Intellectual History

Intellectual History Concentration

Spring 2019 Intellectual History Courses

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 133 Free Speech and Censorship
  • HIST 143 Foundations of European Thought
  • HIST 144 Foundation of Modern Thought
  • HIST 308 Renaissance Europe
  • HIST 313 French Revolution and the Origins of Modern Politics
  • 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

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 BreckmanLee CassanelliFrederick DickinsonFiroozeh Kashani-SabetAnn MoyerBen Nathans, Sophia RosenfeldDavid 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 168 History of American Law to 1877
  • HIST 169 History of American Law since 1877
  • HIST 211 The Enlightenment
  • HIST 250 Marriage and the Novel
  • HIST 355 Classic Texts in American Popular Culture
  • HIST 362 Law in American Life
  • 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