Program Guide

Honours seminars facilitate exploration and training in how to think historically. They bring students together to consider problems of wide import to the discipline.

All incoming honours students take HIST 333, which introduces them to the philosophy and practice of history, and teaches them how to conceptualize and complete a research project.  HIST 333 is a full-year course, but students who want to participate in an exchange or co-op program may divide it, taking half in their third year and half in their fourth year.   

In their graduating year, students take HIST 433, a seminar in which they discuss the research and writing of the senior thesis, and study a broad issue of current concern to the discipline.

The one semester-long honours tutorials present large units of history in terms of region, period or, most often, theme. Each tutorial, small in size, is open to both third- and fourth-year honours students. Students are required to take one tutorial each year. To account for their intensity, they are worth twice the usual number of credits.

History honours students are required to take a history department "capstone" course (HIST 490, or an IR seminar in the History with IR stream) as well as nine credits of upper division history courses, which should include an upper division history course in a field related to their thesis topic.

All honours students are required to demonstrate their competence in a language other than English by passing a translation exam. In the exam, Honours students will be asked to translate an unseen passage from the language of their choice into English, with the help of a dictionary. The History Department administers these translation exams in March and November each year. Students need to pass only one translation exam and may make more than one attempt. Students hoping to write a thesis which requires languages other than English are encouraged to complete their language preparation as early as possible.

The senior thesis is both the main challenge and the main reward of the final year of Honours. It is the capstone achievement of the undergraduate experience. Students undertake substantial pieces of independent research on topics of their choice, under the individual direction of faculty members in the department.

By the end of their first year in Honours, students should have decided on what most interests them and have consulted with department members who are knowledgeable in the field. Students are strongly urged to pick a topic in a field with which they are already broadly familiar, and to that end are encouraged to have taken classes relevant to the topic of their thesis (for example, a student interested in questions of empire and race in Mexico should ideally have taken classes in the history of Mexico or Latin America as well as classes exploring questions of empire and/or race.)

A faculty adviser is chosen in consultation with the Honours Chair at the end of the first year of the program. The faculty advisor will help you shape a thesis topic congruent with your interests, your existing knowledge of the field, and the faculty member’s own knowledge and interests. The length of the thesis should be approximately 60 typed double-spaced pages.

The minimum acceptable standing on the graduating thesis for an Honours degree is 68%. The final mark for the thesis is established by a panel of History Department members, including the advisor. At the student’s thesis defence, the defence committee jointly judges the thesis, and examines the student orally on the written work and on the general subject of which it is a part.

Honours students are expected to maintain high standing over the two-year period of the Program. Third year students who cannot maintain a good B average in their honours courses may be asked, for their fourth year, to revert to the majors Program. Those students who receive less than 68% in any of their honours courses will not be granted an honours degree. Normally, they will graduate with a majors degree in history.

The programs of all honours students must be approved during the summer or at the beginning of each year by the chair of the Honours Committee (currently Dr. Bob Brain), who represents the department in these matters and is available for advice throughout the students’ course of study.

The regular Honours degree in History requires the successful completion of 120 credits, 60 of which are in History courses and 48 of which must be in upper level courses. Students must also complete Faculty of Arts program requirements for a B.A. Students considering the Honours program should consult the History Honours advisor (currently Prof. Courtney Booker) in their first or second year.

1st and 2nd Years

In their first and second years, students

  • must take 12 credits of lower-level History courses (or the equivalent taken in other institutions), of which 6 credits must be at the 200-level. The 12 credits may include up to 6 of Arts One or a relevant Coordinated Arts Program (CAP) course.
  • should have an average of at least 80% in History courses.

In the regular honours stream, students take:

3rd Year

  • HIST 333 (6 credits): year-long course in historiography and methodology
  • HIST 321 (6 credits): intensive one-term honours tutorial

3rd OR 4th Years

  • HIST 490 (3 credits): a History department “capstone” course
  • 9 upper division history credits which must include an upper division history course in a field related to essay topic
  • an exam confirming reading knowledge of a foreign language

4th Year

  • HIST 433 (6 credits): year-long course devoted to a topic of broad interest; and to working collaboratively on skills relevant to writing the honours essay
  • HIST 421 (6 credits): intensive one-term honours tutorial
  • HIST 449 (12 credits): Honours Graduating Essay
  • an oral examination on the graduating essay

Please see the section on Honours in History with International Relations for information about the course requirements in that stream.