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Major in History
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Historians explore the past to gain insight into human nature as revealed by individuals or by societies. The record of our past details our potential for creativity, leadership, idealism, courage, and discipline, and also for strife, repression, and destruction. It describes, too, the possibilities and limits of our capacity for change. In this sense historians are at once students of psychology, philosophy, sociology, political science, economics, and culture who frame ideas about humanity against the story of our collective achievements and follies.
Historical study has wide-ranging value. It sharpens one’s abilities to read critically, to interpret imaginatively, and to write precisely. It also imparts understanding of a discipline that incorporates many others—indeed history spans the science of human behavior in all its forms. Training in history prepares students for jobs not only in schools and archives, but also in every field that calls for critical thought and the ability to gauge current prospects and choices from earlier developments. A number of distinguished academic historians began their careers as history majors at Colby, but the majority of majors have gone on to varied professional and business careers, including journalism, the law, marketing and politics, as well as historical preservation, museum work, and media research.
Consistent with the liberal arts tradition, the history faculty offers exposure to diverse topics, eras, and methods. A history major’s program of 12 semester courses includes course work in the history of many different world regions, plus a research methods course to introduce the discipline of history. All majors are required to take a 400-level research seminar that involves writing a substantial research paper. The history curriculum includes some large survey courses popular with both majors and non-majors, but classes of 10 to 30 students are more typical.
Many history students elect a second major. In order to assist double majors, the History Department permits students to take up to two courses among the 12 required for the major from a list of related courses in other departments. The History Department also works closely with programs in African-American, American, East Asian, Latin American, International, and Women’s Studies.
The history faculty strongly encourages the personal interaction possible in a small college like Colby, and the department sponsors lectures, discussions, and social events for students and faculty. Majors who gain election to the History Student Review Board play a significant part in discussing departmental programs and policies.
The History Department has faculty members whose special fields include a wide range of cultures, periods, and topics. We are all glad to discuss the Colby History Program and to answer questions.