Professors: Richard H. Elphick; Demetrius Eudell; Nathanael Greene; Oliver W. Holmes; William D. Johnston; Ethan Kleinberg, College of Letters; Bruce Masters; Laurie Nussdorfer, College of Letters; William Pinch; Ronald Schatz; Vera Schwarcz; D. Gary Shaw; Magdalena Teter, Chair; Ann M. Wightman

Associate Professors: Erik Grimmer-Solem; Cecilia Miller; Jennifer Tucker

Assistant Professors: Paul Erickson; Courtney Fullilove; Jeffers Lennox; Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock; Laura Ann Twagira; Leah Wright, African American Studies

Departmental Advising Expert 2014-2015: All members of the history department on duty.

Department/Program Home Page

Department/Program Description.

History is not a body of facts to be transferred from the erudition of a professor to the memory of a student. It is a way of understanding the whole of the human condition as it has unfolded in time. Like the other social science disciplines, it has established methods of investigation and proof, but it differs from them in that it encompasses, potentially, every area of human culture from the beginning of recorded time. Like the other disciplines in the humanities, it uses ordinary language and established modes of telling its stories, but it is constrained by evidence left to us from the past. Education in history aims to enable students to identify and analyze historical problems, interpret difficult bodies of evidence, and write clearly, even eloquently.

Of course, you have to know a lot about some area of the past to be a historian at all. The History major requires eleven credits, up to three of which can be from outside the department, if related to the area of study and approved by the advisor. To encourage depth and breadth students will choose and complete two focused modules of four courses each. These modules, in thematic, geographic, and chronological areas, may be selected from the list approved, by the department faculty (see the Requirements for the History Major page, below) or may be created by the student, with the approval of the major advisor. Breadth is also encouraged by the requirement that everyone take at least one course in the history of the world before the great transformations wrought by industrialization.

There are two types of courses; surveys and seminars. Surveys offer broad overviews of a subject or chronological period, while seminars offer intensive, focused work on selected topics. Three seminars above HIST150 are required, one of which (HIST362) is devoted specifically to introducing the varieties of contemporary historiography, methods, and concepts that historians have developed to interpret and understand the past.

Finally, and most important, the department requires everyone to try their hand at significant historical research and writing. This may take the form of a senior thesis (required to graduate with honors; typically at least 80 pages long, requiring a two-semester research tutorial), a senior essay (roughly half the length, in a one-semester research tutorial), or a research paper submitted as part of the work in an advanced seminar.

Admission to the Major.

There is no single path to historical knowledge, nor any prerequisite for admission to the history major. Related and supplementary courses in other disciplines will enlarge and enrich the student's historical understanding. During the first two years students should consider the preparation needed for advanced work and choose courses designed for prospective majors (especially seminars HIST150-199, though an FYS is a good place to start as well), as well as survey courses (HIST200-299), and courses not in history such as training in theoretical approaches to social science as statistics or economic analysis, and foreign languages (discussed below). First- and second-year students are encouraged to discuss their programs with any history faculty member on active service.

Prospective majors may obtain an application form on line from the History Department web site at http://www.wesleyan.edu/history/HistoryMajorApplicationForm.pdf.  Any history faculty member may serve as an advisor, by agreement with the student and approval of the chair of the Department.

Major Requirements.
First-year students have preference in the FYS courses that the department schedules every year. Like all FYS courses, these require vigorous class participation in discussion and are writing-intensive. For 2014-2015, the History Department's FYS courses are

Fall 2014

  • HIST101 History and the Humanities, I (Oliver Holmes)
  • HIST111 Understanding the Arab Spring (Bruce Masters)
  • HIST116 Environmental History:  Telling Stories in Place (Amrys Williams)
  • HIST120 Empire, Nationhood, and the Quest for German Unity, 1815-1990 (Erik Grimmer-Solem)
  • HIST126 The Spanish Inquisition (Samuel Garcia)

Spring 2015

  • HIST102 History and the Humanities, II (Oliver Holmes)
  • HIST138 The Environment and Society in Africa (Laura Ann Twagira)

First-year students also have preference in enrolling in the gateway courses in history, which are offered as follows in 2014-2015:

Fall 2014

  • HIST203 Modern Europe (Nathanael Greene)
  • HIST205 Roman History (Christopher Parslow)
  • HIST210 American Jewish History, 1492-2001 (Ronald Schatz)
  • HIST212 Modern Africa (Laura Ann Twagira)
  • HIST215 European Intellectual History to the Renaissance (Oliver Holmes) 
  • HIST225 Modern East Asia (Akira Shimizu)
  • HIST238 Liberty and Loyalism Reconfiguring North America in the Age of Revolution:  1774-1848 (Jeffers Lennox)
  • HIST240 20th Century United States History (Leah Wright)
  • HIST241 African American History, 1444-1877 (Demetrius Eudell)
  • HIST245 Survey of Latin American History (Ann Wightman)
  • HIST251 Empires in World History (Bruce Masters)
  • HIST253 Food Histories in East Asia (Akira Shimizu)
  • HIST254 Science in Western Culture (Paul Erickson)
  • HIST255 Imperial Spain, c1450-1800
  • HIST258 Early Modern South Asia (William Pinch)
  • HIST260 Japan Before 1868 (Akira Shimizu)
  • HIST261 Protestantism:  From the Reformation to the Religious Right (Richard Elphick)
  • HIST269 Notes From A Small Island: Modern British History, 1700-Present (Alice Kelly)

Spring 2015

  • HIST201 Medieval Europe (Gary Shaw)
  • HIST202 Early Modern Europe (Samuel García)
  • HIST208 Rome Through the Ages (Laurie Nussdorfer)
  • HIST216 Intellectual History Since the Renaissance (Cecilia Miller)
  • HIST218 Imperial Russia, 1682-1917 (Nicole Eaton)
  • HIST220 France Since 1870 (Nathanael Greene)
  • HIST221 The History of Ecology (Paul Erickson)
  • HIST224 Modern China (Vera Schwarcz)
  • HIST226 Gender and Authority in African Societies (Laura Ann Twagira)
  • HIST228 The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire (Bruce Masters)
  • HIST234 20th Century Middle East (Bruce Masters)
  • HIST239 19th Century United States (Courtney Fullilove)
  • HIST242 Introduction to Modern African-American History (Leah Wright)
  • HIST248 Jewish History: From Spanish Expulsion to Jon Stewart (Magda Teter)
  • HIST265 Global Christianity (Richard Elphick)
  • HIST266 American Labor History (Ronald Schatz)
  • HIST268 The Origins of Global Capitalism (Erik Grimmer-Solem)

Seminars for Prospective Majors (HIST150-199)

Students considering majoring in history should take a seminar designed for prospective majors (HIST150-199)

Fall 2014

  • HIST158 Appeasement and the Origins of the Second World War (Nathanael Greene)
  • HIST168 The Natives' New World: The Indigenous Experience in Early North America (Jeffers Lennox)
  • HIST179 Gender and History (Laura Ann Twagira)

Spring 2015

  • HIST171 Exploring Middletown (Ronald Schatz)
  • HIST176 Science in the Making (Paul Erickson)

Language Requirement.

There is no foreign language requirement for history majors, but the department strongly advises all history majors to learn at least one foreign language.  Wesleyan sponsors semester-long study programs with language training in several European countries, in Israel, and in Japan and China.  There are programs under different auspices for other countries and other continents.

Transfer Credit.

Transfer of credits does not automatically mean the credits will be accepted towards the major; History majors must consult their advisors in advance.  Upon return to Wesleyan students should provide their advisor with syllabi and other materials, such as exams and papers, from the course(s) taken elsewhere.  Wesleyan credit for work done away from Wesleyan is assured only when the arrangements for study are made through Wesleyan, for instance, through the Office of International Studies for certain formal exchange programs. In all other cases, a student must petition for transfer of credit before going away to take the course(s). Transfer of credits does not automatically mean the credits will be accepted toward the major; history majors must consult their advisors in advance.