Plans afoot at Harvard to do away with required classic course on ancient history

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History 10a, “Western Societies, Politics, and Cultures: From Antiquity to 1650,” could soon be ancient history itself.

An expected change to history concentration requirements would abolish a long-standing pillar of the department, according to a professor who has taught the course in the past. But the decision hasn’t been finalized by the department.

“No one is willing to defend ‘Western Civ’ and lots of people want to abolish it,” said Baird Professor of History Mark A. Kishlansky, who has taught History 10a twice since 2002. “I think the department will vote this change.”

Kishlansky predicted that the department would eliminate History 10a and its counterpart, History 10b, “Western Economies, Societies, and Polities: From 1648 to the Present,” in response to ongoing student and faculty opposition.

Concentrators currently have the option of substituting History 10b with History 10c, “A Global History of Modern Times,” or bypassing History 10b or History 10c with a score of five on the Advanced Placement European History or World History exam.

But concentrators currently must take History 10a.

New “long ago” and “far away” requirements would replace these mandatory survey courses, Kishlansky said.

The “long ago” component would require students to take a premodern course about a “civilization at a different stage of development than the one you know of,” Kishlansky said.

But he said the department has yet to determine the exact dates that this “premodern” period would encompass.

The department also plans to implement a “far away” requirement that would have students take a course on a subject geographically removed from their area of interest, Kishlansky said. ...

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