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Department Overview

History is a discipline at the heart of the tradition of liberal learning, encompassing the social, political, economic, cultural, and intellectual traditions of humankind. Academic history develops skills in critical reading, listening, thinking, analysis, oral presentation, and in particular written expression. Simultaneously, the study of the past promotes attention to spiritual and ethical values and encourages respect for alternative traditions. Historians are society’s storytellers—and its most vital critics. They work at finding the truth about the past. In so doing, historians pay close attention to the diversity of the human experience. What better major for members of an increasingly multi-cultural nation and global community?

The Mission of Hope College's
Department of History

The mission of Hope College's History Department is to cultivate a deeper understanding of the past through the critical evaluation of multiple sources and perspectives and to prepare students for leadership and service in a global society.

To achieve this mission, the History Department:

  • offers courses that cover a wide range of time periods, regions, and themes;
  • makes writing a significant component of all coursework;
  • emphasizes the critical analysis of primary sources as part of historical research;
  • engages students in collaborative research experiences with faculty members; and
  • cultivates a diverse scholarly community.
Requirements for Majors and Minors

The History Major requires ten courses of work in History. Of these, seven are selected from courses in several specified areas while three are elective. The objectives of this major are threefold. First, it provides a general grounding in the discipline in terms of world areas, time periods, and themes. Second, it provides the opportunity for focused study in an area of particular interest or concern to the student. Finally, it requires mastery of historical methodology, demonstrated ability to do research, to think and read critically, and competence in writing sustained scholarly prose. In many ways, good writing is the most important value we add to a major’s experience with us. Students who complete the major are prepared to enter graduate or professional programs. They are also equipped to enter other careers which value the intellectual habit of seeking to explain complex events and demand high-level skills and creativity in written communication.

The History Major for Secondary Teaching is slightly more prescriptive than the regular major. The department works closely with the Education Department to ensure our graduates exceed the requirements for the state’s teacher certification examination.

The History Minor complements a major chosen from an ancillary discipline with six courses of fairly closely specified work. Minors (or double majors) have linked their work in history with an outside major as a means toward specific careers. These include majors in communication for careers in journalism, political science (for government service), religion for ministry or theological studies, English (for American studies or creative writing), management for careers in business, sociology (for criminal justice), theatre for dramaturgy or dance for dance history.

Majors and minors are sought after by members of the department who carry out collaborative faculty-student research projects and as teaching assistants in introductory courses. Majors and minors also have the possibility of internships locally as well as through off-campus study programs. As well, they are encouraged to undertake independent research and to present this at on and off-campus venues.

Critical Thinking Skills

The content and subject matter of history is designed to create opportunities for students to mature intellectually. That is to say, names and dates represent means rather than ends. The ends—that lead to robust critical thinking skills—include analysis of primary and secondary sources to construct valid arguments, and the presentation of those arguments using written and oral communication. Such enterprises go to the heart of the educational mission of Hope College. Achievement in history as discipline and discourse is commonly measured in terms of coherent written presentation of cogent and sustained argument supported by appropriate use of evidence. The evaluation of what happens to a History major is to be found in intellectually successful lives. Hence, our goal for students is that they become independent thinkers by the time they graduate; that is, by asking whether they have matured intellectually to the point that they no longer need us.

 

 

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