The Bachelor of Arts with a major in history requires a minimum of 120 semester hours (s.h.)., including 36 s.h. of work for the major. Students must complete 24 s.h. numbered 2000 or above. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.00 in all courses for the major and in all UI courses for the major. They also must complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences General Education Program.

College Level Equivalency Program (CLEP) and Advanced Placement Program (APP) credit does not count toward the history major. Transfer work that is equivalent to University of Iowa course work may be accepted toward the major, but at least 18 s.h. of work for the major, including HIST:2151 Introduction to the History Major, must be taken at the University of Iowa. Courses that count toward the major may not be taken on a pass/nonpass basis.

Major requirements include an introductory course and a history portfolio in addition to a range of course work in history. History majors should consult with the Department Advisor prior to course registration each semester.

Detailed information on History courses and requirements for the major are available at the UI General Catalog website.


Once you declare yourself a history major--this generally happens in the sophomore year although you can declare at any time after admission--you enroll in one of the sections of Introduction to the History Major (HIST:2151). This introductory course provides majors the immediate opportunity to work closely with a professor and to develop skills that will help them succeed in subsequent history courses. Sections have small enrollments (15 or fewer students), and they emphasize essential skills such as locating and interpreting primary documents, weighing competing scholarly interpretations, and making a logical argument supported by evidence in compelling prose. HIST:2151 also introduces you to work in the Main Library and local archives, and the course is usually restricted to history majors.

The Introduction to the History Major course is intended to be the foundation of your learning as a history major. One of the essays or projects you complete in the course will be included in the Portfolio that you submit before graduation (HIST:3193).

Things to remember about the Introduction to the History Major course:

  • Every semester, multiple sections of HIST:2151 are offered. The subjects of the sections change from semester to semester, depending on which faculty members are teaching them.
  • These sections fill quickly, so register at your first opportunity, and if your first choice is full, register for a different section rather than waiting for another semester.  It is more important to take HIST:2151 early in your training than it is to take it in a certain field of history.
  • Introduction to the History Major sections may not be counted towards the distribution requirement in American, European or non-Western history.

HIST: 3193

The History Portfolio consists of three History course papers or projects that show the development of your skills.

During the semester in which you plan to graduate, you will enroll in HIST:3193. This is a Pass/Fail course. You will submit your graded papers or projects through the HIST:3193 ICON site; more detailed instructions are provided there. 

The purpose of the Portfolio requirement is to aid the department in assessing the effectiveness of its curriculum. Our examination of your Portfolio contents will NOT affect your GPA.

Things to remember about the Portfolio requirement:

  • Graded papers/projects (with grade and/or comments) are preferred, so remember to save your graded assignments as you complete your coursework. If you cannot locate the graded versions, you may upload ungraded versions.
  • Your Portfolio should include the major paper or project you completed in Introduction to the History Major (HIST:2151).
  • Students who complete a History honors thesis need only to upload that thesis plus the Introduction to the Major paper/project.
  • In order to avoid delays, try not to wait until the very end of your graduating semester to upload your Portfolio.

After you have uploaded your papers in ICON, you will complete a short exit survey.  At that point, you have fulfilled the Portfolio requirement, and you will receive a grade of “S” when grades are released at the end of the semester. Again, the Portfolio will not affect your GPA.

Historical knowledge gives insight into the depth and range of human experience and perspective on the increasingly interconnected world in which we live. Students of history learn how to locate, verify, and interpret many kinds of evidence in order to understand the causes and effects of changes over time. History courses strengthen skills in analyzing and explaining the major ideas and complex problems of the past and the present. The history major provides students with the tools and perspective for active citizenship in a democratic, pluralistic society, as well as for success in graduate studies and a wide range of careers.

The undergraduate program is organized around the intertwined skills of research and communication—whether digital, written, or oral. Students learn about significant events, places, and people of the past, but just as importantly, they learn how to engage in factual research about the past, how to understand the context of human actions, and how to identify the factors that brought about the world of the past and the world we know today.

  • Students of history acquire a broad knowledge of history and historical change across multiple regions of the globe and a range of historical periods.
  • Students gain an awareness of their own place in today’s world and of the connections between past and present. This prepares the way for better understanding between individuals and across cultural boundaries.
  • Students learn to value the role of evidence in their understanding of the world, and how to assess and verify different types of data, whether written, visual, oral, statistical, or cultural.
  • Students learn how to distinguish between primary and secondary sources, and how each kind of source is used. They develop an understanding of the possible impact of authorial bias, social background, or ideology. Students learn to employ differing methods of analysis, and they explore diverse ways of thinking about the past and human society.
  • Students develop skills in research, critical thinking, reading, and writing. History writing assignments sharpen students’ skills in original research and analysis, while reading assignments develop their abilities to synthesize information and grapple with varying points of view.

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