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Message from the Chair

“Why study history?” We historians are often asked that question or, even worse, people just assume that a History B.A. is pretty useless. In reality, History is one of the most useful degree programs a student can undertake.

To start with the immediately useful, “what job can I get with this degree?” side of things—yes, there are plenty of careers where a person needs to know interesting things about the past. Everyone thinks of teachers, but librarians, archivists, and public historians also use the content of their history classes every day.  But think beyond the interesting facts about the past side of our discipline to the skill set that historians use.  Stripped of facts about Hammurabi or King Henry V or the people who built the great Mayan pyramids, what history as a discipline teaches is a way to organize and analyze data.  For example, with my latest book project I assembled fragmentary pieces of information about queens in tenth-century Germany, studied how those pieces fit together, and then wrote what I hope my readers will consider a convincing argument explaining the dynamics of government in the period I was studying. That sort of analysis and argumentative writing is taught particularly well by the discipline of History, but once it’s been learned it can be applied to just about everything.  That’s the reason why History runs neck-and-neck with Political Science as the major producing the most students who go on to law school.  It’s also the reason why historians are valued in many professions, ranging from international business to medicine.  In rapidly-changing America, the ability to think and write clearly has a real, long-term value, whatever a student’s eventual career.

When I was an undergraduate, the president of my university was fond of speaking of “an education for a lifetime.”  History is a humanities field, a field of human inquiry designed to give human beings the tools to live life to the fullest. History—the study of human beings in the past—teaches us to understand the present and to imagine the future. Knowing where people come from is key to understanding where they’re going.  Knowing how people behaved in the past under certain pressures helps us understand how people are likely to behave in the future.  History gives warnings and also inspires.  Ultimately, history is the human experience.

Jestice ppicture

Phyllis Jestice
Department Chair

Department of History Organizational Chart 

Publications by History faculty:

monsters pic    Fruits Bodek    Drago    Ingram    Coy Book    Cara Book   Coates Book     

Bernard Powers Book    Lovecraft    Lisa Covert Book    Rebecca Shumway Book    Phyllis Jestice Book