The Uses and the Study of History
The study of history trains students to think critically and analytically. In an increasingly volatile job market, this training has proven to be our graduates’ most valuable asset. They are men and women who can bring fresh, critical, and creative insights to their work, who can persuade others by good argument, and who can express themselves clearly and intelligently. The study of history develops these fundamental skills through critical readings of the past, close examinations of historical evidence, and studies in the relations among ideas, social life, culture, and politics.
Students learn that good historians are good storytellers, but even more so, they are skilled in the forensic arts—argument and public debate. The word “history” comes from the Greek history (istwr), a word the Ancient Greeks used to refer to a man who settled civil disputes in the days before courts, lawyers, and judges. Historians are rightly thought of as detectives. To discover the truth of things, they listen to and read various stories of the past, weighing the motives of the parties who write or tell these stories. And, like good detectives, they get behind these accounts in order to bring out a new or forgotten truth. accordingly, the study of history has customarily provided a solid preparation for law, journalism, government service, electoral politics, and similar professions.
Our History Program also prepares History majors for graduate study in history and for teaching history in secondary schools. (See the Education Degree Program section of this catalog for information on secondary certification.)