Secondary Field

A concentration or a secondary field in Government is not one single thing. We encourage all students with either specific or eclectic political interests to explore our courses and faculty. In the following paragraphs we provide illustrations of several ways to navigate Government as a secondary field.


Students must take 5 courses in the Government Department. They must pass them with a grade of B- or better, except for Freshman Seminars or Gov 92r taught by Department faculty, which are graded SAT/UNS. No more than one course graded SAT/UNS may be taken for the Government Secondary Field.

No more than two foundational courses (Gov 10, 20, 30, and 40) will be counted toward a secondary concentration; three courses must be 50 or above.

Other Information

The 5 courses may include graduate courses taught by Government Department faculty with the permission of the instructor.

Outside courses (Freshman Seminars, Core courses, General Education courses, courses cross-listed with another Department or School, and Social Studies tutorials) will count only if they are taught by Government department faculty or visiting faculty. Social Studies 10 will count only if the full course is taken, and will count for one half-course towards the Government secondary field requirements.

Courses taken abroad will not be counted towards a secondary field.

Only one Harvard Summer School course, taught on campus by a Harvard Government Department faculty member, may count towards the secondary field in Government. Petitions are not accepted from secondary concentrators.

Gov 91r (Supervised Reading and Research) cannot be used to fulfill Government secondary field requirements.

Students are not required to take a sophomore or junior tutorial. They may enroll in a tutorial if space permits; concentrators have priority.

Please note that these requirements differ from those for primary Government concentrators.

The Government Department has four official subfields: American politics, international relations, comparative politics, and political theory. Students taking Government as a secondary field are not required to fulfill a distribution requirement.

Models of Study:

We encourage students to take advantage of this flexibility. Here are several models of possible secondary field programs. They are illustrative only.

Model #1: Government in General

This model is the most open. Students might begin with one of the foundational courses to the subfields, Gov 10 (Foundations of Political Thought), 20 (Foundations of Comparative Politics), 30 (American Government: A New Perspective), or 40 (International Conflict and Cooperation). From there students choose a mix of 1000-level courses as their interests dictate: something on American politics, something on another region of the world, for example, a course on international relations, a course on political ethics.

Model #2: International Relations

As a subfield within political science, international relations encompasses not only the study of interstate relationships, but the interaction of states with (and within) markets, international organizations, and with non-state actors. The study of international relations encompasses the provision of security, peace, war, and a range of international and transnational conflict behaviors. It also encompasses international economic relationships, globalization, and the political and social causes and consequences of world-wide market integration. International relations also deals with the study of international law and institutions as instruments for ordering international life.

Students could begin with Gov 40 (International Conflict and Cooperation) to provide historical and analytical overviews of the study of international politics. From there, students could think about a more specialized focus in international conflict (Gov 1732, The Origins of Modern Wars), international law (Gov 1740, International Law), or international political economy (Gov 1780, International Political Economy) -- or take all three to provide a broad general background in international politics. If the student wished to focus on, say, terrorism, s/he might consider a comparative course on Islam or the Middle East (Gov 1207, Comparative Politics of the Middle East).

Model #3: Regional Interests: Chinese Politics as an example.

Comparative politics encompasses not only the study of the political life of specific countries but also the cross national study of political institutions, processes, and behavior. The comparative method lends itself to the study of issues central to the concerns of all the fields of political science, such as the sources of political stability and instability, political prerequisites of economic backwardness and development, and the origins of democracy and dictatorship. American politics, too, is best understood in comparative perspective. A secondary field might focus on one area, in this illustration China.

A student might start off with Gov 1280 (Government and Politics of China) Gov 1760 (International Relations of East Asia), or Government 1982 (Chinese Foreign Policy, 1949–2000). Students might want to do further comparisons: Gov 1270 (Government and Politics of Modern Japan), for example, or a course in Latin American politics (Gov 1295, Comparative Politics in Latin America), or add a more general comparative course such as Gov 1100 (Political Economy of Development), Gov 1115 (Social Movement, Protest and Politics in Comparative Perspective), or Government 1780 (International Political Economy). Advanced students may want to enroll in one of the graduate level seminars on Chinese politics.

Model #4: Political Theory

Political Theory is the study of normative ideas about politics – the foundations and justifications for political behavior and institutions. Political theory borders on ethics, where moral principles and virtues bear on politics and power. It borders on history, for the history of political thought is an essential aspect of political theory – both canonical writings by theorists like Machiavelli and Hobbes and political ideology. It borders on philosophy insofar as it studies the analysis of concepts like justice, or law, and situates them in comprehensive metaphysical or moral frameworks. Political theory is the source of questions and norms for political science and the social sciences generally; Aristotle called it the queen of the sciences.

Students might choose to begin with Gov 10 (Foundations of Political Thought). They are encouraged to take Gov 1060 (The History of Ancient and Medieval Political Philsophy) or Gov 1061 (The History of Modern Political Philosophy). From there they can choose from an array of courses in historical and contemporary political theory: Gov 1082 (What is Property?), Gov 1093 (Ethics, Biotechnology, and the Future of Human Nature); and Ethical Reasoning courses taught by our faculty: ER 39 (Money, Markets, and Morals).

Model #5: Political Economy

The interaction of politics and economics is of profound interest. A full understanding of economic trends requires analysis of economic policies that are made in a political context; and no political analysis would be complete without consideration of the economic circumstances within which political activity is situated. The study of political economy includes investigation of the impact of economic trends on politics; the influence of politics on the making of economic policy; and the use of economic models to analyze political behavior.

A student might (but need not) begin with Ethical and Mathematical Reasoning 13 (Analyzing Politics). Students could then choose from among Gov 1100 (Political Economy of Development), Gov 1132 (Comparative Political Economy, Developed Countries), Gov 1197 (The Political Economy of Africa), Gov 1273 (The Political Economy of Japan), and Gov 1780 (International Political Economy).

Model #6: Political Methodology and Formal Theory

The proliferation of political data and the unique questions posed within the discipline of political science have created the need for new and adapted statistical methods. This need has spawned the relatively new field of political methodology which is growing exponentially; is improving empirical work in every field of the discipline; and is even making major contributions to empirical and methodological scholarship well outside the diffuse borders of political science.

Depending on their preparation, students might begin with Gov 50 (Introduction to Political Science Research Methods), Gov 1000 (Quantitative Methods for Political Science I), and/or Gov 1002 (Advanced Quantitative Political Methodology). From there, students may want to choose substantive courses that apply these tools: Gov 1008 (Introduction to Geographical Information Systems), for example, or Gov 1010a/1010b (Survey Design/Survey Implementation and Analysis). Students may also enroll with permission in graduate courses in advanced quantitative methods and applications.

Model #7: American Politics

Students could begin with Gov 30 (American Government: A New Perspective) for an introduction to the national government. If they are interested in quantitative or formal analyses, they could proceed to Gov 50 (Introduction to Political Science Research Methods), Gov 1000 (Quantitative Methods for Political Science I), or Gov. 1010a/1010b (Survey Design/Survey Implementation and Analysis). Alternatively, those interested in a normative or ethical approach to American politics might choose Gov 1061 (History of Modern Political Philosophy). A course in the History or Sociology Department, or in the African American track of the African and African American Studies Department, could also provide an appropriate methodological foundation – though these will not count toward the five course requirements in Gov. From there, students could think about a broad understanding of national politics by taking Gov. 1300 (The Politics of Congress), Gov 1510 (American Constitutional Law), Gov 1358 (Presidential Power in the United States), and/or Gov 1540 (The American Presidency). If a student wants to focus on particular policy or political issues or particular groups, he or she might choose such courses as as Gov 1368 (The Politics of American Education), or United States in the World 15 (Is the American Racial Order Being Transformed?).

Faculty, Advising and Administrative Resources:

Advising for those with a secondary field in Government will be done through the Undergraduate Program Office and our regular undergraduate advising staff including the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the Concentration Advisers, and administrators. Students interested in pursuing a secondary field in Government or those who have any questions or concerns regarding the secondary field should contact the Government Undergraduate Program Office (; 617-495-3249).  The office, located at CGIS Knafel Building, Room K151, 1737 Cambridge St., is open M-F, 9:30-5:30.