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Study History at Otago

Understand the past, shape the future.

Understanding the past provides a compass that helps you navigate the present and shape the future. Regardless of geographic area or time period, studying history provides an unrivalled basis for making sense of an increasingly complex and unstable world.

The analytical and communication skills that history teaches are also keys for entry to a wide range of rewarding careers. Many of these – such as research, teaching, journalism, public policy, diplomacy, and the heritage and museum sectors – are also among those least likely to be overtaken by historical change themselves, in the form of automation or artificial intelligence.

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Why study History?

Above all, History investigates human societies across time and space – few things are more fascinating. Studying History is about questioning the past imaginatively. Historians take nothing for granted: they search behind the façade of the present to uncover multiple 'truths' about the past.

Yet History is also firmly grounded in the realities of daily life, and studying History helps prepare you for almost any conceivable career. In the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, it is more important than ever to understand human diversity and the complexity of social structures, and to understand why they change. Because of its broad-ranging nature, no discipline is better suited to this task than History.

The historian's skills of research, analysis, synthesis and communication are also essential in the modern job market. History graduates work in a range of exciting fields that are as diverse as history itself.

Career opportunities

Employers value History graduates for their ability to research, analyse and communicate. History graduates know how to deal with large amounts of information and sift out the essential. As well as becoming teachers and researchers, historians find jobs in areas ranging from journalism and public affairs to management and finance.

Examples of positions held by Otago history graduates include: Analyst, Wigram Capital Advisors; Diplomat, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Community Engagement Executive, Movember Foundation; History curator, Te Papa Tongarewa; Curator, Human History, Canterbury Museum; Digital Content Analyst, University of Canterbury; Historian, Waitangi Tribunal; Data Analyst, AgResearch; Event and Marketing Manager, Southland Chamber of Commerce; Social Media and Content Analyst, Bank of New Zealand; Freelance Book Publicist; Heritage Advisor, Heritage New Zealand, etc.

History at Otago

Consistently ranking among the top 100 departments worldwide, at Otago you will be taught by lecturers who are at the forefront of their research fields internationally. We are very committed to our students and are well-loved for the high levels of support we provide. We put a great deal of effort into preparing students for their working lives after university, and regularly offer career- oriented talks and social gatherings.

Add to this the historically rich city of Dunedin, boasting an unparalleled range of museums, archives, libraries and other cultural facilities, all in one compact, accessible, affordable, and extremely attractive city – and you can see why History at Otago is an unbeatable combination.

The Programme includes over 30 courses at the undergraduate level, covering diverse geographical regions and historical themes. At first-year level, the Programme offers broad courses which serve as an introduction to more specialised study at higher levels.

Possible areas of focus include:

  • New Zealand, Māori and Pacific history
  • European history (including Italy, Germany and Russia)
  • British, Scottish and Irish history
  • Asian history (especially Japan and China)

We also offer thematic papers in the following areas:

  • indigenous history
  • migration and the movement of peoples
  • social history
  • political history, including revolutions
  • intellectual and cultural history
  • patriotism, nationalism and war
  • crime and punishment
  • imperial and colonial history
  • historical method (including comparative history and historiography)
  • history of science
  • religious history

Student exchange

You may be able to do part of your study overseas through the University's extensive exchange programme or as a postgraduate student. Even if you do not, chances are that your degree in history will significantly enrich any travelling you do in later life.

Practical internships

Work experience in the professional environment will help you stand out from the crowd in a competitive employment market. The History Programme offers a range of internships at many of Dunedin's most interesting local institutions. These papers are known as HUMS 301 and HUMS 401 and entry to them is competitive.

Background required

All students are welcome to study history at Otago. No prior knowledge is needed – all you need is curiosity about the past. Even if you don't choose it as a major, doing some history papers will help you understand the world, and complements virtually any other major.


History as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

100-levelTwo 100-level HIST papers36
200-levelTwo 200-level HIST papers36
300-levelOne 300-level HIST paper18
Total 90

HIST papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
HIST102 2024 The Global Twentieth Century 18 Semester 2
HIST107 2024 New Zealand in the World from the 18th Century 18 Semester 1
HIST108 2024 From Medieval to Modern Europe 18 Semester 2
HIST123 2024 Revolutions 18 Semester 1
HIST206 2024 An Introduction to Pacific History 18 Semester 2
HIST215 2024 Heretics, Witches, and Inquisitors 18 Semester 1
HIST216 2024 Tyrants and Traitors: Britain and France, 1100-1800 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST218 2024 Modern Irish History Since 1798 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST223 2024 Empires and Globalisations 18 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2026
HIST225 2024 Totalitarian Regimes: Europe 1922-1945 18 Semester 2
HIST229 2024 Darwin versus God? Science and Society, 1789-1914 18 Semester 1
HIST230 2024 Special Topic: Creating Kiwi Families: Historical and Legal Perspectives from 1830 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST231 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST232 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST234 2024 Crime, Shame and Scandal in New Zealand 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST241 2024 War and the Modern World 18 Semester 2
HIST242 2024 Histories of Crime and Punishment 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST244 2024 New Zealand Society and Religion 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST245 2024 Global Migrations: From Slavery to Refugees 18 Semester 1
HIST246 2024 Activist Histories: Contesting Settler Colonialism 18 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2027
HIST303 2024 Modern India 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST308 2024 New Zealand Society and Religion 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST318 2024 Australia since 1788: Boundaries of Belonging 18 Semester 1
HIST325 2024 Modern Italy 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST327 2024 Interpreting Māori Lives: Rebels, Radicals and Reformers 18 Semester 2
HIST328 2024 Irish and Scottish Migrations in the 19th and 20th Centuries 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST331 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST333 2024 Special Topic: Creating Kiwi Families: Historical and Legal Perspectives from 1830 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST341 2024 Patriotism: From Joan of Arc to Kamikaze 18 Semester 2
HIST347 2024 Empires Strike Back: A Global History of Decolonization 18 Semester 2
HIST348 2024 Origins of Modern Scotland 18 Not offered in 2024
HIST353 2024 Practising History 18 Semester 1
HIST401 2024 A Topic in New Zealand History 20 Semester 2
HIST403 2024 Topics in Medieval History 20 Not offered in 2024
HIST410 2024 Topics in Intellectual History 20 Not offered in 2024
HIST412 2024 The Russian Revolutionary Movement 20 Not offered in 2024
HIST430 2024 Special Topic: Commemorating Irish History 20 Not offered in 2024
HIST431 2024 Special Topic: Constituting New Zealand: Political and Legal History 20 Not offered in 2024
HIST452 2024 Rethinking History 20 Semester 1
HIST481 2024 Special Study 20 Semester 1
HIST490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
HIST590 2024 Research Dissertation 60 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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