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
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