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
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.
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.
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:
- Public Relations
- Human Resources
- Company Archives
- Foreign Service
- International Organizations
- Social Work