Historians treat the past as a foreign place that can unlock the mysteries of the present and the future. We study history for instrumental reasons, to redress the pervasive “history deficit” in political discourse and policy formation. We also study the past for broader, more imaginative purposes: to see and understand that everything in human experience – ideas, emotions, identities, social hierarchies, categories of difference – has a history that is constantly changing. Thinking like a historian will help you understand how attention to change, context, and contingency is critical to understanding the ethical and political dilemmas of the past, present, and future. These skills provide a foundation for careers in law, medicine, education, business, and public policy, while fostering the grounded imagination that makes activism, innovation, and entrepreneurship possible.
The History Major
Taken as a whole our curriculum aims for majors to:
Understand history as a discipline. This involves developing knowledge within a chosen area of concentration, realizing that historical interpretations change over time, and seeing the ways in which historians find layered, complex causes and connections in human affairs.
Build critical and analytic skills. This involves defining research questions and framing them as part of ongoing scholarly conversations, establishing what contexts matter to those research questions, finding a variety of evidence – from speeches to visual materials to court records and beyond – and analyzing it to help refine and answer their questions.
Enhance their skills in written communication. This involves writing with clarity and cogency and understanding that, in History, content (what something says) cannot be separated from form (how it is said).
Our curriculum is structured around an area of concentration and book-ended by two hands-on seminars: a Gateway Seminar that introduces students to the fundamentals of historical research and analysis, and a Capstone Seminar that gives students the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in their time as a History major. Gateways are usually taken in the sophomore year. Capstones are generally taken in the junior or senior years. Students interested in pursuing graduation with distinction may choose to write a senior honors thesis in their senior year.