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.
History is a foundational part of the liberal arts: a pursuit of knowledge that borrows techniques and ideas from all corners of the academy to address topics from diverse places and eras. Courses in history analyze connections between arguments and evidence. Students ask tough, thoughtful questions about events, people, and values outside of their cultures and experiences. History addresses the relationships between cause and effect, and the consequences of human actions. Students in history courses develop critical skills through the analysis of documents and other primary sources, the appreciation of disciplinary debates, the development of historical research questions, and the communication of findings in clear and persuasive language.
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 Writing Seminars (1000-1049)
First-year writing 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 writing seminars require extensive reading, class discussion, and the writing of multiple short critical essays.
1000-Level Lecture Courses
Like first-year writing seminars, 1000-level courses introduce students 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 thirty-five-student limit allows for more opportunity for writing and discussion than in 1000-level lecture courses
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
A 3000-level capstone seminar engages 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.
Options for Majoring or Minoring in the Department
Students may elect to major in history or to coordinate a major in history with digital and computational studies, education, or environmental studies. Students pursuing a coordinate major may not normally elect a second major. Non-majors may elect to minor in history.
This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue