University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

Download full 2021 archive Page archived at: Thu, 23 Sep 2021 13:38:13 +1000


About the major

The History major offers an expansive understanding of human society from medieval times to the present. You’ll encounter diverse societies and cultures in times of peace and conflict, and explore contests over ideas, politics, territory, sex, sovereignty and the ongoing struggle for survival. Balancing close attention to context with the analysis of change across time, a History major equips you to interpret different sources of information and look at things from multiple perspectives.

Your 1000-level units provide a grounding in both context and change. In History Workshop, you’ll join fellow students to work with the raw materials of history under the direction of a world-class researcher. With a designated time and place as its focus, each small-group class introduces students to historical thinking and teaches them disciplinary skills in an intensive but informal learning environment. In other 1000-level units you’ll find sweeping surveys on a global scale, which establish broad narrative and analytic frameworks to ground your later-year studies.

Senior units (2000- and 3000-level) build complexity and specialisation with the study of specific places, events and themes. The major is completed with a core cluster of units that support an independent project – either an essay based on extensive primary research, an exploration of historical theory and argument, or a community-oriented project that applies history skills beyond the classroom.

Requirements for completion

The History major and minor requirements are listed in the History unit of study table.

Learning outcomes

No. Learning outcome
1 Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of more than one period, place or culture of the past.
2 Demonstrate an understanding of the variety of approaches to interpreting the past, including political, economic, social, cultural, intellectual, biographical, and transnational history.
3 Critically analyse and interpret primary evidence in context and in relation to bodies of secondary literature.
4 Identify a complex historical problem (for instance, a multi-causal change or counter-intuitive continuity) and devise a research strategy to solve it.
5 Demonstrate the skills needed to construct an evidence-based argument or narrative in written, oral, visual, or digital form.
6 Apply historical perspectives and skills (such as the ability to relate asymmetrical bodies of evidence, and an understanding of contingency and the time-frames of different processes) in interdisciplinary contexts.
7 Sensitively communicate and explain comparative social, cultural and institutional differences across historical periods and places.

Advanced Coursework

How do the perspectives you bring from your studies in History, Philosophy, Gender and Cultural Studies, Archaeology and Ancient History uniquely frame and explain a contemporary issue? The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI) will enhance the skills and capabilities students have acquired over the course of majors undertaken within the School’s diverse departments. Students will learn how to apply research training from SOPHI’s unique disciplines, develop an interdisciplinary capacity with methodology, pose problems and consider their solutions in scenarios sourced from History, Philosophy, Archaeology, Ancient History, or Gender and Cultural Studies. Emphasis is placed on developing the ability to apply methods of philosophical, historical, cultural, gender or archaeological inquiry to contemporary problem-solving and to communicate findings to non-academic and culturally diverse audiences via emerging digital media.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the History advanced coursework units of study page.


The honours year may be the most testing, but also the most rewarding, year of your studies. In your two seminars, you’ll grapple with problems in the theory and practice of history; for the thesis, you’ll formulate a significant historical problem and write a substantial piece of original research. An honours degree from Sydney will open doors to many careers, while giving you a taste of history as a vocation.

Each seminar requires approximately 6,000 words of written work and is worth 20% of the final honours mark. The thesis, 18,000-20,000 words in length, is worth 60% of the final honours mark.

Honours admission requirements

Your honours year will be enfolded within the Bachelor of Advanced Studies. This makes the path to honours more complicated, so make sure you read and fully understand the requirements, so you can make good unit choices from the beginning of your degree.

  1. You must meet the requirements for honours entry, ie a major in History, including at least one of HSTY3901 History in the Making, HSTY3902 History Beyond the Classroom, HSTY3903 History and Historians, with an average grade of 70%. (Note that the major now includes 12cp of 1000 level units and the compulsory interdisciplinary project unit, HSTY3999 or, if History is your second major, HSTY3998. You need to maintain an average of 70% across all these units to qualify for honours.) You must complete all the requirements for your BA, including 12cp of OLE units, to qualify for the B. Advanced Studies.
  2. You must also complete a second major during the three years of the BA. This is not technically a requirement for honours, but its necessity is produced by the fusion of the honours program with the B. Advanced Studies. To graduate with a B. Advanced Studies you must have a double major. Since the Honours year requires a full-time engagement with History, you will not be able to finish your second major while enrolled in the B. Advanced Studies. Therefore you will have to complete the second major of your B. Advanced Studies before you can be admitted into the B. Advanced Studies research intensive (honours) stream.

Fitting a second major into the three year Bachelor of Arts takes careful planning. If you are interested in doing History honours, you may be tempted to take extra History unit along the way. You may also wish to enrich your degree by exploring multiple complementary electives and possibilities for a minor study. Both are possible but be careful – the requirements for a double major, plus the compulsory Open Learning Environment (OLE) units, leave you limited scope for diversity or enrichment in your degree.

Is it worth it? Yes. Honours is still the summit of experience in an undergraduate degree. You’ll find yourself in seminars with other students who, like you, are keen to discover and discuss new concepts, new material, new ways of thinking about the world we have lost and the world we have made. You get to work independently on a project of your own devising, but you also get the concentrated attention and support of your seminar leaders and supervisor, who will help you to achieve everything you imagine you are capable of, and often more. It is university education at its best – worth waiting for, planning for and working for.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the History honours units of study page.

Contacts and further information

More information and current contact details for academic coordinators may be found on the Department of History website.

The Department of History is administered by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).