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.

We at the History Department are committed to providing our students with a rich and rigorous understanding of history, which includes an appreciation for the diversity of human experiences across time and place. 

A robust education in history means contending with all aspects of the past, from the inspiring to the horrifying. Teaching history with integrity necessitates encountering and analyzing terminology, ideas, values and beliefs — whether conservative, liberal, religious, secular, “obscene,” or any other category — that we may find distasteful and even reprehensible. Indeed, many of the primary sources we use reflect the views and prejudices of their times. It is incumbent upon us to approach historical texts with care. Any serious study of history requires us to engage honestly with our sources without censoring them to meet the standards of our times. Similarly, in order to address present injustices we must be willing to take an unflinching look at the injustices of the past. Faculty expertise is central to the mission of helping students develop a critical understanding of history, and we as a department unreservedly affirm the academic freedom of our faculty. Beyond the quality of instruction, academic freedom is key to the diversification of history as a discipline. Subfields such as labor history, women’s history and African American history would not have taken root without professors having the latitude to pursue new areas of inquiry, and having them officially recognized as part of the curriculum. 

The backgrounds and research interests of the History faculty reflect the value that we place on diversity. In line with our commitment to exploring a wide variety of historical topics, methods and sources through our teaching and research, we welcome people from diverse backgrounds and with various perspectives. 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 department, 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.