Why History

With its emphasis on critical reading skills, the evaluation of evidence, imaginative thinking, global awareness, empathetic attitudes, and persuasive, analytical writing, the history major offers an ideal preparation for a variety of professional, business, educational, and scholarly careers. Searching for evidence, collecting and understanding varied data, interpreting patterns in our evidence or data, and communicating those patterns effectively to others orally and in writing are the core of work in history, and are crucial to many professional paths. Moreover, the critical eye developed through the history major, and the expansive sense of the complexities of human nature gained through the study of history, will afford understanding and pleasure for a lifetime whatever the direction of one’s work life.

To achieve these goals, the history major combines rigor and flexibility, allowing students both to learn about the past in structured ways and to choose and define their specific areas of interest.

What are the goals of the history major?
1. Students will develop their ability to assemble and use evidence, not only to gain information about the past, but also to formulate analytical questions, to construct and support original arguments, and to sustain oral arguments.

2. Students will gain an introduction to global experiences, moral awareness of global themes and issues, and the ability to encounter the unfamiliar with empathy and analytical understanding.

3. Students will be able to identify, evaluate, and compare historians’ different interpretations of the past, thus understanding the discipline of history as an ongoing conversation between sources, scholars, and students.

4. Students will be able to identify and trace major themes, issues, and developments in the history of different world regions, and gain the ability to formulate comparative questions and arguments about different societies and cultures.

5. Students will be prepared for a wide range of postgraduate opportunities, especially those that value the ability to process complex information, to take multiple perspectives into account, and to communicate effectively and concisely.

What if I also have other interests?
History is an omnivorous discipline: when studying history, it is easy, and indeed almost inevitable, to study something else as well. In the course of their work, historians may also study politics, diplomacy, economics, religion, philosophy, art, literature, etc., always with an eye to the complex interrelations between different factors both in past societies and in our own. History will thus in many ways help you better understand any other interests you may have.

What do people do with a history degree?
History majors have excelled in all sorts of different ways.  Our own majors have pursued successfully a wide variety of career paths. While many go on to professional schools (law, medicine, engineering, etc.), many others have gone into finance, education at all levels, the performing arts, the military, the media, public policy and government or international organizations, and so on.  The widely believed cliché that a history major (or all humanities majors) limits one to teaching or teaching-related work could not be more wrong!

Whom can I ask for more information about the history major?
All faculty members in the Department will be happy to talk with you about the major. The Director of Undergraduate Studies, currently Professor Tommaso Astarita, is the person coordinating the major program as a whole: he can be reached at 7-5860 or at astaritt@georgetown.edu. His office is ICC 621 and he welcomes all visitors.

Can I get credit for courses taken abroad?
Yes. The major allows up to four courses to be transfered, from abroad or from other universities, both in summer and semester programs. Usually, you will need a syllabus for the course or courses you took away from Georgetown. Please consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies for further information.

Is there an Honors program?
Yes. Our strongest seniors may take a two-semester research seminar, the History Honors Seminar, in which they research and write a substantial thesis on a topic of their choice. Applications are due in Spring of junior year.