History majors researching abroad venture into Okinawa's lush vegetation to get a better look at a shrine in Oyama, near Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. Photo by Tosh Tanaka.


If you are curious about the world around you, interested in making an impact on it, and ready to develop flexible skills that will serve you in your life and your work, the history major provides an excellent path through your undergraduate career that will give you a strong foundation for deciding where you want to go next.

Students often think of studying history as a matter of memorizing names and dates. While having a command of basic facts is important, college-level study of history shifts the focus to learning how to ask illuminating questions about the past. UCSC history majors cultivate a broad understanding of human history across time and space and develop deep knowledge of a particular region of the world. At the same time, they learn how to ask transformative questions, develop their ability to answer them through effective research, and convey their ideas clearly and persuasively through strong communication skills. History provides tools to think with, skills for understanding what it means to be human, and models for interpreting current events within a broader frame.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

The History Department requires undergraduates to cultivate a chronologically and culturally broad perspective on human history; at the same time, we ask them to acquire a deeper and more nuanced knowledge of one particular historical area. Students may also choose to organize their courses according to some general theme of special interest to them. Even though each student selects one of three broad, geographically defined regions of concentration as their primary area of emphasis, the department encourages students to also think about their degree along thematic lines: religion, social movements, science and environment, and gender, to name a few.

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

High school students planning to major or minor in history at UC Santa Cruz need no special preparation other than the high school courses necessary for UC admission. Some background courses in history and a foreign language are helpful but not essential.

Information for Transfers

Transfer students may apply up to three history courses completed at another college or university towards the history major requirements, with no more than two courses from any single region of concentration.

While it is not a condition of admission, transfer students will find it useful to complete the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) in preparation for transfer to UC Santa Cruz. Transfer course agreements and articulation between the University of California and California community colleges can be accessed on the ASSIST.ORG website.


A degree in history provides students with important training in real world skills that can be applied in a wide variety of careers. Successful historians have skills that are in demand in many professions. The study of history develops abilities in research, critical thinking, analysis, clear and effective self-expression, and expository writing that are invaluable in the non-academic world. Our graduates are now working in nearly every field imaginable, including education, law, business, investment counseling, journalism, museum studies, public service, finance, filmmaking, activism, and writing.


History students are strongly encouraged to study abroad. Students gain a unique perspective on their major or minor by experiencing cultures shaped by centuries of historical events. Students may also make degree progress while studying abroad. Up to three history courses completed abroad may be applied to the history major or minor requirements. The UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers students an opportunity to study abroad in 43 countries with over 400 program options.

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

Instructors of history, Grace Peña Delgado, David Anthony, Alan Christy, and Matthew Lasar have received 2014, 2015, and 2016 Excellence in Teaching Awards, one of the highest honors a UCSC faculty member can receive.

History instructors Catherine Jones, Bruce Thompson, Gail Hershatter, Cynthia Polecritti, and Alan Christy have each received the Dizikes Faculty Teaching Award, which honors humanities faculty for their commitment to transformative teaching in the liberal arts and effective mentoring of students.

Alumni Focus

Katherine Canavan is a U.S. diplomat and foreign service officer. She has served as the U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho and Botswana.

Cary Fukunaga is a director, writer, and cinematographer. He is known for winning an Emmy Award in the category of “Outstanding Director for a Drama Series" for directing the HBO series True Detective.

Dominic Martinelli is Vice President and Chief Information Officer at SGI, one of the world’s leaders in technical computing.

Department Website

General Catalog Information

More Information

University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064