University Of Cape Town History Department

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University Of Cape Town History Department

University Of Cape Town History Department

The Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town has a long and proud tradition of academic excellence, professional leadership, and social sensitivity. It is the oldest university history department in sub-Saharan Africa. Over more than a century, it has hosted and trained many of South Africa’s most creative, authoritative, and impactful historians.

Their students have been successful in a wide range of careers both within the academic and beyond. As one of the most prestigious departments in the highest-ranked university in the continent, they are intent on maintaining our traditional strengths in original research on southern African history, while actively developing research and teaching interests in connected and comparative histories.


At UCT, the Faculty of Humanities has the most students, with about 6000 total, 79% of whom are undergraduates. The Faculty is home to students from 65 nations, many of them are participating in semester study abroad programs.

The Faculty consists of 15 academic departments spread across three campuses (Upper, Lower, and Hiddingh) and organized into three major clusters: the Arts, the Social Sciences, and the Creative and Performing Arts.

In 1999, the Faculties of Arts, Social Sciences, Education, Music, and the Michaelis School of Fine Art merged to form the current Faculty.

Why consider a major in History?

You will need to keep in mind that history is much, much more than dry dates and trivial happenings. It is a means of understanding the universe. What are you taught in the Historical Studies Department? Apart from anything else, they teach you how to participate in and intervene in discussions, how to make intelligent, well-considered decisions, how to support your claim in opposition to opposing viewpoints, and how to articulate your viewpoint in a captivating story.

They assist you in understanding how each aspect of life fits into a larger, more complex context. History students perceive patterns, processes, and linkages whereas others see disorder, chaos, and unpredictability. Students in this Department acquire highly beneficial technical skills as well as a great ability for original thought, convincing reasoning, compelling writing, and critical analysis.

Historical Studies undergraduate courses

Over the course of the three years of undergraduate study, the Department of Historical Studies offers a wide variety of courses. Connections and Interruptions c. 1500–1800 and Empires and Modernities are the two introductory core courses offered throughout the first year. None of them require any prior education or understanding of history. Students must take one required course in historical techniques in their second year, in addition to a variety of alternative possibilities. You can select from topics like the Holocaust, gender and current South Africa, and colonial and pre-colonial African history.

You are introduced to the fascinating world of black intellectual histories in the third-year core course. Additionally, there are other options to choose from, such as the second year. African Economic Histories, History and Memory, and Comparative Histories of South, West, and North Africa are among the topics covered in the courses. We advise the students to read over the website’s course descriptions.

Course Requirements for a Major in History

First Year Courses

First Semester

HST1013F Connections and Interruptions, 1500-1800 (core)

Second Semester

HST1014S Empires and Modernites (core)

Second Year Courses

First Semester

HST2040F Historical Methods (core)

HST2042F Conflict and Conquest: South Africa to 1900

Second Semester

HST2011S The Holocaust (Not offered in 2023)

HST2039S Africa since 1800: From Colonial Rule to Independence

HST2044S Africa in Question: Ancient & Pre-colonial Africa – Between the Past & Present (Not offered in 2023)

HST2047S   Gender And History

Third Term courses

HST2034L/P Africa: Colonial & Post-Colonial

HST2045L   Genocide: African Experiences

Third Year Courses

First Semester

HST3043F    Debates In Modern African Intellectual History (core)

Second Semester

HST3037S Memory, Identity, and History

HST3044S Themes in South-West Asian and North African History: 15th – 20th Century (Not offered in 2023)

HST3045S African Economic History

HST3046S Subjects to Citizens?: South Africa Since 1900

Contact Us

Please contact the relevant person in the Department with any queries using the information below.
Mrs. Colleen Petersen
Administrative Officer
(Postgraduate queries)
+27 (0)21 650 2742
Room 244, Beattie Building

Ms. Alicia Ernstzen
Administrative Assistant
(Undergraduate queries)
+27 (0)21 650 2955
Room 245, Beattie Building
Dr. Bodhisattva Kar
Head of Department
+27 (0)21 650 1453
Room 237, Beattie Building


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