UChicago pioneered a curriculum devoted to civilization studies that provides students with a strong intellectual foundation. Historians worldwide use the series Readings in Western Civilization, developed by UChicago faculty. The department, ranked in the top 8 of 111 reviewed by the National Research Council, continues to lead in developing such programs and offers a wide range of specializations, methodologies, and philosophies. Enhancing the curriculum are opportunities for research and internships at the Chicago Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and the DuSable Museum of African American History, as well as study-abroad options in settings such as Berlin, Rome, Oaxaca, Paris, and Pune.
Studying history sheds light on human experience and thought in different times and places. It enables students to make sense of the present in terms of the past, and the past in terms of the present. Fields of study may be defined by nations (e.g., Chinese, Roman, U.S., international history) or by genres (e.g., legal, cultural, gender history). Topics include the history of revolution, slavery, sexuality, colonialism, ethnicity, war, and work. The third-year statement and fourth-year BA essay afford students the opportunity to pursue an original research project on a topic of their choosing. Involving the analysis of evidence and the formulation of arguments, studying history is excellent preparation for a wide field of endeavors from law, government, and public policy to the arts and business.
The Department of History offers a number of concentration fields that include but are not limited to:
- Ancient Mediterranean World
- Caribbean and Atlantic World
- Early Modern Europe (1500–1800)
- East Asia
- History of Science and Medicine
- International History
- Latin America
- Middle East/Islam
- Modern Europe (1800–present)
- Modern Jewish
- South Asia
- United States
- before 1900
Students may also develop topically defined main fields that cut across the geographical and chronological definitions of the standard main fields, such as colonial and postcolonial, cultural, intellectual, social, or urban history.