History is the study of the past and how we remember it. If it happened, historians deal with it — whether it happened yesterday or five thousand years ago. Far too many people imagine that history is merely the dry memorization of names and dates, but a concentration in history at the University of Michigan will quickly dispel that myth. If you are interested in people and how they interact with the social and natural world, then you should be interested in history. Our courses cover everything: music, politics, family life, technology, war, gender relations, science, medicine, religion, ideologies, sports, and much, much more. Contrary to yet another popular myth, history is one of the most practical, useful concentrations that one could select. Our students develop skills in critical thinking, writing, and thoughtful reading. Above all, we help students appreciate every aspect of life as part of a much broader and more complicated context, which not only enriches our students’ lives but allows them to become sophisticated decision-makers.
Undergraduate History Courses
Course Numbering. Unlike some departments, our courses do not build upon each other in ways that require you to take a 100 level course before taken a 200 level course, and so on. Nor does a particular level number indicate that the topic of the class is broader or more specific—it is possible to have an advanced class on a long time span and an introductory course dealing with one historical episode. What differentiates our classes is the level of sophistication and (usually) the workload. Broadly speaking, those differences are as follows:
- 100-level classes. These are designed as general introductions to the discipline of history. They cannot be applied towards a concentration or minor in history, so they are targeted at the broadest possible audience. With this in mind, the assignments are designed to be accessible and manageable (though the precise workload will vary by professor). There are two types of 100-level classes. The first are large classes with both lectures and discussion sections. In these courses, assessment is usually based on in-class exams. Major research projects are not typically assigned, though there might be some shorter writing assignments. The second type of 100-level classes are the first-year seminars (HISTORY 195 and 197). These are writing-intensive courses that focus on discussion rather than lecture, and they are capped to ensure small class sizes.
- 200-level classes. These are intended as introductory courses for history concentrators and as electives for non-concentrators. Most are large surveys covering a broad topic or a major world region or country. The workload and grading structure of these classes would be slightly more challenging than what you would find in a 100-level class.
- 300- and 400-level classes. There is no difference between these two levels. The topics explored in these courses can vary widely, as can the format. They tend to emphasize writing and include more sophisticated readings. Some upper-level classes involve formal research papers, others are based on a series of shorter writing assignments. Although 300- and 400-level courses are more advanced than those at lower levels, they do not usually require any previous familiarity with the subject matter.
Courses for First-Year Students
First-Year Writing Courses
All LSA students take a First-Year Writing course to satisfy the LSA writing requirement. If you have an interest in history, HISTORY 195, “The Writing of History,” is designed to allow you to develop your college-level writing skills in the context of history. Section topics change each term, taught by advanced graduate students in the final stage of degree completion. Classes are limited to 18 to allow individual attention and student participation.
HISTORY 195 may not be included in a History concentration
First-Year Seminars (HISTORY 196 and 197)
First-Year Seminars provide an opportunity to begin your college study of history in a small seminar setting. These courses are taught by history professors who choose stimulating topics in the area of their expertise to engage their students in the historical discipline. Students are active participants in discussion and develop a strong background college-level history critical thinking, reading, and writing.
History First-Year Seminars satisfy LSA area distribution for non-concentrators (HISTORY 196 = Social Science; HISTORY 197 = Humanities).
First-Year Seminars may not be included in a History concentration.
Introductory Survey Sequences
Electing a course from one of the six history concentration Introductory Survey Sequences is a good way to sample the department’s offerings and get an early start toward history concentration. For students who do not plan to follow a history program, these 100- and 200-level courses satisfy either the social science or humanities LSA college requirements.