History is the disciplined study of the past. Historical study entails the exploration of ruptures, shifts and continuities in society, politics, culture, and the relations between humans and the environment. Historians challenge and revise existing narratives of the past, both to comprehend the events they describe and to shed light on our own evolving needs and concerns.
Historical study accomplishes many of the goals of a liberal arts education. It encourages us to think critically about the relationship between our arguments and evidence. It leads us to question the inevitability of our own ideas and assumptions. It helps us appreciate the lesson that actions often have unanticipated consequences. It invites reflection on the often hidden relationships between ideas and social institutions, and between individuals and their cultures. Students in history courses learn how to analyze texts and documents; how to frame research questions and conduct independent inquiries; and how to organize and write historical analyses to make them engaging and persuasive.
The department comprises scholars whose work and teaching connects different regions of the world and integrates multiple topics into a common disciplinary endeavor. Courses in the department seek to stimulate independent and creative thought. We encourage majors and nonmajors who take our courses to construct programs of study that transcend national boundaries and group identities and that broaden their own conceptual frameworks for understanding the past and the present.