Goals of the History Major

  1. To develop broad and deep knowledge of other times, places, and peoples and to equip them to perceive and understand complexity, causation, and connection in human affairs.
  2. To broaden their awareness of human diversity and creativity as well as enduring human problems in a comparative perspective.
  3. To develop research abilities essential to finding and analyzing primary source evidence and to engaging in an informed and critical dialogue with relevant scholarship.
  4. To develop and refine their ability to communicate clearly in writing, speaking, or other medium (such as an exhibition), historical ideas and arguments based on careful engagement with historical evidence.
  5. To develop their own sense of “the historian’s craft” and the meaning of history in their lives and world.

The History major introduces students to major civilizations of the past while it develops skills of research, analysis, and expression, and thinking that are essential to students in the Liberal Arts environment. These skills are also relevant to all careers and professions. History majors learn not only what happened in the past, but also how to explain significant elements of continuity and how to analyze moments of profound rupture. Thus a History major develops a deep appreciation for the durable phenomena of world cultures (the persistence of poverty, the transcendence of genius, the corruption of political power), as well as a keen analytical framework for understanding transformative moments in time (the American, Mexican and French Revolutions, the Civil Rights Movement, etc.)

In view of the variety of departmental offerings, History majors are allowed to design their own mix of courses. The department offers guidelines, attentive advising, and carefully selected requirements to ensure coherence in the student’s growing mastery of the discipline. Still, much of the choice on specific courses is left up to the individual student. The student’s pathway through the major should reflect his or her particular interests, abilities and career plans.

History is a rich field of study in its own right but it also goes well with other interests and professional goals. With some planning, these combinations are very possible and the Department has had many successful double majors as well as numerous History majors also completing the necessary curriculum in Pre-Med or Pre-Law. We encourage our majors to develop their foreign language knowledge as much as possible through off-campus study and a foreign language double major or minor.