The study of history helps students to develop skills, such as reading comprehension, analysis, cross-cultural comparison and written argumentation that are useful in a range of careers and avocations. The practice of law, political activity, policy studies, library science and museum work are careers that commonly follow from a collegiate study of history. However, the usefulness of historical study is far greater than that of training individuals for a small number of occupations. All citizens—of this country and of the world—have good reason to learn history and to learn about the nature of history. In all classes, students come to see that, as both the powerful and the powerless have learned over and over, history is not a perfectly objective chronicle of the past, but rather an interpretation of that past. It is always partial. It can be no other way. Still, these interpretations sometimes appear merely to tell the simple truth—just the facts.
Perhaps this illusion of objectivity is the source of history's power; perhaps this is why so many have concluded that so much is at stake in the question of who gets to write history and how. We are all a part of history, and in that sense, we understand ourselves only to the extent that the tellers of history allow us to do so. At the same time, historical education broadens students' knowledge and perspective, as they learn about people and places far removed from their own experiences. Thus, a goal in history classes is to empower students to develop a discerning eye on the stories about the past that are presented as the simple truth.
The History program is a part of the College of Arts & Sciences.
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Video Interview with Faculty
Dr. Doug Rossinow talks about the history program.