The discipline of history poses complex questions about the experiences of humans over time. Historians develop, challenge, and revise narratives and interpretations of the past with an eye toward understanding both the subjects of their study and the implications of such knowledge for the present. History classes are grounded in the careful analysis of texts and documents. Students develop fundamental skills in the framing of historical questions, the pursuit of independent research, and the eloquent and persuasive presentation of their ideas. Such skills place historians in dialogue with many other academic disciplines and are central to the experience of a true liberal-arts education. History majors are therefore well-equipped for a broad spectrum of career paths including (but by no means limited to) public service, museum practice, teaching, scholarship, and the law. While the members of the history department faculty vary widely in areas of expertise and classroom styles, we share a commitment to research, teaching, and learning in a collaborative environment, where students and faculty engage together in the processes of intellectual inquiry.
To graduate with a degree in history, a student must complete at least 32 credits of history coursework, including:
- History 100
- Two 300-level seminars (each taught by a different professor)
- Three 200-level classes in the history of three different geographical regions. The geographic regions and associated course numbers are defined as
- US history (21X,22X)
- Asian history (27X)
- Russian history (24X)
- European history (23X,25X)
- Latin American history (20X)
- History of Africa and the Middle East (26X)
- With permission, four of the 32 credits may be taken in related studies.
The department strongly recommends that students complete a history curriculum that embraces chronological diversity by including at least one course that focuses on history before 1850 and at least one course on history after 1850. Since knowledge of mathematics and foreign languages is essential for serious study of history, the department also recommends that students take at least one course in quantitative analysis and the equivalent of at least three semesters of a modern foreign language or two semesters of a classical language.
To be considered for honors in history, graduating seniors, in addition to meeting the College’s general requirements for honors, must have completed both recommended and required work listed above, and must also submit a substantial piece of historical writing by the Friday before spring break for evaluation by a faculty panel appointed by the department chair. These papers should be the result of work that began in a 300-level history seminar, MAP, or some other form of advanced independent research. The faculty panel will decide by majority vote which papers qualify for honors.
Introduces students to historical analysis and argumentation. Individual sections focus on different topics and time periods. In all sections, students will investigate a range of sources, methods, and approaches that historians use to interpret the past. Required of all majors and appropriate for all students. For specific content, see Schedule of Courses or the registrar’s website.
A general survey of Latin American history from the Columbian encounter through independence. The course will focus on the patterns of European conquest and colonization, the complexity of race relations in the region, and the problems of colonial administration.
A general survey of Latin American history from independence to the present day. The course will focus on problems of political instability, economic development, and the role of the United States in the region.
During the 20th century, Latin America has witnessed both peaceful leftist mobilizations and violent revolutions. All of these movements aimed at redressing inequalities and creating more just societies. This course will consider several of these movements in comparative perspective.
Examines the tensions caused by the simultaneous development of political democracy in the United States and the demands for rights by those who continued to be excluded from various forms of power. Topics include: the creation of party politics, reform movements, economic growth, class conflict, expansionism, race, slavery, gender, and material culture.
Surveys the causes, progress, and consequences of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Examines American history from the mid-1840s through the late 1870s with a focus on race, politics, economics, gender, and military conflict to uncover how and why the United States tore itself apart, whether the fundamental conflicts of the war were solved by Reconstruction, and why the Civil War has occupied such an important place in American history and imagination.
This course examines some of the central issues and debates in American environmental history, ranging from the era of pre-contact to the present day. Key topics will include: the shifting patterns of land use and resource management among Native American and settler communities; the ecological transformations wrought by commercial agriculture and industrial capitalism; the evolution of environmental policy; and the changing ways in which people have conceptualized and interacted with the natural world around them.
Examines basic themes and issues that have dominated the lives of women in the United States since the colonial period. Focuses on the interaction of economics and ideology; relationships between production, reproduction, and sexuality in defining women’s status; development of female culture and feminism; and the role of race, class, and ethnicity in shaping women’s experiences.
This course offers a social, environmental, political, and cultural history of early America from the perspectives of Native Americans. From the point of view of Native Americans, we will examine many familiar topics, such as European exploration of North America, the founding of European colonies, warfare among European powers, slavery, and the American Revolution.
A survey of the African American experience in slavery and freedom, with a primary emphasis on the struggle for racial justice and equality since the Civil War. Assignments stress primary sources as well as scholarly studies, films, and recordings.
This course examines variations and commonalities in the experiences of those who have voluntarily emigrated to the United States since the mid-19th century. The focus of the course is on the lives of immigrants themselves, but it also examines U.S. immigration from the standpoint of those already settled in the United States and from the standpoint of popular culture and public policy.
Explores the interplay between institutions (such as the church, monarchy, and lordship), economic trends, and society in Western Europe between 500 A.D. and 1350 A.D. While providing a general survey of the Middle Ages, this course will focus particular attention on the institutions and practices by which order and justice were maintained after the fall of the Roman Empire, the ways in which Christianity shaped and was shaped by post-Roman society, how the ideas of “Europe” and “Christendom” evolved, and how members of ethnically and religiously mixed communities achieved a modus vivendi. Option of doing some reading in French, Latin, and Spanish.
Examines the powerful and often unpredictable influence of ideas and the role of economic developments in shaping institutions and people’s experiences in early modern Europe. Special attention is given to the interplay of popular and high culture; the effect of commercial capitalism on women and on society as a whole; the emergence of powerful monarchies; and the tensions between reason and folly, and between dreams of a godly society and fears of demonic forces. Option of doing some reading in French, Latin, or German.
This course examines how modern British political institutions, social and economic structures, and cultural identities developed in a global context. Special attention will be given to the evolving relationship between metropolitan society and overseas expansion. History 235 (Fall): From 1550 to 1815. History 236 (Spring): From 1815 to present. May be taken separately.
This course traces the rise of the modern German nation from the accession of Frederick the Great through the Cold War. We examine the gradual decline of Habsburg dominance; the ascent of a powerful economic, military, and intellectual “Germany” dominated by Prussia by 1870; the rupture of World War I and the ensuing radicalism of the Weimar Republic; the rise and fall of the Third Reich; and Germany’s recovery from the catastrophes of the early 20th century. We address the role of geography, culture, and ethnicity in the construction of national identity and the ongoing interplay between politics and culture.
This course examines the complex relationship between operatic production and political power in the 19th and 20th centuries in several national contexts, including France, Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union. We consider specific interactions among composers, politicians, and institutions and seek to understand how such engagements shaped both the works themselves and the political and social realities around them in the processes of inception, performance, and reception.
Focusing upon the medieval origins of early East Slavic societies and the formation of the Muscovite state and Russian Empire, this course examines the political, economic, and social components of pre-revolutionary Russia from the 10th through the 19th centuries. The dynamics of ethnicity, the multiple forms of state-building, and the role of gender, class, and ideology receive special attention. Option of doing some work in Russian.
Examines the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, from the appearance of the revolutionary movement in the 19th century to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. Key topics will include the origins of the revolution, the workings of the Stalinist dictatorship, the push to create a “New Soviet Man,” the reforms of Nikita Khrushchev, and the causes of the 1991 collapse. Option of doing some work in Russian.
This course examines the war between Nazi Germany and the Stalinist U.S.S.R. along World War II’s Eastern Front. Although it will include an overview of the war’s main military events, it will focus on the conflict’s social and political significance. Major themes will include the experiences of the troops, the political working of each wartime regime, the reasons for the unusually high level of brutality, the war’s relationship to the Holocaust, and the Soviet myth of the war.
Also listed as Classics 255. The political, military, social, economic, and intellectual history of the Greeks in the Archaic and Classical periods and their relationship with other peoples of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Focus on the evolution of the Athenian and Spartan constitutions, the Persian War, Athenian imperialism and the Peloponnesian War, the rise of Macedon, and Alexander’s conquest of Egypt and the Near East.
Also listed as Classics 256. Rome’s rise, maturity, and decline; emphasis on the republican constitution, organization of Italy, and Rome’s relationship with other peoples of Europe, Africa, and Asia during the republic and the empire. Focus on the Roman Revolution, the Augustan Age, the “Pax Romana,” the spread of Christianity, and the transition to the Middle Ages.
An introduction to the 10-country region, with an emphasis on the Republic of South Africa. Regional geography along with culture and politics are principal themes, including the rise and fall of the South African apartheid state.
An introduction to West, Central, and East Africa during the colonial and postcolonial periods, focusing on the local, regional, and international dynamics of state-building, social and economic change, religious transformation, cultural identity, nationalism, and globalization.
With approval from a member of the history department (by the end of the semester preceding study), students may engage in advanced research on a topic of significant debate among historians. May be taken to satisfy the 300-level requirement for the major, if results are presented satisfactorily to a colloquium of students and faculty.
In any academic year, students may choose from among six to eight 300-level seminar courses in the following categories. For course descriptions, prerequisites, and instructors, see the current Schedule of Courses. All courses are 4-credit, without the Plus-2 option.
- 31x Advanced Studies in American History
- 32x Advanced Studies in Latin America and the United States
- 33x Advanced Studies in Western European and British History
- 34x Advanced Studies in Russian History
- 35x Advanced Studies in Historiography and Ancient History
- 36x Advanced Studies in African History
- 37x Advanced Studies in Asian History
A history MAP normally follows work begun in a 300-level history seminar, so the student can undertake exhaustive research on a precisely defined topic to produce a paper as close as possible in quality to the articles published in history journals. MAP proposals unrelated to a seminar will be considered, but in that case students must demonstrate that they are already familiar with the most important scholarly works published in their proposed field of inquiry. MAP proposals, which must be submitted to the history department chair at least one week before they are due at the Office of the Registrar, should include an essay of 1,200–1,500 words to explain the historical problem to be investigated and the questions left open by existing research in the field, and a bibliography detailed enough to demonstrate that the project is feasible. A faculty committee appointed by the department chair will review all proposals, which will only be accepted if they reflect careful preparation and close consultation with the chosen mentor.
- College Catalog