Student members of The Gail Project, a collaborative public history project that explores the founding years of the American military occupation of Okinawa, a Japanese island in the East China Sea, after World War II. While researching abroad these students ventured 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

As a history major, you will cultivate a chronologically and culturally broad perspective on human history; at the same time, you will acquire a deeper and more nuanced knowledge of one particular historical area. You may also choose to organize your courses according to some general theme of special interest to you. Even though each history major 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, students from California community colleges are advised 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 found 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.


The UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers students an opportunity to study abroad in 43 countries with over 400 program options, the majority of which offer history courses. All history students are encouraged to study abroad to gain a unique perspective on cultures shaped by centuries of historical events. A year abroad can be seamlessly integrated into any history student's academic plan; many of the major or minor course requirements may be completed abroad.

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

History instructors Grace Peña Delgado, David Anthony, Alan Christy, Matthew Lasar, Catherine Jones, Bruce Thompson, Gail Hershatter, and Cynthia Polecritti, have all received Excellence in Teaching Awards or Dizikes Faculty Teaching Awards. Both awards honors faculty for their commitment to transformative teaching.

Assistant professor of history and Jewish Studies Alma Rachel Heckman has been appointed as the Neufeld-Levin Holocaust Endowed Chair.

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

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