Studying History at UC Santa Barbara

Photo of UCSB's bustling campus bike path near HSSB Building.

With an extensive network of bike paths and beautiful coastal weather, UCSB’s campus (and the surrounding neighborhood) is best travelled by bicycle.

History asks students to do much more than just memorize a set of facts. It asks students to solve intellectual puzzles, evaluate conflicting evidence, and assess the merits of different scholarly interpretations of the past. It asks students to think about big questions.

At UC Santa Barbara, we strive to offer our students the tools to develop their own critical analysis and to continue this practice well into their future.

Undergraduate Program

Our department offers two paths to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and two paths to a minor in the field:

Graduate Program

Our department does not admit students solely for the purpose of obtaining a master’s degree. All applicants are admitted to a single M.A./Ph.D. program, designed to equip students with: 1) research training leading to the doctoral degree; 2) pedagogical training and instructional opportunities in preparation for teaching at a range of post-secondary institutions; and 3) a broad array of skills and professional development training to provide students with the versatility required to use their historical training in non-academic as well as academic settings.

Students have access to our broad offering of 15 fields of study with which to develop breadth and perspective in their field of choosing — eventually setting his or her specialty within that fields encompassing framework.


Photo of Professor Sharon Farmer

Sharon Farmer,
Professor and Chair of History at UC Santa Barbara

A Message From the Chair

After teaching in this department for close to 30 years, I became its chair only two and one half months ago.  Viewing things from “the top” has only strengthened my sense of enormous gratitude that I teach and do research in one of the best History Departments at one of the best public universities in the country. Looking over the recent publications by my colleagues, compiling titles of about-to-be-published books for the UCSB’s Humanities and Fine Arts on-line bookshelf (keep an eye out for the updated version!), and reading over the career review files of my colleagues reminds me once again that I am surrounded by some of the most creative, innovative, and intellectually engaged people whom I have ever known, or would ever hope to know.

And virtually to a person, each of these amazing scholars is also a committed and incredibly creative teacher and mentor. Last summer in his lower division World History course Professor Barbieri-Low took his students to the beach in order to test Karl Wittfogel’s theory that the need to organize labor to build and maintain large-scale irrigation works leads to hierarchical power structures, as seen in the early states of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. Dividing the students into 2 teams of 30 students, and providing each team with 5 buckets and 5 shovels, he told each team to dig a pit either 6, 9, or 12 feet in diameter, fifteen feet from the water, and then to figure out the fastest way to fill up that pit. Low and behold, the winning team ended up with strong hierarchical leadership — and managed, in a bucket brigade, to move 6475 lbs. of water in less than an hour! Consider, too, our creative new “History 9 Courses” (one offering per semester), in which freshmen get hands on experience in “creating” rather than simply “consuming” historical knowledge! Take a look as well at the syllabus for Alice O’Connor’s “History of the Present,” which by necessity has to change every year as events and crises unfold! I am looking forward myself to adding a “medievalist’s perspective,” in that course, on Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment!

Take a look, if you haven’t already done so, at the video-taped testimonies of last year’s graduating senior history majors (our “Ask a Student” series): those students spoke with passion about their own research projects, their inspiring relationships with faculty, and their sense of camaraderie with other history majors.

And if that is not already enough, members of our department regularly go out into the world to add needed perspective on world events Such will be the case on October 16, 2015 when Professors Sabra, Yaqub, Castillo-Muñoz, and Marcuse will present a panel on “Historical Perspectives on Current Immigration Crises and Debates” at Parents’ and Family Weekend.

I have always loved my job at UCSB and chairing the department has only worked to strengthen that love.

– Professor Sharon Farmer,
Department of History Chair

Page last modified: December 3, 2015