Inquire into the past, asking questions about people and places and events whose histories still inform our lives in the present. How did African Americans, born in bondage, form new identities and communities after the end of slavery in the United States? In what sense is modern Asia “modern”? Explore the courses below to see other examples of historical inquiry questions.
Investigate the raw materials of the past and learn how history is made. What is history and how is it documented in various forms of human expression—art, artifacts, music, and texts? History majors study all kinds of primary sources to think critically about different perspectives on human experience.
Inspire connections through time. Why have relations among humans across the globe become so complex since ancient times? How have human ideas about the world, nature, and the cosmos changed? History majors develop global knowledge and understanding about human experience and make connections between the ancient and more recent pasts.
Interpret the past yourself by writing an original work of history. All history majors take a capstone course in historical research to create an original interpretation of primary source materials. Recent topics for the research seminars include The Making of Modern America; The Transatlantic Slave Trade; Town and Country in the Medieval Islamic World; and Popular Protest in Chinese History.
How did pirates make history?
Dr. Linda Rupert’s course, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Real Story,” introduces students to the fascinating role of corsairs, buccaneers, pirates, and privateers in shaping the history of the early modern Caribbean. From the exploits of Francis Drake, to Dutchman Piet Heyn’s capture of the Spanish silver fleet, to Henry Morgan’s brief stint as Lt. Governor of Jamaica, Caribbean pirates have been seen as both villains and heroes. This course analyzes how pirates influenced the emerging colonial economies, societies, and cultures of the Caribbean from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.
What does change sound like?
In Dr. Benjamin Filene's course "American Popular Music and Social Change" (HIS 330) students explore the relationship between American music and resistance, reform, and rebellion. Blues, jazz, folk music, rock'n' roll, soul, punk, and hip hop all played a role in moments of historical change. What is the connection between these forms of artistic expression and politics? What impact have they had on society, and on constructions of race, class and gender? Students investigate these questions and others through close analysis of music and its social meaning.
Were the crusades a clash of civilizations?
Dr. Richard Barton’s course “The Crusades” (HIS 312) examines the European movement during its classical period, from the call to the first crusade at Clermont in 1095 to the failure of the last serious crusade in Egypt in 1250. Any understanding of the crusades must begin with an understanding of Islam, along with and understanding medieval Christianity. In this course, students learn not only what motivated European crusaders to undertake their armed invasions of the Near East, but also how Muslims understood the crusaders, and how these incursions affected Muslim society and Islamic notions of Jihad. By placing the crusading movement and its outcomes in its proper historical context, the course will inform students about the social and economic conditions that gave rise to crusades, the ideology of the crusaders, and structure of the society they hoped to construct in the Near East. Students will also understand the distinctions between the Christian and Islamic civilizations of the Middle Ages and those of today.
How does ideology shape historical memory?
In Dr. Mark Elliott’s senior capstone course, “Reconstruction in History and Memory,” (HIS 511A) students examine the process of historical memory itself. No period of American history has been as thoroughly subjected to propaganda and politicized interpretations as the period after the Civil War. From the films Birth of A Nation and Gone with the Wind to the histories of William Dunning and Claude Bowers, Reconstruction was grossly distorted in both popular culture and professional history during the segregation era. Using this topic to better understand the ideological stakes that can be involved in the recounting of history, students explore both the history and the historical memory of Reconstruction while weighing popular and scholarly portrayals against original primary sources from the era. Students then undertake an original research project of their own choosing, collecting and interpreting primary sources to produce their own original research in history.