History is one of the most vital and comprehensive subjects in the Occidental College curriculum. Our department offers a broad diversity of courses and approaches covering every time period, and cultures from all over the globe. Students will become familiar with intellectual, social, political, comparative, and oral history, and may select from a wide spectrum of courses including such geographical areas as Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, the United States, and such topical areas as Women's History, the History of Science and Medicine, revolution, and history in film. The faculty recognizes that students will develop their own perspectives on the material presented, and welcomes close interaction with motivated and involved majors. History is, after all, an exciting kind of detective work, finding and putting together the pieces of the puzzle to enhance our understanding of the past, but also of the present, and perhaps even the future. Some history majors go on to further studies in the field, but because of their wide exposure to various times and cultures, they are well prepared for almost any career. Besides providing a background for anyone interested in a truly liberal education, History helps prepare students for the fields of law, business, Foreign Service, librarianship, museum work, historic preservation, journalism, environmental studies, and teaching from primary and secondary through university levels.

Major Requirements

The History major consists of a minimum of forty units, or ten four-unit courses.


HIST 300History Colloquium

4 units

HIST 490Senior Seminar

4 units

Survey courses

Choose three courses from different geographic areas (Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East & Africa, and United States).

Survey courses (the 100 series and some of the 200 series) cover a broad chronological time frame.

Students with AP scores of 4 or 5 receive academic credit, but still need to take the requisite 10 courses for the History major. They may, however, be excused from one survey requirement, taking 2 rather than 3 area surveys, although we discourage this, believing as we do that our department courses are far more challenging and sophisticated than even the best high school AP class.

Additional Electives

Students must complete five additional electives. Three of the remaining five classes should be additional upper division courses (in the 300 and 400 series). At least one course must deal with the premodern period. Courses satisfying the premodern requirement are listed below:


HIST 101United States Culture and Society I

4 units

HIST 121Antiquity to 1700: Europe and the Middle East

4 units

HIST 141East Asian Survey

4 units

HIST 150/LLAS 150Colonial Latin America

4 units

HIST 242Imperial China

4 units

HIST 247Pre-Modern Japan

4 units

HIST 355/LLAS 355Indians of Mexico

4 units

If premodern course is also being used to satisfy a historical survey requirement, you must take an additional elective.

Of the ten required courses, at least eight must be taken in the History department, and no more than two will be accepted from other departments or institutions.


The department occasionally accepts for history credit courses from such other departments as American Studies, Art and Art History, Critical Theory and Social Justice, Diplomacy and World Affairs, English, Philosophy, and Politics. These decisions are made on an individual basis in discussion with the student's advisor and/or the department chair.

Courses that may be counted toward the major without petition are:

AMST 272/EASN 272Asian Immigrants in American Society

4 units

AMST 280/DWA 246The United States and East Asia

4 units

AMST 290American Studies Theory and Methodology

4 units

AMST 295Topics in American Studies

4 units

AMST 390Junior Seminar

4 units

ENGL 341Race, Law, and Literature

4 units

No more than two courses from other departments or transfer courses from other institutions (including study abroad courses) will be counted towards the History major.


Students majoring in History satisfy the final component of Occidental's college-wide writing requirement by successfully completing HIST 300. Students must have a grade of B- or better on the 15-page paper in HIST 300. Students should familiarize themselves with the departmental requirement at the time of declaring the major. See the Writing Program and consult the department chair for additional information.


Students meet their comprehensive requirement by taking HIST 490 in the fall semester of their senior year and writing for that course a 25-page paper that involves research and analysis of primary and secondary sources. They are required to turn in a 5-page prospectus of their project and attend several meetings in the spring of their junior year to prepare for HIST 490. Papers may concentrate on a geographical area or take a topical approach, such as History of Science and Medicine; Women's History; or Revolutions.

Students are eligible for distinction if they receive an A or A- on their paper for HIST 490HIST 490 instructors, in consultation with thesis advisers, make the final determination on awarding marks of distinction.


Students with sufficiently high GPA (3.25) overall can write an honors thesis. Senior history majors pursuing honors will take the Senior Seminar in the fall and, if invited by the Senior Seminar instructors in consultation with thesis advisors, will extend their thesis work in the spring Honors Seminar. The honors thesis is a 40-page paper, which demonstrates excellence in historical research, writing, and analysis, written under the supervision of the Honors Seminar instructor, the thesis advisor, and a third faculty reader. Students planning to try for honors must make known their intentions in a written proposal early spring semester of their junior year. See the Honors Program for additional information.


The Hardy Prize is awarded annually to a senior for the most outstanding senior thesis.

Minor Requirements

Five courses (20 units) in History from at least two geographic areas, including HIST 300.


History Courses


Regular Faculty

Marla Stone, chair

Professor, History

B.A., Pomona College; M.A., Ph.D., Princeton University

Alexander F. Day

Associate Professor, History; Affiliated Faculty, East Asian Language and Cultures

B.A., Colby College; M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz

Sharla Fett

Professor, History; Advisory Committee, American Studies

B.A., Carleton College; M.A., Stanford University; Ph.D., Rutgers University

Michael Gasper

Associate Professor, History

B.A., Temple University; M.A., Ph.D., New York University

Nina Gelbart

Professor, History; Anita Johnson Wand Professor of Women's Studies

A.B., Harvard University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Chicago

Jane Hong

Assistant Professor, History

B.A., Yale University; A.M., Brown University; A.M., Ph.D., Harvard University

Maryanne Horowitz

Professor, History

A.B., Pembroke College, Brown University; M.A.T., Harvard University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

Lisa Sousa

Professor, History

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

On Special Appointment

Jeremiah Axelrod

Non-Tenure Track Assistant Professor, History

B.A., Williams College; Ph.D., University of California, Irvine

Paul S. Nam

Part-Time Non-Tenure Track Associate Professor, History

B.A., Williams College; M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Affiliated Faculty

Jonathan Veitch

President and Professor, History

B.A., Stanford University; M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University

Xiao-huang Yin

Professor, American Studies; Affiliated Faculty, East Asian Languages and Cultures

B.A., Nanjing University; M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University