The University of Massachusetts Amherst
HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu


History majors have the option of selecting a concentration in one of the pre-defined thematic areas below, or of proposing an individualized concentration.

Colonialism, Imperialism, and Nationalism
Science, Technology, and Environment
War and Revolution
Cultural and Intellectual History

What is a concentration and why pursue one?

In order to complete a concentration, you will need to take four approved courses during your undergraduate career as a history major. One course may, if you choose, be a 100-level course, and the other three courses should be 200-level and above. You may count approved courses that you have taken in past semesters.

A concentration provides valuable structure for planning a focused trajectory of study within the history major. In reflecting on the connections, differences, and even tensions or contradictions between the courses that count towards your chosen concentration, you will help to advance your skills in critical thinking. You will develop a stronger awareness of your own learning – an awareness that is of great value, among things, for crafting strong letters of application for internships, employment, and other opportunities beyond your academic studies. When you pursue a concentration, you will have access to a faculty advisor who is familiar with the relevant field and is available to help you select appropriate courses. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to be part of a community of students who share related interests. Each spring semester a “lightning presentations” event will provide students with the opportunity to give a five-minute presentation on work they have completed for their concentration.

Once you have completed your four courses you will receive a certificate of completion from the Department of History.

When should you begin a concentration?

Because you are required to take four courses it is important that you allow yourself sufficient time to complete them. You are strongly encouraged to embark on a concentration no later than the first semester of your junior year. Once you decide to pursue a concentration you should register your intent to do so by completing the “Declaration of Intent to Complete a Concentration” form. Once you have completed all four courses you will need to notify Meredith Pustell or the Undergraduate Program Director.

Additional information

  •  You may count one relevant course toward the concentration retrospectively. Under certain circumstances – for example, if you have transferred to UMass at an advanced stage in your major – you may be permitted to count more than one course retrospectively. Please contact the undergraduate program director to discuss retrospective course approvals.
  • The courses that you select for your concentration may be used simultaneously to fulfill other history major requirements. For example, HIST 397AM Fall of Rome counts towards the concentration “Colonialism, Imperialism, and Nationalism” and may also be used to fulfill the pre-1500 requirement.
  • With the approval of the undergraduate program director you may count one course taken in a non-history department at UMass or one of the other Five College institutions, or during study abroad. These must be courses that have been or will be counted towards the history major.
  • You may count at least one course taken through a history department at Amherst College, Mt. Holyoke, or Smith College.
  • You may switch concentrations if you decide that another concentration better suits your interests, but in order to do so you should complete a new “Declaration of Intent” form.

Example of courses available in Fall 2020

1. Colonialism, Imperialism, and Nationalism
Courses available in fall 2020 include:

  • HIST 130 Middle East History II
  • HIST 247 Empire, Race, and the Philippines
  • HIST 316 History of USSR
  • HIST 391PL Plymouth 1620: Rethinking 400 Years of History
  • HIST 397REH Race, Sex, and Empire: India and Britain

2. Science, Technology, and Environment
Courses available in spring 2020 include:

  • HIST 117 Science and Society in Modern China
  • HIST 180 History of Western Science and Technology I
  • HIST 200 New Approaches to History: The Climate Emergency
  • HIST 264 History of Health Care and Medicine in the US
  • HIST 450: National Parks

3. War and Revolution
Courses available in fall 2020 include:

  • HIST 290A African American History from Africa to the Civil War
  • HIST 361 American Revolution Era
  • HIST 363 Civil War Era
  • HIST 386 Survey of WWII

4. Cultural and Intellectual History
Courses available in fall 2020 include:

  • HIST 100 Western Thought to 1600
  • HIST 101 Western Thought since 1600
  • Hist 112 Introduction to World Religions
  • Hist 323 Modern Germany
  • Hist 392MH Monsters, Foreigners, and Outsiders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages
  • HIST 394CI Ideas that changed History
  • Hist 415 Islamic Movements in History

5. Individualized Concentrations
These may be geographic/temporal (e.g. nineteenth-century Latin America) or thematic, or a combination of both. If you are interested in pursuing an individualized concentration, please email or make an appointment with the Undergraduate Program Director (Professor Heidi Scott) to discuss your idea.

For additional details and to discuss questions you may have about the concentrations please contact the Undergraduate Program Director or Meredith Pustell.

The form you will need in order to register your concentration is available here.

Congratulations Class of 2021

The UMass Amherst History Department offers its heartfelt congratulations to its 2021 B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. graduates! View Video Message