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The History Major - Concentrations

Intellectual History Concentration

Intellectual History investigates the history of human thought, culture, and expression— in short, the things that have allowed human beings, alone among the species, to mediate their relationship to the natural world with their minds and their media of communication.  It includes a central concern with the texts that have helped to shape human history, with intellectual communities, with the great debates within and across cultures, and with the history of all forms of human expression, including the visual arts and music.  It is a field that offers contact with other minds in other times, places, and contexts.  Intellectual History at Penn is taught from a stimulating diversity of perspectives, and the concentration allows you to use courses from a great variety of departments to fit your own particular interests and curiosity.


The concentration in Intellectual History requires six courses:

1. Two of the six courses must come from the following list of core Intellectual History courses:

  • HIST 054 Books that Made History
  • HIST 167 Foundations of Law
  • HIST 308 Renaissance Europe
  • HIST 342 European Intellectual History, 1300-1600
  • HIST 343 Nineteenth Century European Intellectual History
  • HIST 344 Twentieth Century European Intellectual History
  • HIST 379 Modern American Cultural and Intellectual History
  • HIST 380 Modern Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History
  • HIST 411 Intro to Print Culture
  • HIST 415 European Intellectual History of the Seventeenth Century
  • HIST 416 European Intellectual History in the Eighteenth Century

2. One of the two seminars required for the history major must be a course in the intellectual history concentration:

that is, a seminar that explores the history of human thought, culture, and expression. Many faculty members teach 200-level seminars in intellectual history: Warren Breckman, Lee Cassanelli, Thomas Childers, Frederick Dickinson, Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, Alan Charles Kors, Ann Moyer, Ben Nathans,, David Ruderman, and Arthur Waldron.

See your advisor to be certain that a given seminar qualifies.

3. Other history courses that may be counted toward the intellectual history concentration include the following:

  • HIST 025 Western Science, Magic and Religion
  • HIST 035 Modern Biology and Social Implications
  • HIST 047 Portraits of Russian Society
  • HIST 118 Witchcraft & Possession
  • HIST 140 Medieval and Early Modern Jewry
  • HIST 146 Comparative Medicine
  • HIST 160 Strategy, Policy, and War
  • HIST 163 Modern American Culture
  • HIST 168 History of American Law to 1877
  • HIST 169 History of American Law since 1877
  • HIST 250 Marriage and the Novel
  • HIST 355 Classic Texts in American Popular Culture
  • HIST 362 Law in American Life
  • HIST 410 Topics in Medieval History
  • HIST 449 God and Nature: Jewish Thought and Science

New intellectual history courses may appear before they are added to this list. Please see your advisor if you find a course that you believe should appear on this list of intellectual history courses.

4. Up to two courses, of the required six, may be taken from other departments.

These major-related courses must focus on the history of human thought, culture, and expression, be above the introductory level, and they must be approved in consultation with your faculty advisor. You will need to explain how these major-related courses contribute to your concentration in terms of depth, breadth, or geographic or chronological range. Courses taught in the following departments may be eligible: Africana-American Studies, Anthropology, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Art History, Classical Studies, English, Germanic Languages, History and Sociology of Science, Music, Philosophy (including PHIL 3 and 4), Political Science, Religious Studies, Romance Languages, Slavic Languages, South Asia Studies, Women's Studies.

Faculty Advisors

Fall 2014 Courses

Courses which fulfill the Intellectual History requirement:

Regional and Topical Surveys

HIST 118 Witchcraft & Possession

St. George

TR 1:30-3PM

PRE-1800 | EU | US

HIST 160 Strategy, Policy, & War


TR 12-1:30PM


HIST 168 History of American Law to 1877


TR 10:30-12NOON

PRE-1800 | US

Major Seminars

History 201-206 seminars are open to history majors only during pre-registration. If the course does not reach its enrollment maximum, it will be open to all students beginning with drop/add on a first-come first-serve basis.

HIST 202.301 History and Literature


T 1:30-4:30PM


HIST 202.302 Great War in Memoir and Memory


T 1:30-4:30PM

R | SEM | EU | US

Benjamin Franklin Seminars

211-216 are advanced seminars, mainly for juniors and seniors in the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Program. All other students need permission from the instructor to enroll in these courses.

HIST 212.301 Classical Liberal Thought


T 3-6PM

SEM | EU | Permit May Be Required: See note

Upper Level Courses

300-400 level courses are on special topics and are more advanced. They often presuppose some basic knowledge in the field and should be more difficult courses than courses at the 1-199 levels. The department is trying to insure that some 400 level courses, although substantially more difficult, are also small in size; they thus may be suitable for graduate students.

HIST 231.601 History of Race Science


T 6-9PM

R | SEM | LPS Course | US | EU

HIST 275 Islam and Society in Africa


TR 10:30-12NOON

PRE-1800 | AF/ME

HIST 415 Seventeenth-Century Intellectual History


TR 12-1:30PM

PRE-1800 | EU