History at Grinnell
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.
Planning the Major
The basic requirement is 32 credits of work in history with a grade of C or higher, 20 of which must be earned within the History Department of Grinnell College, with at least two 300-level history seminars taken at Grinnell (each taught by a different professor). All students must take HIS 100, as well as courses at the 200-level in at least three different geographic regions. 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. Planning the Major Form
Seminars (300-level Courses)
The Department of History offers a wide variety of courses for all students at Grinnell College, and a challenging course of study in history for its majors. You may examine these offerings on the following pages:
- Seminars, 2014-15
- Seminars, 2013-14
- Seminars, 2012-13
- Seminars, 2011-12
- Seminars, 2010-11
- Seminars, 2009-10
- Seminars, 2008-09
- Previous Years' Seminars
- A Comprehensive List of Seminars
Mentored Advanced Project (HIS 499)
A history MAP normally follows work begun in a 300-level history seminar, so that 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 Associate Dean, should include an essay of 1200-1500 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.