About the History Major

For changes to major requirements as a result of COVID-19 and to register for the major in 2020-21 please click HERE.

 

History, as is often noted, is at the center of the liberal arts. Partially as a result, we seek to teach our students basic skills that transcend the discipline of history.

We teach students how to read closely, analyze rigorously, and speak and write clearly.
We teach students how to identify and assess arguments.
We teach students to develop and sustain arguments of their own, in speaking and in writing.
We teach students to conduct research.
We teach students to understand and respect the positions of others.
We teach students to grow as human beings by engaging with the ideas of others and by developing ideas of their own.

We prepare students to face the challenges of the present and future.

We teach students to understand how the world came to be what it is today.
By teaching students about the past, we prepare students for life in the present and the future, making them knowledgeable and effective global citizens.
We teach students to be aware of contemporary public discourse about the past, to understand the stakes involved in how the past is remembered, and to bring their scholarly knowledge about the past to bear on contemporary public discourse.

We teach students to question assumptions about the past.

We teach students to challenge received knowledge: to deepen their understanding of past ideas, experiences, and events, and to analyze the structures and forces that produced them.
We teach students to question their own assumptions and to be aware of their own perspectives.

We teach students to appreciate historical change.

We teach students that the world has not always been as it is today and to analyze how and why it has changed over time.
We teach students to appreciate that many of their assumptions about themselves and the world are not universal truths but are instead the product of a changing history.
We teach students to appreciate the transitory nature of the present, a present different from what was and what will be.

We teach students to appreciate historical continuity.

We teach students about a common human heritage and common human experiences that connect us to people from different times and places.
We teach students to recognize that history is characterized by patterns of change and continuity that shape the relationship between past and present.

We teach students to know and understand times, places, and people different from our own.

We teach students historical empathy, to try to understand past people as much as possible on their terms and not on ours.
We teach students to use their knowledge and imagination to think their way inside the experience of past people in order to understand those people’s feelings, thoughts, and actions.
We teach students to appreciate historical contingency and to disrupt assumptions about historical inevitability by exploring how people in the past understood the options open to them and responded to the circumstances in which they found themselves.

We teach students to appreciate how the present affects our understanding of the past.

We teach students how our experiences in the present shape our readings of the past, causing historical interpretations, historical scholarship and knowledge, to change over time.
We teach students that history is a dynamic discussion characterized by debate and disagreement that change along with history itself as the present throws up new questions and concerns that cause us to see the past with new eyes.
We teach students that history is in a sense an ongoing dialogue between the past and the present, between the people of the past and the historians who study them.

We teach students to appreciate the diversity, complexity, and messiness of the past.

We teach students to study the human past in all its richness, diversity, and complexity.
We teach students to appreciate the complexities of the historical record and the past it represents.

We teach students to appreciate and to assess different interpretations of the past.

We teach students to appreciate the contested nature of historical knowledge.
We teach students that history is not an assemblage of facts but a series of interpretations of the past.
We teach students that, given its complexity, diversity, and the fragmentary and contradictory nature of the historical record, the past is open to numerous, often contradictory, interpretations.
We teach students to read historical scholarship critically, identifying the central argument, assessing the logic of the argument, and determining whether the evidence presented supports the argument.
We teach students to think about the way historians represent the past in historical writing.
We teach students historiography and how to engage in historiographical debate.

We teach students that there are different, valuable, and legitimate ways to investigate the past.

We teach students that history is an interpretative field, that there are a multiplicity of legitimate approaches to take to the past, and that the most complete picture of the past is gained by viewing it from multiple perspectives.

We teach students source criticism.

We introduce students to a wide and diverse range of primary sources and teach them about the possibilities and limitations of the evidence on which historians base their interpretations.
We teach students about the nature and use of evidence, that every document expresses a particular point of view, comes in response to a particular situation, reflects a particular context, is directed at a particular audience, and seeks to achieve a particular end.

We teach students to interpret the past.

We teach students to develop interpretations based on a careful, systematic, and rigorous evaluation and analysis of historical evidence, and to use that evidence to support their interpretations of the past.
We teach students to articulate the historiographical significance of their interpretations of the past.

We teach students to conduct historical research.

We teach students not merely to be students of history but to be student historians.
We teach students how to formulate significant historical questions and to develop a research plan to answer those questions.
We teach students how to find sources to help them answer the questions they have posed.
We teach students to present a logical, lucid argument that is derived from and supported by historical evidence.