Majors & Programs



History as a Field

The discipline of history poses challenging questions about the ways that people have made the worlds they live in. In their explorations, historians reveal the origins of many issues that we continue to contend with today, including international conflict, social inequality, religious and ethnic diversity, family roles, and technological innovation. While it is not true that history repeats itself, it is true that without knowledge of the past we are unable to understand the present.

Divergent Approaches, But a Common Commitment

There are many approaches to history. Some historians study how relations of power have structured individual experience and social organization. Some may emphasize the ways that individuals in a particular time and place came to understand themselves in relation to their environment, other people, or dominant ideologies. Others are especially interested in the kinds of stories about the past that we tell ourselves, for those stories reveal a great deal about our own society as well as that of a different time. In all these ways (and more) of studying the past, historians grapple with how people—together and in conflict—have structured the possibilities of human society.

Why Study History?

The study of history is key to becoming a well-informed, thoughtful, and effective citizen of the nation and of the world. And it’s fun.

History at Washington University

The Department of History offers a wide variety of courses, ranging from the ancient world to the present, and across Africa, Asia, the Mideast, Europe and the Americas. You will find in our classes fascinating topics, knowledgeable and accessible instructors, and an emphasis on critical thinking, research, and communication skills. Our courses provide the quintessential Wash U experience, with many opportunities for small-group learning and discussion.

Dedicated Teachers

The Department of History prides itself on the individual attention faculty members provide students. Undergraduates express great satisfaction with their experience in history classes, mentioning in particular our faculty's knowledge of the subject matter, dynamic teaching, and respect for students.

Useful Skills

In history classes, you will learn to organize and interpret data, to write with precision and clarity, to develop logical and convincing arguments, and to combine careful research with creativity. In all of our courses, we emphasize the kinds of skills that will help you to succeed both in your classes at Washington University and in your post-graduate career.

What Can I Do with a History Major?

As a history major, you’ll be well prepared for a wide variety of careers, especially those that require communication and reasoning skills. Here are some professions to which our graduates have applied their major:

  • Business
    • Marketing
    • Sales
    • Public Relations
    • Human Resources
    • Company Archives
  • Communications
  • Entertainment
  • Government
    • Local
    • State
    • National
  • Foreign Service
  • International Organizations
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Museums/Libraries
  • Publishing
  • Research
  • Social Work
  • Teaching

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