History degree options

  • Major in history
  • Minor in history

The Department of History cooperates in offering several interdisciplinary majors and programs:

  • Ethnic Studies
  • International Relations
  • Latin American Studies
  • Russian Studies

Cornell's history department concentrates its curriculum into three primary areas of study:

  • American history
  • European history until 1700
  • European history from 1700 to present

Ideas, institutions, and patterns of behavior develop over time, and an understanding of the historical context of human existence is central to a liberal arts education. Studying history requires the ability to interpret texts and documents of great variety and to develop critical evaluation skills.

It is also essential to understand that people of the past did not merely dress and speak differently, but that their understanding of the world was far different from that of today. We make every effort to introduce you, as a history major or minor, to those assumptions that informed individuals of other times and underlay their institutions. 

As a history major or minor, you will hone your thinking and writing skills, displaying clear thoughts and cogent writing. Faculty will work with you to develop these skills, which will serve you well in your future career or in graduate school. 

Many history majors pursue graduate school, both in history and in related fields such as law and international relations. Approximately one-third of our students become teachers in the secondary schools. Double majors are common at Cornell, and history provides an excellent complement for training in many fields. 

Benefits of One Course At A Time

The distinguished history faculty create long-term research opportunities for students. As a history major or minor, you will have the option to develop research skills during a block-long seminar at the Newberry Library in Chicago or by working closely with faculty during independent research blocks.

One Course At A Time also makes in-depth discussions and focused classroom work the norm, as well as a number of unique learning opportunities. History courses easily integrate films, field trips, in-depth discussions, and focused projects such as documentary filmmaking, online exhibits, and participation-intensive historical simulations. 

You'll learn new technologies (such as Adobe Premiere, iMovie, WordPress) as well as traditional methodologies (oral history interviewing, archival research, and close readings of textual and visual evidence.)

Day trips to local and regional history museums, libraries, and historic sites are easily scheduled with One Course. On-site study of material culture and historic ruins helps the past come alive for you, hopefully, igniting your passion for history even more. Your historical understanding will be enhanced. As a former student wrote, "There is a major difference in reading about a particular history of a subject and actually being at that historical landmark and writing about it. It increases all five senses to work in a way that I never could imagine."

The Richard H. Thomas History Scholar Awards for Off-Campus Research

The Richard H. Thomas History Scholar Awards provide generous funding for majors by covering a large part of the cost for student participation in a Cornell off-campus research-based course, providing funding to support student internships at historical societies, libraries, and museums, or funding students' independent research for honors projects in history. A recent recipient spent a week conducting archival research at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California. 

Internships and fellowships

Students have completed internships at Iowa Museums, done archival research, and worked with curators and museums, such as the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, African American Museum of Iowa, Naperville Settlement, Newberry Library, and various historical societies, as well as the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 

The department has strong ties to local public history museums and libraries. Former students have also participated in the SHEAR/Mellon Undergraduate Fellowships in Early American History at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the Gilder Lehrman History Scholars Program in New York City. 

Local history

The Cornell campus and sections of Mount Vernon are on the National Register of Historic Places giving students an immediate resource for extensive projects in local history, discovering the connections among transportation, commerce, settlement patterns, architecture, and the like.