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Historical Studies

History as an academic discipline provides crucial knowledge about “the human condition.” We, as individuals, could not comprehend our daily lives without the aid of personal memory, and the same holds true for us in the aggregate (i.e., as ethnic, national, social, gendered groups). In other words, we risk profoundly misunderstanding the contemporary world without access to the collective and individual memories of our predecessors. The study of history offers the analytical tools to interrogate these memories, so that we may gain a critical understanding of our own historical moment.

Older views of history emphasized its didactic function: To provide valuable moral and practical lessons, exemplified by the deeds and ideas of exceptional individuals. This approach yielded important insights, but it focused principally on the activities and concerns of political and cultural elites. Newer scholarly approaches have emphasized that history is about all of us, expanding its field of vision to encompass the experiences of wide ranges of people engaged in a variety of endeavors once thought insignificant (the daily lives of merchants’ families), unrecoverable (the attitudes and world views of illiterate peasants), or comprehensible only as part of the natural realm, and so not subject to historical change (sexual orientations and practices). Theories of historical progress that posited developments in Europe or “the West” as the telos toward which all human history is oriented are being challenged by pluralist conceptualizations of a historical process (or processes) attentive to the particular values and accomplishments of cultures around the globe. Informed by fruitful encounters with fields such as literary analysis, psychology, anthropology, environmental studies, and economics, contemporary historians have devised new methodologies to interpret these experiences, and so put history at the service of us all.


Students in this concentration will build an interdisciplinary program with history at its center, which provides the opportunity to explore particular areas of the world; particular time-periods; historical methodology; and/or the theoretical and substantive interactions of history with related disciplines. Students interested in historical studies would do well to take History 207 The Tricks We Play on the Dead within their first two years as an introduction to the field of academic history. A minimum of 20 credits is required for the concentration. Students should take at least one core course in each of the following fields: European and Russian history; and American history. Two additional core courses at the 300-level are also required. These may be chosen from those listed in history or from the several social studies courses listed that focus on current trends in historical methodology in an interdisciplinary context. In addition, students must take at least four credits from the related courses list outside of history proper. This list is not exhaustive, but suggests the kinds of courses that will strengthen a student’s grasp of recent theoretical developments in other disciplines important for historical studies; and/or deepen his or her knowledge of the history of a particular culture. Finally, students contemplating graduate study in history should view their larger program of study for the BA as an opportunity to develop their competence to read historical sources and studies in their original languages, and/or to expand their facility with historical and social science research methods. Prospective students will work with their Moderation Committee to construct a historical studies “core” complemented by a coherent supporting field and a larger complement oriented toward their postgraduate plans.

Core Courses

BA Seminar 394 Apocalypse Then, Apocalypse Now?: The Pursuit of the Millennium in the West
BA Seminar 399 Eros and Thanatos: A Study of Sexuality in the West
History 203 CP Russia from Medieval Times to the Eve of Revolution
History 204 CP Russia in the 20th Century and Beyond
History 205 CP Women in Western Civilization: Halos, Harlots, and Heroines
History 207 The Tricks We Play on the Dead
History 227 United States to 1877
History 228 United States 1877–present
Social Science 302 The Foucault Effect

History tutorials have included courses in Early Modern Europe, Europe 1713–1848, Europe 1848–1950, and Eastern Europe 1789–1914. In addition, courses such as History 215 CP and History 317 CP have been taught as tutorials.

Related Courses

Anthropology 214 CP Native American Religions
Art History 210 CP Impressionism and Japonisme
French 323 Female Writers in French Literature
Intercultural Studies 314T CP The Arab World
Literature 256 The Labyrinth of Being: Russian Writers of the 19th Century
Literature 260 History, Politics, and the Novel
Literature 307 Sacred and Profane: The Literature of 17th-Century England
Music 203m Renaissance Music
Music 218/318 CP Jazz: An American Encounter
Philosophy 206 CP Religions and Philosophies of East Asia
Women’s Studies 304 Doing Theory: Feminist, Postcolonial, Queer

Recent Senior Theses

“Don’t Judge a Man by the Words of his Mother, Listen to the Comments of his Neighbors: Interactions between Jews and Ukrainians in Nineteenth-Century Galicia”
“A Genealogy of Menstrual Product Advertising From the 1920s to Present Day”
“Constructing Woman in Classical Greece: Conceptions of Sex Difference in Greek Thought”
“The Potato in Ireland from Introduction to Famine: Constructing a Context”
“The Churches and Communism: Savior of the Regimes or of the Faithful?”


Asma Abbas, Gabriel Asfar, Nancy Bonvillain, Chris Callanan, Chris Coggins, Brian Conolly, Joan DelPlato, Hal Holladay, John Myers, Bernard Rodgers, Maryann Tebben, Laurence Wallach, Nancy Yanoshak
Faculty Contacts: Nancy Yanoshak