Department Learning Goals

Statement of philosophy:

History is the study of the past. Historians explore the causes and consequences of continuity and change in society, politics, culture, and economics. Historians study and write history to understand the past on its own terms, not simply as a reflection of our own experience, even as they challenge existing scholarship in light of their own concerns. 

At its core, history is a foundational part of a liberal arts education. It pushes us to question the connections between arguments and evidence. It leads us to ask tough, thoughtful questions about events, people, and values outside of our own experience. It challenges us to confront the complexity and ambiguity inherent in the human condition. It compels us to address the relationship between cause and effect, well-intentioned actions, and unanticipated consequences. It is a pursuit of knowledge that borrows techniques and ideas from all corners of the academy to address topics from all places and eras. Students in history courses develop these critical skills by analyzing documents and other source material, learning to appreciate disciplinary debates, exploring research questions, and communicating their findings in clear and persuasive language. Students develop and refine these skills over the course of their entire college career.

Courses require students to think independently and creatively, stand apart from their assumptions and preconceptions, and to view the world critically and analytically. Our goal is to develop thoughtful individuals who are prepared to pursue graduate education or employment in any field or profession.

First Year Seminars:

First Year Seminars introduce students to the study of history. They do not assume that students have a background in the period or the area of the particular seminar topic. They introduce students to historical methods through the examination of particular historical questions. Students develop the analytical skills needed to read sources critically and write about them clearly. First Year Seminars require extensive reading, class discussion, and the writing of multiple short critical essays.

1000 Level Lecture Courses:

Like First Year Seminars, 1000 level courses introduce students new to the study and methodology of history. Students begin to develop the skill to read, interpret and write about historical sources.

2000 Level Lecture Courses:

2000 level lecture courses constitute the core of the History curriculum. These intermediate courses focus on topics and themes that span the globe and cut across time. They introduce students to important historiographical debates. Students may enter the history major at this level, as these courses do not require prior work in history. The courses begin or continue to develop a student’s facility with historical methods, as they continue to hone their critical and analytical skills in reading and writing. The 35-student limit allows for more opportunity for writing and discussion than in 1000 Level Lecture courses 

2000 Level Seminars:

2000 level seminars offer the opportunity for more intensive work in critical reading and discussion, analytical writing, library or archival research, and thematic study than is possible in the intermediate 2000 level lecture courses. They assume some background in the discipline and may require previous work in history or the permission of the instructor 

3000 Level Capstone Seminars:

3000 Level Capstone Seminar engage students in the close investigation of historical problems. Seminars begin with an intensive reading and discussion of representative primary and secondary sources, including of methodology and interpretation. Each student develops and pursues their own research topic related to the central problem of the course which culminates in an analytical essay of substantial length. As a capstone course, it builds and refines all skills learned in prior courses in the major.