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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in History

Level Papers Points

Two 100-level HIST papers


Three 200-level HIST papers

CHIN 244 Writing China: Texts, Ideas and History, CHTH 206, The Reformation, ENVI 211 Environmental History of New Zealand, or MAOR 207 Ngā Kōrero Nehe - Tribal Histories, may be substituted for one 200-level HIST paper.



Four 300-level HIST papers 

CHIN 344 Writing China: Texts, Ideas and History, or MAOR 307 Te Tūtakitanga o Ngā Ao e Rua, may be substituted for one 300-level HIST paper.



198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts

Total   360

Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)) in History

  • HIST 490  Dissertation

  • HIST 452  Rethinking History

  • Two further 400-level HIST papers

  • One other relevant 400-level paper (which may include MAOR 407 Presenting Pacific Histories) may be substituted for one 400-level HIST paper, with approval from the Head of Programme, History.

Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in History

The Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) programme in History is the same as the programme for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)).

Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework)) in History

  • HIST 590 Research Dissertation
  • Two of:
    HUMS 501 Writing and Revision for Graduate Research
    HUMS 502 Research Methods in the Humanities
    HUMS 503 Key Debates in the Humanities

  • two 400-level HIST papers
  • one other relevant 400-level paper (which may include MAOR 407) approved by the Head of Programme, History

Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) in History

  • Thesis: HIST 5

Note: Students who have not completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA(Hons)) in History or a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in History must complete the required papers for the BA(Hons) in History prior to undertaking the thesis.

Minor subject requirements

History as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, 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 Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), 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

Level Papers Points
100-level Two 100-level HIST papers 36
200-level Two 200-level HIST papers 36
300-level One 300-level HIST paper 18
Total   90


Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website

Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
HIST102 2022 The Global Twentieth Century 18 points Semester 2
HIST107 2022 New Zealand in the World from the 18th Century 18 points Semester 1
HIST108 2022 From Medieval to Modern Europe 18 points Semester 2
HIST123 2022 Revolutions 18 points Semester 1
HIST215 2022 Heretics, Witches, and Inquisitors 18 points Semester 2
HIST218 2022 Modern Irish History Since 1798 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST223 2022 Empires and Globalisations 18 points Semester 1
HIST225 2022 Totalitarian Regimes: Europe 1922-1945 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST229 2022 Darwin versus God? Science and Society, 1789-1914 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST230 2022 Special Topic: Creating Kiwi Families: Historical and Legal Perspectives from 1830 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST231 2022 Special Topic: An Introduction to Pacific History 18 points Semester 2
HIST232 2022 Special Topic 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST233 2022 Special Topic: Protest and Collaboration: Māori Political History, 1830-1996 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST234 2022 Crime, Shame and Scandal in New Zealand 18 points Semester 1
HIST236 2022 Modern Russia and the Soviet Union 18 points Semester 1
HIST241 2022 War and the Modern World 18 points Semester 2
HIST242 2022 Histories of Crime and Punishment 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST243 2022 Eurasian Crossroads: Where East Meets West 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST244 2022 New Zealand Society and Religion 18 points Semester 2
HIST245 2022 Global Migrations: From Slavery to Refugees 18 points Semester 1
HIST246 2022 Activist Histories: Contesting Settler Colonialism 18 points Semester 2
HIST303 2022 Modern India 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST304 2022 China in Revolution 18 points Semester 1
HIST308 2022 New Zealand Society and Religion 18 points Semester 2
HIST325 2022 Modern Italy 18 points Semester 2
HIST327 2022 Interpreting Māori Lives: Rebels, Radicals and Reformers 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST328 2022 Irish and Scottish Migrations in the 19th and 20th Centuries 18 points Semester 2
HIST331 2022 Special Topic: Australia since 1788: Boundaries of Belonging 18 points Semester 1
HIST332 2022 Special Topic: Cultural Encounters and Entanglements: Te Tai Tokerau a Murihiku, 1769-1874 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST333 2022 Special Topic: Creating Kiwi Families: Historical and Legal Perspectives from 1830 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST335 2022 Special Topic: Victorian Britain 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST341 2022 Patriotism: From Joan of Arc to Kamikaze 18 points Semester 1
HIST347 2022 Empires Strike Back: A Global History of Decolonization 18 points Semester 1
HIST348 2022 Origins of Modern Scotland 18 points Not offered in 2022
HIST353 2022 Practising History 18 points Semester 2
HIST354 2022 Russia: Reform to Revolution 18 points Semester 2
HIST401 2022 A Topic in New Zealand History 20 points Not offered in 2022
HIST403 2022 Topics in Medieval History 20 points Not offered in 2022
HIST410 2022 Topics in Intellectual History 20 points Not offered in 2022
HIST412 2022 The Russian Revolutionary Movement 20 points Not offered in 2022
HIST430 2022 Special Topic: Commemorating Irish History 20 points Not offered in 2022
HIST431 2022 Special Topic: Constituting New Zealand: Political and Legal History 20 points Semester 2
HIST452 2022 Rethinking History 20 points Semester 1
HIST481 2022 Special Study 20 points Semester 1
HIST490 2022 Dissertation 60 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
HIST590 2022 Research Dissertation 60 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for future students

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History Programme