Back to: History major History major

The History curriculum offers you the opportunity to understand the worlds of the past, to reflect on the making of the present, and to develop the capacity to locate information, analyse evidence, think critically and communicate effectively.

The discipline offers both great range and detailed attention to particular places, times and themes. Courses extend from the medieval world to the great empires to our most immediate past. All offerings reflect the latest developments in historical research and vocational practice.


  • Academia and research
  • Curatorship and tourism
  • Government and policy formation
  • Heritage consultancy
  • Historian
  • Librarianship and archival work
  • Management and administration
  • Media and current affairs
  • Public service
  • Publishing and editing
  • Teaching

Subjects you could take in this major

  • This subject is a history of various empires established throughout the world from the mid-eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. It outlines the nature of empire, discusses the effect of the Age of Revolutions on imperialism, engages with the notions of colonialism and post-colonialism and concludes with understanding the start of World War I within an imperial context.

  • The period from 1300-1450 has been described as a 'calamitous' one in European history; it saw the deaths of 25 million people from plague; the ravages of the 100 Years War between France and England; Schism in the Church; heresy and the inquisition; the demise of the Templars; rebellion from peasants in England and wool workers in Italy; and the persecution and expulsion of millions of Jews. Despite these calamities, or perhaps because of them, the period was also one of extraordinary cultural innovation and social transformation. Through detailed case studies, students will be guided through one of the most turbulent and fascinating periods of European history.

  • The Great War, the ‘seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century,’ now lies a century behind us, but its aftershocks continue to reverberate down to the present. This subject will provide a global history of the war with special attention devoted to Australia’s role. Issues to be addressed include: Who was responsible for the war? Was WWI the first total war? To what extent did the war transform social and moral norms, gender, race and class relations, and the relationships within the global economy? What were the war aims of the belligerent nations? How did soldiers experience the war? Why did they keep fighting for so long? How did the war affect civilians? Did the war achieve anything or was it just an exercise in futility? Why did the peacemaking at Versailles fail? The subject requires that students read a range of materials, both secondary and primary. The tutorials are designed to enable students to explore key issues in European history and historiography during the period 1900-1920.

  • The subject examines social, economic and political change in the world from Hiroshima to September 11, using case studies to explore topics and themes such as the Cold War, the population explosion, civil rights, decolonisation, fundamentalism and global warming. Key concepts developed during the period under study (second-wave feminism, post-industrialisation, imagined communities, Orientalism, postcolonialism, the clash of civilisations, globalisation) are introduced and discussed in the context of the history that produced them. Students will be encouraged to develop a command of major developments in recent world history, and invited to consider and analyse changing ideas of the world in the second half of the twentieth century.

  • Covering the most significant issues and debates in American history since 1945, but with emphasis on the period since 1960, this subject aims to develop a deeper understanding of American political and social controversies that remain relevant today. It charts key developments: from McCarthyism to the Patriot Act; from civil rights to a post-racial society; from liberalism’s apogee to the rise of conservatism. It examines the legacies and controversies surrounding the presidencies of JFK, Nixon, LBJ, Clinton, Reagan, and George W. Bush. With an emphasis on domestic rather than foreign affairs, the subject surveys the Sixties and the New Left, the civil rights movement, social activism in the 1970s, the role of religion in American public life and the New Right, and other key topics. The core aim is to provide students with a grounding in the history that shapes and animates contemporary debates. Readings each week are arranged around debates (such as national security versus civil liberties; states’ rights versus civil rights; assessing JFK’s presidency), and are designed to introduce students to analysis of primary sources as well as to show both sides of major historical controversies.

  • In its first 170 years the US grew from a disparate collection of east-coast colonies to a major world power. This subject examines American society through these years, exploring the intertwined themes of slavery, freedom and growth. The first part focuses on the consequences of the existence of slavery in a free society, including fighting of a terrible civil war. The second part examines the dynamics and consequences of growth; topics include the emergence of a market economy, the frontier and the fate of indigenous Americans during the decades of westward expansion, and expansion overseas at the end of the 19th century. The third part examines visions of and debates about the emergence of modern mass society and culture in the first four decades of the twentieth century; topics include Prohibition, the Great Depression and New Deal, the emergence of broadcasting, the segregated South, immigration, and the two world wars.

  • What is Australia’s place in the world? Has it shifted over time? If so, how? And why? This subject seeks answers to these questions. If offers a broad overview of Australia’s place in the world in the twentieth century. The subject will be of interest not only to students drawn to Australian history, but also to those concerned with the power of transnational relationships and their influence on domestic events. With these general questions in mind, we traverse key moments in the twentieth century: World War I; the Great Depression; World War II; the Cold War; mass immigration and multiculturalism; the protest movements of the sixties; the changing relationships between Australia and Asia; the attempt to market Australia to the world, through the Bicentenary and the Sydney Olympics; the quest for reconciliation and the republic; the recent spread of neo-liberalism; the allegedly growing importance of American culture and politics; the impact of events such as the rise of Pauline Hanson and the Tampa maritime incident; and the Global Financial Crisis.

  • What does it mean to live in a nation that has been built on immigration? What histories, policies and attitudes underpin this experience? And what key issues, challenges and opportunities face Australia and other nations as a result? This subject encourages students to engage critically with the history of Australia as a migrant nation through a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Topics covered include migration and refugee histories, the politics of immigration, the development of multicultural policies, critical debates about multiculturalism, racial politics, refugee issues, case studies of migrant communities and ethnic/national identities. Taught by specialists in the field, the subject draws on the work of historians, social and cultural theorists, policy makers, activists, writers and artists, and invites students to produce writing and research that explores controversial and contested issues. This subject will appeal to those with an interest in immigration, multiculturalism, refugee studies, ethnic and national identity, and those who seek to understand how history continues to shape contemporary society.

  • This subject will focus on the political, social and cultural history of Ireland since 1790, charting the country's fraught relationship with Britain, including the creation of the United Kingdom in 1801, the long battle waged during the 19th century for Irish independence or self-government, the partition of the country in the early 1920s and the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Students will encounter a range of issues, including the tragedy of the Great Famine and the question of who was responsible, the importance of the Revolutionary decade of 1913-23, the significance of trauma, memory and commemoration in Irish history, and the reasons for rise and fall of the ‘Celtic Tiger’. Students who complete the subject will gain a general knowledge and understanding of the major developments in Irish history and culture since 1790.

  • This subject offers an introduction to modern European history from the French Revolution to the beginning of World War One. It outlines the key events, movements and ideologies that have shaped the modern world, including the Industrial Revolution, the Romantic movement, and the rise of nationalism, and explores the interconnections between cultural, political and social developments. Core lectures offering broad thematic introductions to key subjects are combined with in-depth investigations of specific European countries and events.

  • From the growing influence of Islam and contemporary efforts to deal with past violence, this subject explores the history and lasting legacies of political, social and cultural change in modern Southeast Asia. Using case studies from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, East Timor and the Philippines from the 19th and 20th centuries we will explore European colonisation, anti-colonial resistance, the Japanese occupation, the Cold War and their impact on the societies of Southeast Asia. We will also examine nationalism, decolonisation, and contemporary issues ranging from ethnic tensions, separatist movements, religious revival, economic globalisation and human rights challenges. The focus of this subject will be the experience of Southeast Asian peoples of key moments in history and of broad social changes. The subject will encompass approaches to social and political history and draw extensively on translated primary documents including memoirs, speeches and literature.

  • This subject will investigate a very old phenomenon: maritime raiding, or 'piracy'. The subject will concentrate on the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries when sea raiding activity interacted across the world system, but particularly in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic/West Indies. Students will address issues of how different definitions of piracy and corsairing have arisen in international law, the social economic and political motivations underlying sea-raiding and the relationship between pirates and other individual sea-raiders and the state, and efforts at control, both by the victims and by state action. It will also examine the personal social and sexual strategies that pirates adopted. We will also examine the ways in which pirates have been presented in fiction and film and the uses to which popular culture has put the phenomenon of piracy.

  • Rebels and revolutionaries make history. How do they do so? And with what consequences? This subject surveys the modern history of rebellion over more than 200 years. It is structured around the career of significant rebels, from Lenin to Gandhi, from the Suffragettes to Julian Assange. Attention is directed to three major issues: the historical context that incites rebellion; the political techniques rebels adopt and perfect; and the influence of rebels on later struggles. Because the course is organised chronologically, students engage not only with individual struggles, but also learn about the changing forms of political action over time.

  • This subject examines the growth of Islamic civilisation in the period between the revelation of the Quran and the Spanish Christian reconquest of Granada in 1492. The study focuses on the Arabic speaking areas of western Asia, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, and its aim is to understand the conditions in which religiously founded dynastic states appeared, the relationships between religion, power, culture and economy, and the role of ethnicity and language in the creation of political and cultural communities. On completion of the subject students should be familiar with the theories about the causes of the rise and fall of the Islamic states and understand the role of religion in integrating and disintegrating multi-ethnic states.

  • In 1789 huge numbers of French peasants, urban workers and middle-class people successfully rebelled against absolute monarchy and the privileges of the nobility. But the struggle over what social and political system should replace the 'Old Regime' was to divide French people and finally the whole of Europe. This subject examines the history of the French Revolution from its origins to 1795. It then examines its significance. Was this really a revolutionary age? What were its consequences for ethnic minorities, women, and slaves in French colonies?

  • The twentieth century has been labelled the "Age of Genocide". This subject will provide a detailed examination of the Holocaust, the archetype of modern genocide, and seek to place it within the broader comparative history of genocide and mass violence with case studies from Africa and the Asia Pacific region. The subject will also investigate the genesis and contested nature of the concept of genocide and examine key histographical debates related to studies of the Holocaust, genocide and mass violence.

  • This subject will focus on the second total war of the twentieth century and will explore questions about the causes of armed conflict, the nature of total war, and some of the consequences (social, economic, cultural and political) of total war for modern European and global history. Among the topics we will examine this semester are the following: the situation of Europe and Japan after World War I, the rise of facism in Italy and Germany, interwar diplomacy and its failure to preserve peace, the origins of WWII in Aisa and Europe, the barbarism of warfare, the home front experiences in the conditions of total war, the Holocaust, and the legacy of total war.

  • This subject involves the study of urbanisation and urban phenomena in history from a comparative perspective, with a focus on similarities and contrasts between China and the West, and attention to changing urban-rural relations and contrasts over time. The subject will be taught over a period of three weeks at Nanjing University, with the possible exception of three to four days spent at other urban sites. Lectures and discussion informed by reading will be accompanied by visits to historical sites, museums, and theme parks, allowing students to develop a first-hand acquaintance with Chinese history in practice, particularly in respect of the attention paid to town and country, past and present. The subject will be team-taught by staff from the University of Melbourne, with involvement where feasible by staff at Nanjing University.

  • This intensive four-week study abroad subject is taught on location in Venice. The Renaissance in Italy is regarded by many as the locus of the first consumer society in the western world. Venice was at the centre of the new commercial revolution and the trade and production of the luxury goods that were its staple. With a series of lectures, tutorials and detailed site visits, this subject examines Venice's position as a trading empire, and the goods traded, produced and consumed from luxurious textiles, printed books, art works, dyes and spices, to slaves and prostitutes. Venetian authorities were actively involved in regulating consumption with the passage of extensive sumptuary laws, the development of copyright, the application of duties and taxes, and a complex system of surveillance. Students will complete this subject with a deeper understanding of Venetian culture and society and its contribution to the globalised luxury trades; one of the key markers of the west and of modernity.

    note: Students are selected for this subject based on academic merit. The application process is available from the subject coordinator.

  • How have sexual practices and identities evolved, been represented and expressed from prehistory to the present? This subject will interrogate ideas about sexualities, with particular attention to developments from nineteenth century sexologists and psychoanalysis to feminism, queer theory and intersectionality. Categories of classification and identity including transgender, cisgender, heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality will be examined alongside the history of political activism around sexuality. By charting a historical genealogy of sexual practices and ideas about sexual practices, the subject will show how the gendered body and sex have been simultaneously linked to social liberation and control. On completion of this subject, students should understand the ways in which sexualities have multiple histories and and that they remain highly contested in the majority of cultures.

  • Every act of violence has a history. In order to more fully understand how and why violence recurs, how it has changed over time, and how it has been a driving force in history, we need to develop a more sophisticated and complex understanding of its historical origins. This subject will explore the manner in which violence has been used by individuals, communities and the state over time, as well as the way in which that use has been perceived and portrayed in the modern world, from the sixteenth century to the present. It will be organised around three key themes. First, the power and practice of violence will explore the origins, causes, and experience of violence through changing technologies – from the rifle to the smart bomb, to drones. Second, the images of violence will be explored through the spectacle and representation of violence through different media over time. Finally, an analysis of the legacies and aftermaths explores how violence is remembered and how it is forgotten. A violent act, in other words, is never erased; it continues to resonate and has an impact on contemporary society in ways that we do not always fully comprehend.

  • Through a study of China's international relations, patterns of migration and diaspora formation, and transnational business networks from the seventeenth century to the present, this subject explores the myths of Chinese isolationism and pacific expansion in light of recent scholarship. Topics include the tributary system of international relations, the Qing conquest of inner Asia, East-West trade and communications in the eighteenth century, the Opium Wars, the development of modern diplomacy, Sino-Japanese conflicts, Sino-American relations, the Soviet presence in China, Chinese business networks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the Cold War, the open door policy of the Reform Era, China's accession to the WTO, and China's maritime claims. Students will be asked to consider the meaning and implications of key documents on China's international relations history, and reflect on the relationship between historical and present circumstances.

  • This subject explores how the Cold War shaped culture and ideology in Asia, and how cultural and ideological production influenced Asia’s Cold War. Employing global and cultural approaches to studying the Cold War, you will examine case studies from China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia: China’s revolution of 1949, the Americanisation of Japan, war and ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula, Indonesia's strident anti-imperialism under Sukarno, and more. The subject will explore how Cold War ideologies of capitalism, communism and anti-imperialism were embraced and contested in daily life, cultural performance, sport, films, newspapers and propaganda. We will interrogate how fears about the contaminating cultural influence of alternative ideologies shaped local, national and transnational cultures. Students will engage with different approaches to cultural, political and transnational history and draw on a variety of cultural forms including translated primary documents.

  • This subject explores the nexus between culture and economy in East Asia, with a focus on China and comparative treatment of Japan and Korea. Confucianism has been advanced as an explanation both for the achievements of and for shortcomings in economic organization and development in East Asia. The subject is designed to equip students with the knowledge and critical skills to analyse and evaluate interpretations of economic activity as a function of Confucian culture. Major areas of study include the historical deployment of Confucian precepts in commercial life, and the influence of Confucian institutions on economic organization. Markets, merchants, shopping and banking, textile production and international trade are among the historical phenomena to be explored.

  • This subject examines controversial episodes in the Australian past that commanded public attention, gave rise to heated argument and exposed national divisions. Controversies such as the Myall Creek Massacre, the Eureka rising, the campaign for female suffrage, the conscription referenda in World War One, the Wave Hill walk-off, the Dismissal of 1975 and Pauline Hanson's maiden parliamentary speech threw up competing interests and generated alternative notions of entitlement. The outcomes had lasting consequences. By studying a number of controversies over 200 years of white occupation of Australia, the subject also reveals changing preoccupations of race, class, gender, nationality, as well as changing forms of popular participation and public accountability. By considering how the controversies arose and how they were handled the subject provides insight into public life, the creation of consensus and the legitimacy of national institutions. The controversies gave rise to shared memories and competing traditions. They have shaped Australian history and continue to generate alternative interpretations. The subject thus introduces students to some of the key moments in the country's history.

  • This subject explores German society, culture and politics from 1933 to 1945, with special emphasis on the origins, development and significance of the Nazi dictatorship. Topics include the post-WWI crisis, the rise of the Nazi movement, Nazi ideology, the collapse of the Weimar Republic, the seizure of power, Adolf Hitler as charismatic leader, the racist character of Nazi society and politics, the position of women, anti-Semitism, "euthanasia," the Holocaust, "Hitler's" war and the nature of the Nazi empire.

  • This subject is a history of the intellectual, social, political and economic processes that produced the 'modern world' of the late eighteenth century. With a focus that is global rather than local, the subject deals with the European encounter with other parts of the world and the way encounters, conflicts, and colonisation related to the rise of modern science. It explores the many ways in which different peoples in different worlds interacted and asks how important these encounters were in shaping the making of the modern world, from immediately before Columbus went to the Americas in 1492 to just before the Seven Years' War and the beginning of the Age of Revolutions. It puts special emphasis on looking at both “magic” and “reason” and seeing whether the rise of science means that magic was replaced or not by the advent of knowledge regimes based on reason.

    Note: This subject is jointly taught by the History and History and Philosophy of Science disciplines and is an elective in both majors.

  • This subject brings all students majoring in History together in a culminating experience to reflect on the past and current state of History as a discipline, as well as on its contemporary relevance and importance. Students will undertake an archivally-based research project, and will engage with issues to do with the history, politics and culture of the archival sources of historical knowledge. Emphasis will be placed on current debates in historical studies, as well as on the uses of history in the community beyond the classroom. We will consider the impact of the digital revolution on historical studies and students will undertake some basic tasks in digital history. Students will also be encouraged, both in class and in their assignments, to reflect upon their own historical research and practice over the years of their degree.

  • The American understanding of race has changed over time, but in different ways race has been a crucial line of division in American society since the seventeenth century.The subject begins and ends in the present, but circles back to survey the history of race in America over centuries. The history of African Americans from slavery through the eras of legal segregation, the civil rights era and beyond, forms a central strand in the subject, both because of its own importance and because the black experience has at many times affected how other racial minorities have been understood and treated in US history. We will also study Native American history, from the treaty-making frontier to the era of assimilation and beyond, examine the long history of US relations with Hispanic people within and without the nation and survery Asian American history. The history of whiteness in the US, including the history of the procession of immigrant groups seeking assimilation into the category of white Americans, will also be a theme. The subject concludes with reflections on the way that in the contemporary US, the increasing Hispanic and Asian-American populations were rendering the bipolar, black/white understanding of race in America increasingly obsolete, just as the first black president was elected.

  • This subject is a historical survey of the major events, movements and relationships underlying the making of the modern Islamic and Arab Middle East since the end of the First World War. The subject enables students to understand: the interplay of religion and foreign rule and intervention in shaping the politics and society of the modern Middle East; the development of the different states of the region; the differences between local points of view and those of outside commentators, historians and rulers; and the effects of these changes on the wider population of the various countries.

  • This subject examines the social, political and cultural history of the many central and northern Italian cities which participated in the culture of the Renaissance, with special case studies of Florence and Venice. Major themes explored are: politics and urbanisation; art, architecture and patronage; religion and popular beliefs; the family and gender roles; luxury and consumption; humanism and education. Throughout students will be encouraged to reflect on the meaning and usefulness of the term ‘Renaissance’ as an historical construct. Students should complete this subject with a well-rounded picture of the Renaissance as a social and cultural context, which has left a profound impact upon the culture of the west in the succeeding centuries, including our own.

  • The subject examines the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world in the 20th century. The subject explores America's rise to global power, the ideological foundations of U.S. foreign policy, and how, why, and with what effects the United States has exercised its power. We cover key events, including the two world wars, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and CIA interventions in Latin America and the Middle East. We also explore different facets of American power - political, military, economic, and cultural. We look at whether the United States should be considered an "empire" and at the role of morality in foreign policy. A central aim is to understand the roots of American foreign policy today.

  • How are Australian histories and identities expressed in the urban landscape of Melbourne, and Australian cities more generally? Urban Legends offers an exciting look at the role of space, including the inner city and the suburbs, in the development of the Australian nation and the diversity of its peoples. This cross-disciplinary subject is taught intensively, with lectures by academics and industry professionals. It explores meanings of 'places', both real and imagined: from the city to the suburbs to the bush. Much of our learning involves site visits outside the campus. We will explore Melbourne’s ethnic precincts, such as Chinatown, as well as the city’s famous laneways with their internationally known graffiti; and will look at the national and local stories in exhibitions at Museum Victoria, the Shrine of Remembrance and other key institutional sites and monuments to see how they interpret Australian identities in the past and present. We will explore how identity and issues of of race, cross-cultural interactions, gender and belonging are negotiated in the city, and the role of economic and social factors in city life. This subject will appeal students interested in undertaking a detailed study of representations of Australia and national identity, and will build skills in historical and cultural analysis.

Entry requirements & Prerequisites

This major is available through more than one course, both of which have their own separate entry requirements.

You can read more on the the Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Arts Extended pages.