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History of Public Policy and Law, B.A.

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.

Want to declare the history of public policy and law major? Click HERE. 


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. 
  • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA): As a CASA volunteer you will learn how to gather information, report to the court, monitor case progress, encourage positive communications and advocate for the best interests of the child.
  • Environmental Defense Center: The EDC offers the following internships: marine conservation, Goleta watershed, environmental advocacy, and non-profit administration. Law clerks and externs are involved in substantive activities such as conducting legal research, drafting memos and pleadings, participating in client meetings, strategy discussions and negotiations, appearing before public agencies, and observing court arguments.
  • Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara: The mission of the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County is to provide high-quality legal services in order to ensure that low-income persons and seniors have access to the civil justice system in times of crisis – to secure safe, habitable shelter, adequate income, and protection from domestic violence and elder abuse.
  • Legal Education Association for Diversity: LEAD is an organization dedicated to students of color on the path to law school. LEAD promotes brotherhood/sisterhood among driven and diverse students of color interested in law by creating strong relationships, mentorships, community involvement, resources, and providing information to facilitate the transition between college and law school.
  • Legal Resource Center Internship: The AS Legal Resource Center offers unpaid internship positions to UCSB undergraduate students who have an interest in law. Interns have the opportunity to conduct peer-to-peer counseling, shadow attorneys, and be an active member of a professional office environment.
  • Mock Trial Team: Mock Trial allows undergraduate students to take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses, acting out a fictitious case while competing against the mock trial teams of other universities. You are scored not only on content but also on performance.
  • Santa Barbara County District Attorney Office: The District Attorney’s Office offers diverse professional and para-professional job opportunities. Specific job descriptions and active recruitments are listed under the County Job Openings.
  • Santa Barbara County Probation Department: The Santa Barbara County Probation Department recognizes the important contributions made by volunteers.  We offer responsible citizens the opportunity to volunteer for a variety of important assignments throughout Santa Barbara County.
  • Santa Barbara County Public Defender Office: Students from local colleges, especially UCSB and SBCC, are offered the opportunity to observe the arraignment court and to assist the attorneys handling this busiest of calendars. The students work at counsel table in the court performing clerical and other gofer tasks but are rewarded by observing the real criminal court activity.
  • Santa Barbara Independent Internship Program: The Santa Barbara Independent offers students a court reporting internship, where they attend trials and write up summaries of what transpired.

Learning Outcomes

History of Public Policy and Law Program Learning Outcomes

Critical Thinking

  1. Analyze Primary Sources
  2. Explain their historical significance and the historical context in which they were produced.
  3. Explain how a primary source reflects the point of view of its creator(s).
  4. Explain how diverse groups understood and reacted to such documents, artifacts, oral testimonies, or artistic works.
  5. Formulate an argument that assesses contradictions within and among different primary sources.
  6. Analyze the historical context of public policy issues to assess the relationship between historical contexts and events, ideas, and processes.
  7. Place contemporary public policy issues in their historical context.
  8. Identify and summarize an author’s argument.
  9. Identify points of agreement and disagreement among conflicting scholarly interpretations of the past.
  10. Identify how disciplines other than history approach the study of public policy and law.
  11. Based on primary and secondary sources, construct a well-developed thesis and persuasive argument.


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

Research Skills

  1. Effectively use the library, relevant databases and indexes, as well as the internet to identify and locate primary and secondary sources.
  2. Develop bibliographies of primary and secondary sources.
  3. Master conventions for citations and bibliographies.
  4. Produce an original research paper in the history of public policy and lawt that analyzes primary and secondary sources.

Historical Knowledge

  1. Develop a comparative understanding of the ways broadly similar developments in the history of public policy and law have been experienced in varied times and places (e.g. state formation, domestic and interstate conflicts, economic and social welfare development, cultural promotion and incorporation, urbanization, migration, and environmental use).
  2. Describe historical change over a broad sweep of time (ancient to present), and in appropriate local, national, comparative, and/or global context.
  3. Explain how various forms of identity (political, religious, cultural, ethnic, racial, class, gender, sexual, etc.) have shaped how people experience the past.
  4. Understand the ways law and public policy create and change various forms of identity.
  5. Recognize the varied ways power is exercised, contested, and legitimized through the state, law, and public policy.
  6. Understand how public policies of the past influence the present.