History majors in The Gail Project, a collaborative public history project that explores the founding years of the American military occupation of Okinawa 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.


History is about the past, but it is also about understanding the world we live in today. Our faculty seek to understand and help you understand how the challenges that confront us today like economic inequality, environmental degradation, and racism, developed and changed over time. We also explore the patterns of social movements and political transformation that help us understand how people change the world. History can help us understand the various ways that humans have interacted with the nonhuman world, and how human activity has produced change over time. It can help us appreciate the record of the past, as it has been preserved in texts, objects, oral narratives, monuments, and memory. It can alert us to experiences that have not been preserved, and help us to ask why the accounts of some events and peoples have been recorded, while others have disappeared from view. And it can train us to pay attention to contingency - the role of the unexpected - and to the crucial work done by humans in interpreting our world and surroundings over time.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

Studying history provides you with important tools to think with. You'll learn how to ask transformative questions, develop your ability to answer them through effective research, and convey your ideas clearly and persuasively through strong communication skills.

The history major trains students both in breadth, by helping you explore classes across time periods and geographic regions, and depth, by helping you choose an area of specialization: Europe and the Mediterranean World, the Americas and Africa, or Asia and the Pacific. We also encourage students to specialize in multiple sub-fields, including imperialism, colonialism, gender, race, science and technology, and the environment.

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 are enthusiastically encouraged to study history at UCSC! The history major can readily be completed within two years, even if you haven’t completed any preparatory history coursework prior to transferring.

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 UCSC. Transfer course agreements and articulation between the University of California and California Community Colleges can be found on the ASSIST.ORG website. You may also wish to consult the UC Transfer Pathway for History.


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 45 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; several 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 honor 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 former 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

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