Letter from the Chair
Passionate about the study of history? You’re in good company.
We’re proud to be one of the nation’s largest and most dynamic history departments, with a special commitment to excellence in undergraduate education. All of our students – whether they take a single course or go on to a career with history – are engaged in developing a critical understanding of the past and its enduring impact on the present, and the future. You can take a closer look at our department and its teaching mission by watching the feature-length documentary Through the Lens of History by Anne Shivers Lukeman, '09.
From ancient Rome to contemporary China, from the Civil War to Viet Nam, from Latin America to the African Diaspora: whether you want to learn more about the situation in today’s Iran or the situation in Germany before World War I, this is the place for you. Whether you’re interested in gender and sexuality, law and society, science and technology, race and diversity, money and power – we have a course for you. Better yet, we have a whole range of courses that will allow you to put together a comprehensive program of undergraduate study. At the same time, we’ll encourage you to develop expertise in a specific area of history. By the time you graduate from Illinois, you will be a producer of history, a participant in the making of new historical knowledge. You may even win a grant that would enable you to pursue an independent research project. And you’ll have acquired skills of critical thinking, analysis, and communication that will be useful for a lifetime. Our graduates regularly go on to work in education, publishing, journalism, government, public policy, business, and a range of other fields. A number also go on to law school or graduate school.
In recent years, we’ve done a great deal to enhance our undergraduate curriculum, in order to ensure that all our students have a chance to work directly with professors in small seminars. All history majors begin by taking History 200, a gateway course introducing students to the basic methods and techniques of historical interpretation. Several of these small classes are offered each term, and they are organized around a variety of compelling topics that change from year to year, thus reflecting the up-to-date research of our faculty. In the junior or senior year, all history majors will take another seminar, History 498. This time, they’ll make history by researching and writing a work of original scholarship. These seminars, too, revolve around an array of special topics, allowing students with similar interests to work through the process of gathering, interpreting, and organizing historical evidence under the direction of an expert in the field.
If you’re interested in our Honors Program, you should be in touch with me or with Scott Bartlett, our Academic Advisor. Qualified students usually begin this program in the junior year with History 495, a research seminar that mirrors and meets with any History 498, and which also requires students to assemble a critical overview of their own scholarly work. Preparation for the Honors Senior Thesis continues with History 492, a seminar on the historical development of the historian’s craft and an introduction to new research methods; it culminates in the writing of a research proposal for work to be carried out in the senior year, under the supervision of an individual faculty advisor.
Interested? Still have a lot of questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you, and to helping you navigate your way through history.
Associate Professor of History & Director of Undergraduate Studies