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Department of History

Mission Statement

The Department of History supports the academic mission of James Madison University by providing the highest quality educational experiences within the liberal arts tradition that meet students' needs and prepare students for meaningful careers and active citizenship. The department focuses on the student as individual learner and global citizen. Our dedicated faculty members are classroom innovators and scholars who work responsibly and supportively with students to expand their knowledge and skills and to create a foundation for their lifelong learning.


To carry out the above mission, the Department of History seeks the following goals, which focus on student knowledge, skills and experiences.


Students studying history at JMU will:

  • Acquire knowledge of the world's great literary, philosophical, religious and artistic traditions.
  • Comprehend the historical and social context of major political, intellectual, religious, economic and cultural developments.
  • Comprehend the major achievements in the fine arts in world civilizations and the achievements' historical, social and cultural context.
  • Evaluate the evidence, ideas and models needed to perceive how people relate to each other, to institutions and to communities as well as to make judgments about the world.
  • Discern the values, ethics and legal issues in world civilizations, including their own, and how these issues relate to Western ideas of a free society.


Students studying history at JMU will:

  • Read, write and speak critically, mastering how to make informed judgments based on existing evidence.
  • Locate printed and online information sources to research a topic exhaustively.
  • Critically evaluate textual evidence by identifying a thesis, noting sources used in the argument, discerning the conclusions and determining the perspective, bias and reliability of the argument.
  • Write clear, well-organized, grammatical prose.
  • Solve problems.
  • Communicate persuasively.
  • Use computers effectively.
  • Speak a foreign language proficiently.


Students studying history at JMU will:

  • Handle responsibility to become independent, creative and self-directed learners and complete scholarly projects on time.
  • Consider thoughtfully a number of perspectives before supporting one.
  • Develop ways of perceiving, evaluating and behaving within cultural systems different from their own.
  • Understand the importance of change and continuity over time, different peoples' responses to
  • Change and the importance of cause and effect in history.
  • Discern the dynamics of an increasingly multicultural society.

Career Opportunities and Marketable Skills

Career opportunities open to those receiving a B.A. in history include:

  • Archiving
  • Education
  • Industry
  • Local, state and federal government
  • Museum curation
  • Private business

With additional training, many graduates pursue careers in law or academia. Many graduates also have pursued careers in the health and technology professions.

Students completing an undergraduate degree in history possess marketable abilities in:

  • Analyzing
  • Researching
  • Writing

They also possess computer abilities and skills in:

  • Database development
  • Statistical analysis
  • Website development
  • Word processing
  • Phi Alpha Theta (National Honor Society for History)
  • The Madison Historians

Co-curricular Activities and Organizations

Degree and Major Requirements

Bachelor of Arts in History

The requirements for a major in history consist of introductory-, mid- and upper-level courses. All courses introduce students to the nature of history and survey the globe in a historical context. In addition to involving reading, writing and critical thinking, these courses develop students' elementary computer skills in identifying and interpreting research sources and presenting research results. The 100- and 200-level courses are world or regional surveys, covering extensive periods of time, while the 300- and 400-level courses focus on specific nations, time periods or themes. The upper-level courses also require more extensive analysis of sources, texts and interpretations. Courses at the 400 level are capstones where students are expected to show an advanced ability to meet all department objectives. Majors in history are strongly encouraged to continue study in foreign languages beyond the minimum university requirement and, when appropriate, to integrate their foreign language studies into their history classes.

This major requires three core courses. Two of these courses are introductory level: GHIST 101, World History to 1500 and GHIST 102, World History Since 1500. The third required course is HIST 395, History Seminar. This seminar on research methods teaches students the most sophisticated computer applications for research and writing.

In addition to the core requirements, majors must take eight elective courses: two on the 200 level and six on the 300 and 400 levels. At least three of the six upper division courses must be taken at the 400 level. For students writing a senior honors thesis, only three hours of HIST 499, Honors Thesis, may be counted among the three 400-level courses required for the major.

Majors must also complete one course at the upper division level in each of the following fields: U.S. history; European history; and World history.

Degree Requirements

Required Courses

Credit Hours

General Education 1


Foreign Language classes (intermediate level required) 2


Philosophy course (in addition to General Education courses)


University electives


Major requirements (listed below)




1 The General Education program contains a set of requirements each student must fulfill. The number of credit hours necessary to fulfill these requirements may vary.

2 The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by successful completion of the second semester of the intermediate level of the student's chosen language (typically 232) or by placing out of that language through the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures' placement test.

Major Requirements

Core Requirements

Credit Hours

GHIST 101. World History to 1500


GHIST 102. World History Since 1500


Any two courses at the 200-level, including GHIST 225. U.S. History 1


HIST 395. History Seminar 2


Electives: Six 300- or 400-level courses




GHUM 252 can also fulfill this requirement when it focuses on Latin America and is taught by history faculty.

2 This course fulfills the College of Arts and Letters writing-intensive requirement for the major.

GHIST courses can be double-counted toward General Education credit. HIST 395 may not be counted toward the 300/400 level course requirement. History majors must have completed HIST 395 in order to enroll in any 400-level history course. All other students wishing to enroll in any 400-level history course are not required to have taken HIST 395, but must get an override from the faculty member teaching the 400-level history course. The faculty member will then submit the override to the department office. 

Recommended Schedule for Majors

First Year

Credit Hours

GHIST 101. World History to 1500 (Cluster Two)


GHIST 102. World History Since 1500 (Cluster Two)


Foreign language courses


General education courses


General Education Cluster One: Skills for the 21st Century




Second Year

Credit Hours

Any two courses at the 200 level


HIST 395. History Seminar


Foreign language courses (if needed) or electives


General Education courses (Cluster ThreeCluster Five)




Third Year

Credit Hours

Philosophy course


History electives (mix 300 and 400 levels)




General Education courses (Cluster TwoCluster Four)




Fourth Year

Credit Hours

History electives (mix 300 and 400 levels)




General Education courses (Cluster Four)




Public History

Historians today practice their discipline in a variety of careers as well as in more traditional academic settings. Those historians who work in museums, archives, government agencies, libraries, historic preservation organizations, businesses, contract history firms, cultural resource management firms and historic sites are known as public historians because they use their skills as historians to serve a public audience. The concentration in Public History trains students in the broad range of skills and issues associated with public history while providing them with a solid general background in history.

Students pursuing the public history concentration augment their foundation of traditional history courses by taking introductory and specialized public history courses and completing a semester-long internship. History majors opting to pursue the public history concentration will complete seven elective courses, six of which must be 300/400 level history courses. The public history concentration consists of five courses (15 credit hours).

Students are required to complete two public history core courses and three elective courses. Two of the three elective courses should be chosen from the list of primary electives; the remaining elective course may be chosen from either the primary or secondary list of elective courses.

History Major with Public History Concentration

Core Requirements

Credit Hours

GHIST 101. World History to 1500


GHIST 102. World History Since 1500


Any two 200-level History courses


HIST 395. History Seminar 1


Seven electives 2


300/400-level HIST courses


Public History Concentration


Required Courses


HIST 340. Internship in History


HIST 396. Introduction to Public History


Primary Electives


HIST 310. American Business History


HIST/ANTH 331. Historical Archeology


HIST/ARTH 394. Introduction to Museum Work


HIST 407. Digital History


HIST 438. Workshop in Local History


HIST 440. The History Museum

HIST/SCOM 441. Oral History


HIST 491. Editing Historical Documents


HIST/ANTH/ARTH 492. Material Culture


HIST/ANTH 493. Historic Preservation


HIST 495. Introduction to Archives and Manuscripts


Secondary Electives


HIST 326. The Automobile in 20th Century America


HIST 327. Technology in America


HIST/SOCI 338. U.S. Urban History


HIST 360. Research Apprenticeship in History


HIST 391. Travel Studies Seminar: Summer in Ghana Program


HIST 391. Travel Studies Seminar: Paris and Normandy: Civilization, Culture, and Memory


HIST 402. Workshop in Colonial American Life


HIST 403. Workshop in Civil War Virginia


HIST/ARTH 406. Monticello


HIST/ARTH 408. The Museum: Histories and Controversies


ANTH 494. Field Techniques in Archeology




1 This course fulfills the College of Arts and Letters writing-intensive requirement for the major.

2 Six (18 credit hours) of the seven electives must be 300/400-level history courses. At least three courses (9 credit hours) must be 400-level history courses. For honors majors, only three hours of HIST 499, Honors Thesis, may be counted among the three 400-level courses required for the major.

Teaching Licensure

Students interested in becoming teachers must meet specific curriculum requirements in their major as part of the undergraduate academic degree. History majors desiring secondary teaching licensure must complete GHIST 225.

In addition to the general education and academic major requirements, history majors desiring secondary teacher licensure must be admitted to teacher education, complete the pre-professional program in secondary education at the undergraduate level and complete the graduate level Master of Arts in Teaching degree.

It is critical that students seeking licensure consult regularly with both their education adviser and their major adviser to support their progression through the programs. For a full description of the program in secondary teaching, refer to the Department of Middle, Secondary and Mathematics Education, in addition to the College of Education section of the catalog.

History and Business

Many graduate business schools encourage applications from liberal arts majors. History majors who wish to prepare specifically for admission to a Master of Business Administration degree program should schedule from the following courses.

A history major may choose no more than 27 credit hours in this program from courses offered by the College of Business. Students should consult regularly with the associate dean of the College of Business. In addition to the major in history, students are advised to choose from the following courses:

COB Course Electives for History Majors

Credit Hours

COB 191. Business and Economic Statistics


COB 204. Computer Information Systems


COB 218. Legal Environment of Business


COB 241. Financial Accounting


COB 242. Managerial Accounting


GECON 200. Introduction to Macroeconomics


ECON 201. Principles of Economics (Micro)


FIN 345. Finance for Non-Financial Managers


MKTG 380. Principles of Marketing




Minor Requirements

Departmental Minor

History Minor

The minor in history is available with the B.A., B.S. or any other degree. The minor requires 21 credit hours of history, including GHIST 101 and GHIST 102. At least six of the remaining 15 hours must be at the 300 or 400 level with at least one of these courses in world history.

Cross Disciplinary Minors

For more information about the following minors, refer to Cross Disciplinary Programs.

Africana Studies Minor

The minor in Africana studies broadens students' world perspectives by enhancing their acquaintance with and understanding of the peoples, cultures and institutions of Africa and the African diaspora. The minimum requirement for a minor in Africana studies is 22 credit hours.

American Studies Minor

American studies is a cross disciplinary program of study that promotes an enhanced understanding of the whole of American civilization, past and present through examination of the diverse aspects of our culture and changing patterns of ideas and values. Courses come from the departments within the College of Arts and Letters and students will take courses from within three groupings: multicultural studies, ideas and the arts and history and politics.

Asian Studies Minor

The purpose of this cross disciplinary program is to broaden the students' perspective by enhancing their understanding and appreciation of Asian culture and institutions. The minimum requirement for a the Asian studies minor is 18 credit hours.

Classical Studies Minor

The minor in Classical studies introduces students to Greco-Roman civilization. The requirement is successful completion of 24 credit hours.

Historical Archaeology Minor

The cross disciplinary minor in historical archaeology is designed for students interested in a discipline that integrates the research interests and methods of archaeology and history.

Latin American and Caribbean Studies

This minor allows students to acquire a deeper understanding of Latin America. In addition to a B.A. degree language requirement in Spanish, the Latin American and Caribbean studies minor consists of a minimum of 18 credit hours.

Russian Studies Minor

This minor offers a broad, cross disciplinary perspective on Russian culture, history, political institutions, economy and geography. The minimum requirement for the Russian studies minor is 18 credit hours.

Women's Studies Minor

The women's studies minor is an 18 credit hour cross disciplinary program that explores the scholarship related to gender and equity issues affecting women.

Credit by Examination

The Department of History offers credit by examination for GHIST 101GHIST 102 and GHIST 225. Students who want permission to take an examination must apply in writing to the department head during the regular registration period. The examinations are administered during the first month of each semester at a time and place set by the department. Additional information on credit by examination may be found at the Department of History website.