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Undergraduate Programs in History

History seeks to understand and to explain the story of human experience, since the past provides the only laboratory of human experience actually lived. Historical study complements and builds on the foundational courses in the core through its appreciation of the complexity of humankind, recognizing in the men and women who make history the intellectual, the material, social, and spiritual diversity of the human condition. History further advances the goals of the core curriculum through an interdisciplinary methodology that seeks to reconstruct our collective past. It is the story of individuals, and the story of the political, religious, economic, and social ideologies and institutions they create in their search for identity, purpose, and value. History recognizes both the commonality of the human experience and the reality of cultural, class, racial, and gender distinctions that enrich that experience.

Criteria for the History core course:

  • A thematic or topical approach (as opposed to a survey) to a relatively broad period of time covering more than a century involving the interactions of several different cultures, including those outside of what is traditionally viewed as the West.
  • A focus on historical methodology as well as historical information.
  • Significant amounts of reading, writing, and discussion, using primary sources and historical scholarship, which may include journal articles, monographs, and works of synthesis.
  • Emphasis on understanding change and continuity within the selected geographical area and chronological period.

Goals for the History core course:

  • Students will develop an understanding of the specific historical content of the course.
  • The course will acquaint students with the rich variety of sources that historians use to explore the past.
  • Students will begin to develop critical historical skills including chronological reasoning, an awareness of periodization, the ability to analyze sources, and an ability to make comparisons in context.

Outcomes for the History core course:

  • The course will help students “achieve a synthesis of knowledge that provides a basis for informed judgment, not simply fact finding,” by teaching them to develop an appreciation of how different historical circumstances contribute to a diversity of views and experiences.
  • Students will learn that historical inquiry is an ongoing process, “that the present is recognizably formed from past influences” but also that the present influences our understanding of the past. They will learn to identify the historical roots of contemporary issues and challenges, with attention to social values and the role of religion in the human experience.
  • Students will acquire a new understanding of specific historical subjects that will provide an entrée into other core courses and programs such as Peace and Justice, Environmental Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and various area studies programs.
  • The course will enhance students’ ability to communicate, in written and verbal form, thesis-driven arguments about the past and strengthen their critical thinking by teaching them how to analyze and critique historical evidence and arguments.

Educational Objectives Information

Junior Research Seminar

In their junior year, history majors must take at least one designated topical research seminar. Restricted to majors only, the seminar introduces students to research methods, sources, and historiography – how historians have reconstructed, interpreted, and written about the past. By examining diverse interpretations and historical controversies, the seminars help students develop their abilities to critique historical arguments and develop their own. The department offers two or three seminars each semester on topics such as "American Colonial History," "Twentieth-Century Military History," "The Renaissance," "Making Sense of the Sixties," and "Artifacts and History."

Senior Research Seminar

The capstone experience for majors is History 5501, the Seminar in Historical Methodology, taken in the senior year or, in some cases, the second semester of the junior year. The seminar lets students to practice history themselves by conducting independent research and writing an original work of historical interpretation based on that research. The seminar is both an individual and a collaborative undertaking. With the guidance and assistance of the seminar instructor, each student chooses his or her own topic, develops a hypothesis or set of questions, identifies and tracks down relevant primary source materials, and writes a work of scholarship that presents the research findings and conclusions. Some students use the riches of such local archives as the Temple University Urban Archive, while others have conducted research as far away as the National Archives in Washington, or the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Students collaborate with each other by discussing their progress and reading drafts of the thesis as it evolves from outline to the final, polished product. The final paper is usually between 20 to 25 pages.