DRAFT
IMPORTANT:
The official source on requirements for graduation is the Caltech Catalog from the year in which a student began studies at Caltech. Please see the catalog online, from this and previous years, for more information regarding the applicable option and minor requirements.
Caltech Catalog   >

The undergraduate option in history examines the Western and non-Western past to understand the evolution of human culture, science, society, and behavior. Courses span the medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods; the United States, Europe, and Asia; and special topics such as the law, demography, and race.

Students who choose the history option will learn how to do history—how to think critically about past societies and their development, how to read evidence closely, and how to express arguments in writing. With the guidance of a faculty advisor in history, students taking this option will explore the range of human experience in the realms of politics, culture, religion, and economics, as well as science and technology. They will learn both to challenge and revise existing historical narratives and question their own ideas and assumptions about the past. Students will develop the writing skills that will enable them to use historical sources to make effective arguments, and they will receive extensive feedback on their writing from their advisor and other faculty members.

The history option thus provides science and engineering students with an important supplement to the scientific training and technical skills they acquire in other courses and options. It will help them to understand human behavior outside of science and in the world in which they will interact and which their scientific work will affect; to set themselves and their work as scientists and engineers in this wider context; and to communicate what they are doing to a wider public as well as to their colleagues. In addition, it offers excellent preparation for careers in business, administration, law, journalism, or public affairs, as well as a solid foundation for graduate work in history. Because of its particular emphasis on essay writing and on formulating complex historical arguments, the option provides training in the writing and communications skills that are increasingly vital today in all areas of endeavor.

The history minor is designed for students who want to pursue concentrated study in history without the extensive coursework and the senior thesis required by the history option. Students wishing to do a minor in history must declare a minor with the history option representative. Students completing the history minor requirements will have the phrase "minor in history" added to their transcripts.