Students in history approach the study of the past through an immersion in materials and evidence, analysis and interpretation, creativity and imaginative endeavor.
Our classes emphasize creativity and conceptual thinking rooted in fact and historical complexity. Primary sources permeate our curriculum. They are gateways to a three-dimensional world, keys to unlock the study of the past. We also focus on individual student creativity, both in the exploration of the curriculum and in student work. Students in history can pursue their own intellectual questions and concerns, ones they develop with faculty through their time at the college. Because of the roles creativity and the creative arts play the department, history at Haverford is a strong home for students with an interest in interdisciplinary studies. Professors in the department work with literature, art, music, architecture, material objects and languages, analyzing what happens at the intersection between aesthetics and political culture.
In history courses students:
- master a foundation of knowledge about specific places and societies over time.
- think critically about the nature and production of historical knowledge.
- broaden and master research skills.
- learn disciplinary writing skills using evidence and crafting persuasive arguments.
History courses foster analysis and interpretation of the past and emphasize the development of cultures and ideas over the accumulation of facts. Courses offer students opportunities to pursue creative studies and develop their critical reading and writing skills.
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.
The senior thesis in the Department of History is a year year-long, two-credit research project on a topic the student chooses to investigate. In completing a thesis history students conduct original research and craft an extended argument. A history thesis is typically 40-50 pages.
In the spring semester of their junior year, history majors work with faculty mentors to compose an initial proposal that articulates a specific research question. In light of faculty feedback, students often spend the summer before their senior year doing preliminary archival research. In the fall semester students enroll in History 400A, a weekly seminar that gives students an opportunity to identify, survey, and analyze the sources they will use in their thesis and to review the relevant scholarship. In History 400A students refine their initial proposal and at the end of the semester hand in a thesis prospectus. In the spring semester students enroll in History 400B, a supervised research and writing seminar. Working under the guidance of two faculty advisors, students draft, revise, and submit a polished work of scholarship.
Senior Thesis Resources
A detailed description of the format, goals, and assessment criteria for the senior experience can be found in the complete departmental statement in the Catalog (PDF).
Requirements for Honors
Honors in history will be granted to those senior majors who, in the department’s judgment, have combined excellent performance in history courses with an excellent overall record. Typically, a grade of 3.7 or higher in a history course reflects honor-quality work.
Concentrations & Interdisciplinary Minors
History students often combine their study of the past with various complementary subjects, such as East Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, religion, or art history. Students have also found generative links between their study of history and interdisciplinary areas, including Environmental Studies, Museum Studies, and the Growth and Structure of Cities.
History students are encouraged to study abroad. In addition to acquiring fluency in a foreign language, students abroad benefit from exposure to other historical approaches and the proximity to rich archival resources. The history major is designed to facilitate such study abroad.