The History of Ideas Program began as a graduate program in 1954. At the beginning, many of its professors were history scholars—including the first chair of its graduate committee, Frank Edward Manuel (12 September 1910-2003)—though a few made their academic homes in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Near Eastern Judaic Studies.
Over the course of its early existence, the History of Ideas Program was housed within several different departments, including History and Philosophy. In the 1980s and 1990s the program went through a period of reduced activity. By the spring semester of 2010 the History of Ideas Program had made the shift to undergraduate education, marking a change from former focus on graduate students. During that semester, History of Ideas offered two seminars to interested undergraduates—World Without God: Theories of Secularization (offered through the Department of Near Eastern Judaic Studies) and History of Ethics (offered by the Department of Philosophy).
The History of Ideas Program offers both a certificate of study and a minor to qualifying undergraduate students. During the 2016-2017 academic year it offers 25 cross-listed courses with programs and departments including Sociology, African and Afro-American Studies, European Cultural Studies, History, Philosophy, Near Eastern Judaic Studies, and several others.