History (HIS)

History is the systematic study of peoples, states, and societies from antiquity to our current times. Using both written records and material artifacts, historians attempt to reconstruct and interpret change over time in every facet of human experience, from political and economic systems to family life and gender roles, to name a few. The study of history is not only intrinsically interesting, but also contributes useful insights into the contemporary world and its problems.

History majors develop an in-depth knowledge of a specific region of the world, including its history, geography, and culture. In the process, they also learn how to conduct historical research, and to develop convincing arguments based on the evidence they uncover. Effective oral and written communication skills are strongly emphasized in all history courses.

Many History majors choose careers in law, teaching, archival or library science, or museum work. Because it emphasizes research and writing, history is also excellent preparation for many fields, including journalism, diplomacy, and international business. Combined with a concentration in science, the History major is also a good background for medicine or other health science professions.

The Department's offerings range over many eras, regions, and topics, concentrating on the United States, Europe, Latin America, East Asia, the history of science, and women's history. Surveys of these fields are offered at the 100 level for the United States and Europe and the 200 level for other areas. Students interested in the study of history should take these survey courses first,  as prerequisites for more advanced coursework. American and European courses at the 200 level customarily examine a specific period, while 300-level courses typically examine specific topics (such as social or political history) or countries (such as Germany, Brazil, or China). History colloquia at the 400 level are small classes offering intensive reading and discussion on closely focused themes. The study of history emphasizes the mastery of large amounts of information and the ability to demonstrate that mastery through skillful writing.

Each semester the Department issues a booklet with detailed descriptions of its offerings. Students interested in history, whether as a major, a minor, a social science course related to their major, or for general liberal arts purposes, are invited to read this booklet and to seek advice from the Department's director of undergraduate studies and other faculty members.