Haverford’s Department of History is a vibrant community of students and faculty committed to illuminating the past—with rigor, innovation, and a deep appreciation of the complex social and cultural forces underlying any single moment in time.
We welcome students with a wide range of interests, including those that span the disciplines. Their diverse perspectives and investigations—which include art, literature, music, and languages, among many other areas—are a vital part of the dynamism of the department.
Curriculum & Courses
Our program puts a strong emphasis on engagement with primary sources and other historical evidence, and equips students with the tools to analyze and interpret them. Our classes stress, and our accomplished faculty model, imaginative analysis rooted in fact.
Breadth and depth characterize our course of study. Majors develop a familiarity with the broad outlines of history, the range of interpretations advanced by historians, and the debates connected to the writing of history, while also cultivating an interest in—and undertaking a focused study of—a particular topic.
Students typically begin the major by completing two semesters of introductory (100-level) coursework. While courses at this level cover a range of regions, periods, and areas of study, all train students to be discerning readers of primary texts and to build persuasive arguments.
Majors then move on to 200- and 300-level courses. We require majors to select courses that span three fields. These three fields are chosen from the six defined fields (U.S., Early European, Modern European, Latin American, East Asian, and History of Science and Medicine) that we offer. Majors can also design a field to reflect their own interests. Our 200-level classes and 300-level seminars typically cover a broad range of sources and analytical approaches and emphasize research skills. As seniors, majors investigate a specific historical question and produce a Senior Thesis.
To complete the history major, students must take eleven courses distributed across the history curriculum.
Students take any two 100-level courses, which introduce both historical materials and the skills we expect in the major.
They then take seven 200- and 300-level courses, of which at least two must be 300-level seminars. Students should take at least one of their 300-level seminars by the second semester of the junior year. Students select courses from different fields of concentration, e.g., European history, U.S. history, East Asian history, Latin American history, history of science and medicine. Students can also design a field based on courses offered at Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore. Students who study overseas often take advantage of courses abroad to enrich their major. All majors must complete three geographic, temporal or thematic fields by taking two courses (above the 100 level) within a field to complete that field requirement.
Over the course of their senior year, all history majors write a year-long, i.e., two-semester, senior thesis, as described below. During the fall they complete their research in the thesis seminar. In the spring they work one-on-one with their faculty advisors to write and revise their theses.
Research & Outreach
The history major culminates with each student producing a substantial piece of original research over the course of their senior year. Majors can choose to develop and complete their theses during the fall semester or over the full year. Both paths require them to be part of our Senior Thesis Seminar during the fall semester. Those who elect to spend the year developing their theses continue to take the Seminar in the spring semester.
In Senior Seminar, students choose a topic, identify a set of primary materials (often housed in one of Philadelphia’s many archives), define an argument, and draft their theses. In addition to the Seminar’s group meetings, seniors meet one-on-one with their thesis advisors throughout the year.
This history course analyzes “the first phase of globalization in world history,” a complex historical process rooted in the ancient and medieval worlds.
Helbock's senior thesis attempts to analyze Tarkovsky and assess his relationship to the Russian intelligentsia and the dissident movements of the late twentieth century, as well as his relationship with spirituality and religion.
Jones' senior thesis explores the significance of The Brownies’ Book to early 20th century integrationist efforts of racial uplift, while examining how the periodical fit into the era’s predominantly white and racially discriminatory world of children’s literature.
Students emerge from our major with skills and perspectives that are vital to a number of professional pursuits. Business, journalism, education, law, and social work are just a handful of the fields our graduates enter. In these professions and more, they are well-served by their ability to construct cogent arguments, to evaluate evidence, and to think critically and question assumptions.
Hillinck is working as a production assistant for the media and technology department of Steinway & Sons, the famous piano makers.
Bornstein works as a librarian/archivist for the Alaska State Library.
Findley is working for the aquatic geochemistry laboratory at the University of Michigan, which will require him to travel to Toolik Field Station, a research base in the far north of Alaska, to collect and analyze samples.
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