The past is not behind us; in fact it isn't even past". Although most people at MIT look to the future, we can't tell where we're going without knowing where we've been. MIT's historians examine nearly the entire range of human experience in order to provide perspective on the present.
You can explore a wide range of subjects in small classes featuring close interaction with outstanding scholars and teachers. History at MIT does not look like a high school survey; instead of memorizing names and dates, you learn to think critically about important issues and to develop a rich, empathetic understanding of our ancestors. Texts, visuals and aural media, lectures and discussions work together to make vivid the experience of men and women who have lived here before us.
The study of History teaches different ways to think critically about the past, present and future of the world. When paired with an MIT background in science and engineering, a major or minor in history can lead to a variety of employment and graduate school opportunities. Some of our graduates have gone on to do advanced work in History at the nation's top programs, but others have undertaken graduate work in other academic fields in the Humanities and elsewhere, or gone on to graduate work and careers in fields such as law or business. A Los Angeles Times op-ed piece in May 2016 notes that "the study of History opens a variety of career paths, and teaches the nuanced analytical skills that will be in demand throughout careers undertaken in the first half of the twenty-first century." Those interested in post-undergraduate opportunities for History students should consult Careers for History Majors, a web site compiled by the American Historical Association.
The requirements to major in History are:
I. Four Required Subjects 45-48 Unit
- One 21H Seminar Subject
- 21H.390 Seminar in Historical Methods (Junior Year)
- 21H.ThT Thesis Tutorial
- 21H. ThU Thesis
II. Restricted Electives 84-114 Units
- Seven 21H subjects are to be selected in consultation with a major advisor. These must include subjects drawn from two geographical areas, as well as one pre-modern (before 1700) and one modern subject.
III. Second HASS Discipline (27-33 Units)
- Three related subjects from a second HASS field, units that also satisfy the GIRs.
IV. Unrestricted Electives 48-72 Units
Total Units Beyond the GIRs Required for SB Degree 180
It is also possible to complete a 21E (Bachelor of Science in Humanities and Engineering) or 21S (Bachelor of Science in Humanities and Science) major.
These options allow you to pursue detailed study in History and a field in Engineering or the Sciences.
For further information about 21E and 21S majors contact Meghan Pepin, History Undergraduate Administrator.
The Minor Program in History consists of six subjects, which must include:
- 21H.390 Seminar in Historical Methods
- At least one 21H seminar in addition to 21H.390
- Four additional subjects from the History curriculum
- At least two temporal periods - one pre-modern (before 1700) and one modern - to be covered by the five subjects other than 21H.390
A concentrator is required to take three subjects in history:
- At most two may be an introductory level course
- There are no geographical distribution requirements
- At least two of these subjects must be taken at MIT. For a History concentration, contact Professor Tanalis Padilla
For a studies concentration, consult the following advisors:
American Studies - Professor Chris Capozzola
Ancient & Medieval Studies - Professor Eric Goldberg
Asian & Asian Diaspora Studies - Professor Emma Teng
Legal Studies - Professor Chris Capozzola
Latin American & Latino/a Studies - Professor Tanalis Padilla
Middle Eastern Studies - Professor Philip Khoury
Religious Studies - Professor Eric Goldberg
Russian & Eurasian Studies - Professor Elizabeth Wood