten courses beyond the three history courses in the core. These include three seminars: an introductory seminar, a methods seminar,  and a first-class capstone, which may either be a research paper seminar or a  historiography seminar. Majors select upper-division courses from the following distribution areas:

  • American history
  • European history
  • Regional history
  • Naval and military history
  • Thematic history

In order to complete the distribution requirement for graduation, students must select seven courses in four of the five fields. In addition, all history majors are required to complete four semesters of a foreign language and two humanities electives in fields other than history.

The honors program in history offers high-performing students the opportunity to pursue a more challenging curriculum and earn a designated honors degree. Students who meet the CQPR requirement for entry are invited to apply for admission to the program at the end of the fall semester of the 2/C year. Those who are accepted into the program follow the normal history matrix except that they will take one honors seminar and one honors colloquium in lieu of two upper-level elective during the spring semester 2/C year. They will also choose a faculty member to be an adviser for their honors thesis: a 40-page research paper. All successful theses are bound and placed in Nimitz Library.


The history major at the United States Naval Academy prepares midshipmen to serve in all Navy warfare communities and the Marine Corps. The major prepares midshipmen to enter a wide variety of graduate programs. The combination of analytical skills and writing ability along with the required technical core courses makes USNA History majors both desirable and successful in graduate programs of all kinds. Graduate work in history is an obvious possibility, but USNA history majors have been successful in law school, M.B.A. programs, and in other graduate programs, such as public policy, public administration, and national security.

Summer internship opportunities are available to History majors. Qualified majors are eligible for the Voluntary Graduate Education Program while they are still at the Naval Academy.

Considerations for those who might be interested in this major

The history major requires a significant amount of reading, writing, and library research. Computer literacy is also important, as the computer has become a major tool for historical research. To succeed in the major, a student must be willing to develop to the fullest his or her analytical reading and writing skills, and to master historical research methods.

History Department Site

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