In History, students investigate the people and societies of the past (both distant and recent) and develop skills in research, analysis, and expression that are essential to all the Liberal Arts. History majors design their own individual paths of study from a wide variety of course offerings in eight interest fields.

The department is committed to providing our students with a rich and rigorous understanding of history which includes an appreciation for the diversity of human experience across time and place.

 A robust education in history means contending with all aspects of the past, from the pleasant and tolerable to the downright ugly. Approaches to studying the past that eschew certain ideas or sources, either with the aim to “indoctrinate” or to prevent “offense,” will result in a distorted and fundamentally partial understanding of history. Teaching history with integrity will necessitate at times contending with words, ideas, values and beliefs —whether conservative or liberal, religious or secular, putatively obscene, or any other category — that we may find distasteful and even morally reprehensible. Indeed, many of the primary sources we engage with reflect the views and prejudices of their times which we may find objectionable by today. It is incumbent upon us to approach such texts with care. But any serious study of history requires us to engage honestly with our sources without censoring them to meet the standards of our times. In our pursuit of developing a critical understanding and awareness of history, we may find even our most cherished beliefs being challenged. To this end the history department unreservedly affirms the academic freedom of its faculty.

In line with our commitment to explore a wide variety of historical topics, methods, and sources through our teaching and research we aim to foster an environment that is open to diverse perspectives. As a department we welcome people from diverse backgrounds and hope to create an environment where we engage with different viewpoints. We recognize that engaging across differences can be challenging and uncomfortable at times but the real value of a diverse community is only realized by working through these difficult moments. As a faculty, we embrace the messiness and joy of learning together.

The Department strongly supports career exploration and planning. Our students pursue a wide variety of career pathways and our alumni consistently report that they actively use the knowledge and skills gained as Carleton History majors. 

For further perspectives on why you might want to study History, please visit the American Historical Association’s Career Diversity for Historians.

Through the careful interpretation of historical evidence of all kinds, the discipline of history ultimately seeks to understand the lives and thoughts of men, women, and communities in other times and places. It is the work of empathy, engagement, knowledge and imagination.