Undergraduate Study

The B.A. in the History of Public Policy and Law combines comparative historical studies with training in related academic disciplines. The goal is to train students to critically examine the policy and law-related problems of the past with an eye toward understanding the present. Along with extensive course work in history and courses in cognate fields of the student’s choosing, students in the major will acquire competence in historical research and writing using primary and secondary sources, and are encouraged to acquire competence in a foreign language, and in quantitative, digital, and/or qualitative research methods appropriate to their fields of interest. The culmination of the major is a one quarter research seminar or a two-quarter senior thesis project based on original historical research. Along with these studies, students are encouraged to take an internship in public policy and law, by participating in opportunities available through the UC Washington or Sacramento programs, or in other independently arranged venues.


Click to view the requirements for the Major in History of Public Policy and Law:

Interested in the History of Public Policy and Law major? Try taking one of our lower division gateway courses:

  • History 5: History of the Present –  This course provides essential historical context for understanding major issues and developments in contemporary life; topics vary each year. Coverage ranges from the local to the global, and encompasses current events in politics, economics, social relations, welfare, science, religion, and popular culture.  
  • History 7: Great Issues in the History of Public PolicyThis course is a broad exploration of great issues in the history of public policy from ancient times to present, to understand basic ways in which societies make their major decisions, the shared dynamics in the process, and how varied settings affect it.  

These courses are offered in alternating years, and are only offered once per year, so be sure to check the history department yearly course offerings.

Please contact the history department Undergraduate Advisor for more information. 


Students in the History of Public Policy and Law major are strongly encouraged to pursue an internship in governmental and public affairs. See below for possible internship opportunities.

  • UCDC Program: The University of California Washington Center Program (UCDC) provides UCSB students with a unique opportunity to live, work as interns, and study in our nation’s political and cultural epicenter, Washington, D.C. Click HERE for more information. 
  • UCCS Program: The University of California Center in Sacramento (UCCS) provides a unique experiential learning opportunity for UCSB students. Participating students not only engage in stimulating internships and coursework, but also have the opportunity to observe public policy processes firsthand in our state’s capital. Click HERE for more information. 

Key Contacts:

Faculty Advisors:

Randy Bergstrom

Alice O’Connor 

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a B.A. in History of Public Policy and Law should be able to:

Critical Thinking

  1. Analyze primary sources:
    1. Explain their historical significance and the historical context in which they were produced.
    2. Explain how a primary source reflects the point of view of its creator(s).
    3. Explain how diverse groups understood and reacted to such documents, artifacts, oral testimonies, or artistic works.
    4. Formulate an argument that assesses contradictions within and among different primary sources.
  2. Analyze the historical context of public policy issues to assess the relationship between historical contexts and events, ideas and processes.
  3. Identify and summarize an author’s argument.
  4. Identify points of agreement and disagreement among conflicting interpretations of the past. Identify various disciplines’ approaches and arguments about the history of public policy in conflicting interpretations of the past.
  5. Construct a well-developed thesis and a persuasive argument.


  1. Organize an analytical essay that sustains an argument over the entire length of the paper.
  2. Present information in lucid, grammatically correct prose.
  3. Construct paragraphs with effective topic sentences.

Research Skills

  1. Use the library, relevant databases and indexes, and the Internet to identify and locate sources.

Page last modified: January 31, 2020