About the Department

History Faculty
Clockwise from far left: Benjamin Tromly, Doug Sackman, Nancy Bristow, Bill Breitenbach, John Lear, Jennifer Neighbors, Katherine Smith, Andrew Gomez

Convinced that the study of history is an essential component of a superior education in the liberal arts and sciences, the Department of History offers a strong academic program in a number of areas within the discipline of history. Students who study history develop and sharpen their minds as they learn to think, to evaluate, to communicate, and ultimately to judge. They gain a fundamental understanding of the world in which they live and of the diverse forces that have shaped both past and present. Their work in history helps them to know themselves and to appreciate societies that are different from their own, and they discover how to place contemporary issues and problems within a broad historical perspective.

All students, no matter what their major, benefit from the study of history. Students of the humanities learn to appreciate the development of literature, art, music, and philosophy. Social science majors better understand social change by examining the history of past societies. Students who major in the sciences gain insight into the complex interaction between the social and cultural environment and the evolution of scientific thought. All students acquire perspective on the social, political, and economic relationships that shape the world in which they live and work.

History majors who fulfill the department's academic requirements and experience the variety of departmental instructional methods acquire 1) substantial and substantive knowledge of the past, 2) conceptual understanding of history as a scholarly discipline, 3) professional skills necessary for independent historical research, and 4) a sense of historical perspective. They have an opportunity to study with excellent faculty, who provide them with rigorous instruction in both broad subject areas and specialized fields. The sound training that students receive as undergraduate history majors prepares them well for graduate study in history and other professional programs, or for rewarding careers in business, education, socially oriented vocations, and government service. Indeed, the methods of learning and the ways of thinking that they develop as history students will prove applicable to the demands of any career that they pursue in later life.

While courses in the Department of History, as a rule, have no prerequisites, they are numbered at three levels that indicate increasing degrees of sophistication, difficulty of material, and workload. Most students with no college work in history first take a 100 or a 200 level course; students with particular interests, however, including juniors and seniors from other departments, are encouraged to take courses at the 300 level at any time, after consulting with members of the Department of History or the instructor. Students considering graduate study in history should seek guidance from a member of the department with expertise in their area of interest; such consultation could occur as early as the freshman or sophomore year.