The major in International History (IHIS) trains students to analyze historical changes that transcend national boundaries by exploring a particular theme or question in the context of a self-designed major concentration. The major goes beyond the study of the formal relations between states—the traditional subject matter of diplomatic history—to address themes in social, cultural, and intellectual history.
Reflecting the interdisciplinarity of historical scholarship, students draw upon ideas and data from subjects as varied as anthropology, philosophy, sociology, political science, religious studies, and literature. Through this interdisciplinarity, IHIS exposes students to a range of theoretical tools and methodological approaches to historical analysis, placing special emphasis on the development of critical thinking, argumentation, and writing skills.
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Students design their own major consisting of eight (8) courses, within a general structure:
- HIST-305: Global History*
- Five (5) courses supporting concentration (selected with IHIS dean; a minimum of one (1) course must be from outside the HIST Department)
- Two (2) elective HIST courses
*All IHIS students must take HIST-305: Global History (offered every semester). The seminar introduces students to key questions and problems and diverse approaches to International History and is best taken early in the program. Different instructors and sections will emphasize different world areas and approaches. IHIS students may take a second section when appropriate.
- Honors Thesis Option: Students who qualify may elect to join the 8 credit History Honors Thesis Seminar. The thesis should culminate the concentration and the Seminar counts as two (2) courses within a five (5) course concentration.
Concentrations in the Major
Concentrations may be global/thematic or regional/integrated.
- Global/thematic concentrations may focus on environmental change; states, war, and diplomacy; capitalism and social change; politics and gender; race, ethnicity, and identity; religion and nationalism—and more, as the student may design. Thematic concentrations are often best accompanied by electives that bring depth in one or more world regions.
- Regional/integrated concentrations aim to integrate historical analyses of states, societies, environments, cultures and more—again selected and defined by the student. Georgetown historians (and our colleagues in diverse disciplines) bring notable strengths on Europe and the U.S., Russia and its neighbors; the Middle East and the Islamic World, East Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Regional concentrations normally integrate multiple thematic perspectives and may be best accompanied by electives setting the region in global context.
Writing in the Major
The study of history and writing are inseparable. As a form of knowledge based on the interpretation of fragmentary records that survive from the past, all historians use the written word to posit an argument and defend it with evidence. Because historical sources reveal only part of the whole story, no single historical work can ever be fully comprehensive or definitive. As a result historians continually debate the varying interpretations that emerge between different schools of thought. Ultimately, the quality of historical writing is determined by the successful collection, organization, and presentation of evidence in support of a coherent and convincing thesis.
At its core, historical writing depends on judgment: the thoughtful selection of good research questions and the identification and interpretation of historical sources. Historians use two types of evidence: primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are documents or other records created at the time of the events under analysis; they come directly from the participants themselves. Secondary sources are the findings of writers who were not direct participants in a historical episode but those who have subsequently investigated primary evidence of it. Works of scholarship are the most common secondary sources students of history will encounter. In certain situations, a secondary source can become a primary one.
Sources, whether primary or secondary, do not answer historical questions themselves. Students of history must sift with a critical eye through the information provided in their sources and then rely on their own judgment to construct a historical argument grounded in evidence. IThe capacity to determine what matters—to think critically about what evidence to include and what to exclude and how to frame one’s analysis—is one of the core skills students of history acquire through writing.
Writing in history takes many forms. Some history papers are organized as narratives that tell stories of people and events in the past; others are more analytical and organized as an essay. Most historical writing incorporates both narrative and analysis. Some papers deal with historiography, that is, how different historians or schools of thought have approached the history of a particular subject. Other papers deal directly with history, analyzing not simply what happened but why and how it happened. Whatever the format, history students must begin with a thesis statement and the evidence bolstering their argument must always be divulged using a responsible and consistent citation style.
Depending upon the course, undergraduate students of history are typically asked to write many kinds of history papers, including document analyses, book reviews, response papers, bibliographic surveys, historiographical essays, research or exhibit proposals, or research papers. They might also be asked to develop a digital history project, which would involve writing text to accompany any digital maps or images.
Honors in the Major
To graduate with honors in International History, a student must:
- earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 and a grade point average in the major of 3.67 by the date of graduation;
- successfully complete the two (2) course honors seminar offered in the Department of History (by invitation only); and
- submit a senior thesis on an approved topic that is judged to be of honors quality by a committee of faculty members appointed for this purpose.