The Department of History in its present form is heir to one of the oldest departments in the University of Colombo created when the University of Ceylon established a second Arts Faculty in Colombo in the early 1960s. Formerly the home of such distinguished scholars as Professor Lakshman Perera, Professor Tikiri Abeyasinghe, Professor Lorna Dewaraja, Professor Kumari Jayawardena, Professor Shelton Kodikara, Professor B.E.S.J. Bastiampillai, Professor G.R.T. Leitan and Professor Indrani Munasinghe, it has been at the forefront of the discipline as we know it today. The Department was initially called Department of History, renamed Department of Modern History. It became Department of History and Political Science with the inclusion of political science as a separate degree program. The scope of the department was further widened with the introduction of international relations as a separate subject. At one point the department offered three special degrees, namely history, political science and international relations. In 2000, Political Science was removed from the department and a new department of Political science and public policy was established. The department was again renamed as the Department of History and International Relations. The department regain its original name in the August 2010 when it bifurcated and a new department was created as the Department of International Relations.

Today the Department of History is known for its contribution to new branches of history such as cultural history and gender history as well as to established fields such as political, economic, social history of Sri Lanka and other regions. The department has a diverse mix of professional historians and specialists.

Our students are able to pursue their interests in historical research in a very unique and enriching environment, utilizing the many resources available from the Sri Lanka National Archives to the various libraries, NGOs, international organizations and think tanks that pepper the capital city.