History Department

History at a glance

History is the essential foundation of knowledge. It provides the context for a liberal education, the tools to understand ourselves and our contemporary world, and the skills for an educated person to live a more fulfilled and gratifying life in a wide range of careers.

Because of these various functions, we study history for many reasons:

  • to better understand our society and the times in which we live
  • to better understand ourselves; to place our own society in historical perspective
  • to balance present-mindedness with historical memory
  • to acquire skills such as conducting research, communicating effectively through writing or oral communication, critical thinking, evaluating evidence, and problem-solving
  • to understand the roles which individuals and groups have played in shaping their worlds
  • for the enjoyment of examining societies very different or very similar to our own

This is possible because history at the university level is far more than a collection of facts, names, and dates. The emphasis is on accessing and analyzing information, the critical use of historical sources, learning to communicate the results, and the excitement which comes from exploring important ideas. To study history is to enter a time machine to explore the far reaches of the human experience — from classical times to the present; from the lives of great thinkers and kings to that of average people; from dramatic moments such as the Civil War to the routine. The past becomes the universe, all corners of which can be explored.

The department offers coursework in European, U.S., African, Latin-American, and East Asian history and thematic foci on social and urban history and the History of the African Diaspora. The major program not only prepares students for teaching and for graduate study in history but many students have found history an appropriate preparatory foundation for careers in law, library science, international work, the foreign service, the ministry, business, government and archival and museum work.