Degree Requirements

History Degree Requirements

The history curriculum consists of the core courses in Western Civilization and American Civilization, upper-division courses both topical and geographical, and a junior seminar required of majors. As their comprehensive examination, majors also write a Senior Thesis under the direction of a member of the Department, and defend that thesis before the departmental faculty.

This curriculum is based on the university's stated purposes and on the Department's view of the discipline. The core courses are designed to introduce students to history as a mode of knowing which offers truth about men through the study of individual instances of their activity in the past. These courses both introduce students to the fundamental elements of the Western heritage and the Christian tradition and demonstrate the contribution of historical thinking to mature and thoughtful reflection on the human condition. First, by concentrating on the essential qualities of European and American civilization from a developmental viewpoint, the courses offer a solid grounding for the more specialized treatments of Western culture confronted in other core courses. Second, by introducing all students to the critical attitude which historiographical issues necessarily raise, the courses attempt to instill a realization and appreciation of the complexity of human life.

Advanced history courses proceed from the core courses. Each course adds to the factual data possessed by the student, but the goal is not simply to increase the number of items to which a student has been introduced, but rather to use this increasingly detailed information to involve the student in more complex and demanding exercises in historical method. That method is at once critical in its attitude toward evidence and empathetic in its use of that material to understand the individuals of the past and their actions. It further engages the power of the imagination, both to comprehend the motives which lay behind the specific occurrences attested by evidence and to draw connections among various pieces and kinds of evidence. And it demands an accurate and delicate form of expression, both oral and written, which can convey with clarity the conclusions of the historian without sacrificing a sense of the complexity which is always present in human affairs.

The culmination of the program for majors is a seminar which studies history historically. By concentrating on the development of the historical method and involving the student in the critical yet sympathetic analysis of the works of specific historians, the course also seeks to prepare the student for the rigorous exercise of practicing history through extended research on a particular topic and the careful exposition of conclusions in the Senior Thesis. It is appropriate, given the structure of the curriculum and the premises on which it is based, that the comprehensive examination in history should be in the form of such a project rather than a more conventional test. The object of the major program is not merely to provide a familiarity with, or ability to enumerate, the facts of the Western past; it is rather to develop within the student a habit of thinking historically, and to foster the ability to apply the historical method effectively to specific questions about the past and express his findings with care, thoroughness, and literary expertise. This goal can best be achieved through the practice of the method in a particular instance, under the watchful guidance of one who has already achieved some mastery of it. For, as Fernand Braudel has said, history may seem a simple craft, but it is also one that cannot be understood without practicing it.

Finally, the Department does not claim to provide a program of study which leads to the whole truth, or even to a knowledge of all history. Rather, it espouses a point of view based on the premise that the thoughtful and regular application of the historical method can attain a portion of the truth, namely truth about the past; and the Department offers to each student some of that truth about the past, along with the truths about human knowing which are learned through the practice of the discipline itself. The imperfection of the result is itself a means of instructing students as to the realities of the human condition.

Basic Requirements for Major

  • Twenty-four advanced credits in history, including History 4347 and 4348. Six advanced credits must be in American history and six in European history.
  • In the spring semester of the junior year, students select a topic for the Senior Thesis and are assigned a faculty thesis advisor.
  • In the following fall they register for History 4348. The student's comprehensive examination involves the successful completion of the thesis.
  • The 1000 and 2000 level history courses and 4347 and 4348 are offered every year.
  • The Department will make every effort to offer the following courses every other year: History 3303, 3304, 3305, 3307, 3308, 3310, 3311, 3313, 3314, 3341, 3342, 3343, 3344, 3345, 3356, and 3357. The remaining courses ordinarily will be offered every third year.


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