Frank Byrne, Chair
433 Mahar Hall
Directory of Professors
The subject of history is the past. Though always beyond reach, the past tells us what we are and where we have been. It reveals the rich variety and complexity of human experience. Historians pose questions, gather evidence, and construct narratives (stories) and arguments about slices of the past that interest them. History is not a science, but it does involve disciplined methods of inquiry and interpretation, as well as empathy and imagination. For every person, group, and nation, history overlaps—and is often confused with—heritage and memory. But unlike heritage, which must be fabricated, and memory, which is always selective, history is not to be invented or tailor-made to suit special needs. It must be discovered, and if necessary rediscovered, as historians find new evidence or new reasons to question earlier accounts of the past. Historical inquiry can never be entirely objective or free of bias, but the challenge of understanding other peoples, places, and times enriches all who are willing to embrace it.
The history major (thirty-nine credit hours) is designed to expose the student first to broad historical surveys of peoples, nations, and empires around the world and then to more specialized course work on one region or theme. One course in historiography (the history of the writing of history) is also required. History courses figure prominently in other majors: for example, American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Global and International Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and the social studies and history concentrates in Adolescence and Childhood Education. Students who major in history usually have opportunities to take a large number of electives in other fields that might be relevant to their career goals or interests.
The history student is taught to read closely and critically, to evaluate and synthesize materials from diverse sources, to speak and write effectively, and to adhere to high standards of intellectual integrity. Some of our graduates pursue careers in history or historical research (as teachers or museum curators, for example). All of our majors are well prepared for work in a wide variety of fields. They possess skills and habits of mind that will serve them well in government, business, nonprofit organizations, law, media, and the like. Their familiarity with the history of this country and their encounters with the histories of other peoples help them understand the interplay of culture and character, faith and reason, freedom and order, and chance and necessity in the world today.
The Department of History cosponsors a program leading to the BA degree in American Studies:
Honor Requirements for Major