LECTURE: Vincent Brown, Charles Warren Profess or History and Professor of African-American Studies, Harvard University
Tacky's Revolt and the Coromantee Archipelago A New Cartography of Slave Revolt"
Thursday, January 30th, 4.15 PM, L01 Carson Hall
The History Honors Program is the most advanced study offered by the History Department and the only route to graduating with Honors in History. It is a three-term sequence for History majors in their senior year, commencing in the fall term with HIST 98: Honors Seminar, a seminar in historical methods and historiography, and continuing with HIST 99: Honors Thesis in winter and spring terms. Throughout the three terms, Honors students work under the supervision of an advisor on a substantial piece of original research and writing. In addition, students must maintain an Honors level College grade point average and History average. Awards of Honors and High Honors in History are made by vote of the History Department faculty as a whole.
Students eligible to apply to the History Honors Program are History majors who, by the spring term of their junior year, have achieved an overall College grade point average of 3.0 and one of 3.5 in History, based upon a minimum of five graded History courses. If you meet these eligibility criteria, you should consider applying to the Honors Program. Keep in mind that a successful thesis requires a substantial commitment of time, energy, intelligence, and especially self-motivation. While in most courses, a syllabus tells you what you are to accomplish, week by week, to research and write a thesis you must set your own goals and work schedule. Your advisor will help you and monitor your progress, but the responsibility falls very much upon you.
This responsibility brings anxieties, but also enormous pleasure and a justified sense of accomplishment. An Honors thesis allows you to "do" history, to conduct original research into a subject that fascinates you, to interpret and analyze your findings, and to make them your own by formulating them as a coherent narrative or argument. Such an experience is essential if you are considering graduate work, especially graduate work in history.
To apply to the History Honors Program, you must propose a thesis topic and plan for research, endorsed by a faculty member who has agreed to advise your thesis project. If you are interested in participating in the History Honors Program, you should consider topics of interest to you and discuss them with potential faculty advisors as early as possible. All ideas for thesis topics require discussion, development and preliminary research to transform them into viable proposals. We strongly advise you to secure the endorsement of a faculty advisor by the end of the winter term of your junior year, at the very latest, to help you develop and refine your thesis proposal.
A thesis proposal should consist of a 3-5 page discussion of the topic with relevant bibliography. We have included below some examples of successful proposals from years past to give you a better idea of what a thesis proposal contains. Click here for some examples of successful proposals to give you a better idea of what a thesis proposal contains. Proposals from eligible History majors are due to Ms. Patten, the History Department Administrator, Carson Hall 300, on Monday, April 7th by 4 PM. Be sure to also include the Honors Proposal Coversheet. Click here to access the Coversheet. If you missed the deadline, you may petition for admission to the program (see next question).
If you have a research project that you wish to pursue as part of the Honors Program but you do not meet the criteria of eligibility, either because your grades fall short of the required grade point average or because you have not yet taken enough History courses, you may petition for admission to the program. If there is space in the program, the History Department will consider such petitions. You should submit a petition, explaining why you should be admitted to the History Honors Program, as well as a thesis proposal endorsed by your faculty advisor, to Ms. Patten by 4 PM, Friday, April 25th. Candidates who meet all criteria of eligibility but missed the April 7 deadline, may also petition for admission by April 25th.
Part of your thesis proposal is a plan for research—what primary sources you plan to use, where they are located and how you will get access to them. There are various grants for which you may apply in order to fund thesis research, if, for example, your project depends upon you using libraries or archives elsewhere in the United States or abroad. See the Office of the Dean of the Faculty's website about undergraduate research funding (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~ugar/undergrad/other.html). The History Department also has some, although limited, funds available for History Honors projects.
The History Department awards prizes every year to the best Honors theses in History. Go to http://www.dartmouth.edu/~history/prizes.html for a complete listing of prizes including current recipients. We announce the winners of the various prizes at the History Department's Senior Breakfast Commencement morning and their names appear in the Commencement Program. Here are a few photos from this year's Senior Breakfast. From left to right: Alyssa Penick after receiving two awards, one for the best thesis in American history and the second for the overall best thesis in the department for 2012; Zoe Friedland ; Professor Richard Kremer and his thesis student, Rachel Pallin; Professor Douglas Haynes and his thesis student, Peter Sutoris; Professor Robert Bonner with Phillip Grisdela and thesis student James Reed; Professor Gene Garthwaite and Brendan Dooley.
You should begin thinking about and planning your thesis as soon as possible, but certainly during your Junior year. Before you apply to the History Honors program you must find a faculty member who approves your proposed topic and agrees to work with you to develop it and to advise your project throughout your Senior year. Typically you will already have taken courses with this professor and are proposing a topic within that professor's field of specialization. By the end of the winter term of your Junior year you should have a thesis topic and arranged to work with a faculty advisor. Your proposal is due by the end of the second week of the spring term. You may begin researching and refining your topic during the summer. Typically you will return to campus in the fall term with a much clearer understanding of the subject of your research, the questions your research will answer and what these answers are likely to be.
You will enroll in HIST 98: Honors Seminar with the permission of the instructor. HIST 98 meets at least once a week and counts for one course credit toward the degree requirement. Please note that History 98 does not fulfill the seminar requirement of the current History major. The focus of the seminar is historiographic and methodological; it emphasizes the skills you need to research and write a thesis in history. You will also complete the bulk of your research for your thesis and begin its organization. HIST 98 will hone your research skills and introduce you to History's reference librarian, Fran Oscadal, an important source of information.
It is important to begin writing as soon as possible. Typically as part of the requirements of HIST 98 you will write an introduction to your thesis that includes a summary of the historiography of your topic. You will also meet regularly with your thesis advisor who may request a draft of another chapter or chapters. An Honors Thesis always requires rewriting and careful editing and this process always takes longer than one expects. Getting an early start prevents you from running out of time and producing a hastily written thesis that does not do justice to its subject or your abilities.
A special event connected to the Honors Program is the annual Allabough lecture. Each fall a distinguished historian visits Dartmouth to give a major public lecture. Afterwards, the speaker meets over dinner with the History Honors students to discuss historical research and writing. Past Allabough lecturers include: Professors Linda Gordon (NYU), "Dorothea Lange: Gender and Social Realism in the Depression"; Daniel T. Rodgers (Princeton University), "Age of Fracture: Social Ideas and Arguments at the End of the 20th Century”; Leonard Smith (Oberlin College), “Paris 1919: Rethinking Sovereignty at the Peace Conference”; Sir John Elliott (Oxford), "Contrasting Empires: Britain and Spain in America"; Benjamin Elman (Princeton), “Culture and Science in an East Asian Context, 1650-1800”; and Martha Howell (Columbia), “The Dangers of Dress: The Clothing Laws of Western Europe, ca. 1300-1700," among others
Continuation in the Honors Program after the fall term will depend on you obtaining a grade of at least B+ in History 98. In addition, your thesis advisor must be satisfied with your progress and recommend your continued participation. At the end of the fall term, you and your advisor will decide whether to continue with the thesis.
You will enroll in HIST 99: Honors Thesis, with the permission of your thesis advisor. Normally HIST 99 is a two-term endeavor, carrying two credits toward the degree requirement but does not count toward the ten courses required for the major. A one-term thesis is possible but rare. In the past, History theses have ranged between 70 and 200 pages in length. Your thesis should present an original argument based upon your research in primary sources.
During this term you will meet regularly with your thesis advisor, complete your research and surge forward with drafting your thesis. You and your advisor will establish a schedule for when chapter drafts will be due. At the end of the winter term, you and your advisor will once again decide whether to continue with the thesis. If you do not continue, HIST 99 will be converted into HIST 97: Independent Study and your advisor will grade you on your work for the term. If you continue your thesis work, typically you will receive a grade of “ON” for the winter term. After you complete your thesis in the spring, your advisor will assign one or two letter grades depending on whether you signed up for HIST 99 for one or two terms.
The push is on: this is the term that you must complete your thesis. We recommend that you arrive at the beginning of spring term with your entire thesis drafted so that you may use most of the term to incorporate your advisor's comments, fill any holes in your argument with additional research, and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.
In mid-April, you will present your thesis to an audience of History faculty, students and any guests that you invite. This is not a thesis defense but a public presentation followed by questions. It is not an adversarial proceeding but rather one that, at this point in your thesis project, requires that you step back from the details of your argument to assess and articulate its overall interest, importance and point. This is often helpful for revising the introduction and writing the conclusion. During the week of April 14, our current senior Honors Majors will be presenting their theses. If you are planning a History Honors thesis, we encourage you to attend some of these presentations. They will help you to understand the extent of thesis work, but also the extraordinary intellectual enjoyment of undertaking a thesis project.
May will be consumed with final revisions and the finishing process known as preparing your manuscript. This involves checking references, careful proofreading, assembling illustrations, tables, graphs or other non-text material, creating the bibliography, etc. We direct you to the Chicago Manual of Style or, for a more user-friendly version, to Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations, 7th edition (University of Chicago Press). And it involves having the final version copied and bound.
If you wish your thesis to be in contention for a Departmental prize, you will need to submit three bound copies to Ms. Patten (300 Carson Hall) by the Friday before the end of spring term at the latest—your advisor may require an earlier submission. Later submission must be negotiated with your thesis advisor and will disqualify your thesis from prize consideration.
Last Updated: 3/3/14