About the Department of History

The Department of History is one of the largest and most distinguished units in UC Berkeley's College of Letters and Science. The Department's faculty ranges across virtually all of the major geographical and chronological fields recognized by the discipline and includes experts in many areas of pivotal thematic significance.

As a discipline, history studies the dynamics of human affairs in and across time. Its scope potentially reaches to every part of the globe and across all of recorded time. It stands in close relationship with other disciplines across the social sciences, humanities, professional schools, even the sciences and engineering, and it underlies and supports many other fields. The discipline of history also conveys lessons of its own: the power of context and narrative; an appreciation of contingency and particularity; attention to the persistent legacies of the past; and attunement, above all, to processes of change.

Berkeley has long been proud of its extensive engagement with the history of Asia, a part of the world only recently given its due by many other history departments. While developing ambitious programs in the study of East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern history, Berkeley has also maintained and increased its reputation in the several fields in which it first attained distinction in the first half of the 20th century: Ancient, Medieval, Modern European, Latin American, and United States history. More recently, the Department has expanded its engagement with African history. The Department is comprehensive also in the thematic and methodological orientations that render the study of history one of the most capacious of all academic callings. Although in recent years the Department's strengths in cultural, intellectual, and political history and the history of science have been the most widely noted, the Department's distinction in social, economic, international, and other kinds of history is also recognized throughout the world. Our teaching and our scholarship address crucial regional and global dynamics and cross-cutting or comparative themes.

The intellectual stature of the Department's is registered in many metrics. The most recent (2021) U.S. News and World Report assessment of the best graduate History programs ranks Berkeley first in the country. Reflecting traditional departmental strengths, the subfields of Asian history and cultural history at Berkeley rank first according to U.S. News. The Department also ranks highly in the global QS World University Rankings. The Department's strong reputation may also be seen in its enduring appeal as a destination for graduate study. Last year, it received nearly 300 applications for under 20 spots in its Ph.D. cohort. Every year, graduate students and faculty win countless awards which fund their research and recognize their scholarly achievements.

Individual members of the Department have often carried major responsibility within the Campus's administration. The Department also enjoys a reputation for excellence in both undergraduate and graduate teaching. Many of its members have won teaching awards in recent years. The Department's baccalaureate and doctoral alumni have gone on to a variety of successful careers, including in research, education, the service professions, business, and public affairs.