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The study of history fosters a critical approach to the human past, an acquaintance with past and present issues of social justice, and an awareness of human diversity. History courses provide an opportunity for students to gain knowledge of the human past and present in order to locate themselves and others in a historical, social, and intellectual context. History courses also convey an appreciation of history as an academic discipline with its own rules of inquiry.

The history major teaches students to analyze historical problems from several perspectives, to use primary sources and historical literature critically and effectively, and to employ historical perspectives and sources appropriately in the construction of oral and written accounts of the human past. History majors acquire both general knowledge of the human past and more detailed knowledge of a concentration within the field of historical inquiry.

The Department of History offers major and minor programs in history and in history for secondary and middle school teachers. In every program a student with a strong academic background may, with the department's consent, substitute courses on the 200 or 300 level for the required 100-level history courses and History 143 and 144.