History Website


Chair, Professor WILLIAM G. WAGNER

Professors: R. DALZELL, DEW, KOHUT, KUNZEL, SINGHAM*, W. WAGNER, WATERS, WOOD**. Associate Professors: MUTONGI, WILDER*, WONG*. Assistant Professors: GOLDBERG, HICKS, KITTLESON**, MARUKO*, MERRILL, REEVES, WHALEN. Visiting Professor: GUNDERSHEIMER§§. Boskey Visiting Assistant Professor: GARBARINI§§. Visiting Assistant Professors: AUBERT, LATCHAM, STARENKO. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow: RINGER. Kaneb Teaching Fellow: KOBES DU MEZ.


Although the History Department aspires to pursue a variety of goals, our core objectives remain the cultivation in our students of a critical understanding and awareness of the past and the development of our students' intellectual, analytical, and rhetorical abilities. In pursuit of the first objective, through its curricular offerings the department seeks both to expose students to the richness, diversity, and complexities of human history over long periods of time and in different geographic regions and to provide students with the opportunity to explore aspects of the past in depth. At the same time, the department endeavors to develop students' ability to think historically and to foster in them an appreciation of the contested nature and the value of historical knowledge by confronting them with the variety of ways in which historians have approached and interpreted the past, engaging them in issues that provoke historical debate, and familiarizing them with the nature and uses of historical evidence. By engaging students in the critical study of the past, finally, the department seeks to develop their ability to formulate historically informed opinions and their analytical and rhetorical skills generally. While members of the department attempt to accomplish these multiple objectives individually through their particular courses and their other contacts with students, the department seeks to do so collectively through the structure of the History curriculum and the requirements of the History major.


The course numbering system used by the History Department reflects the different types and objectives of courses offered at each level. The different course levels are distinguished less by degree of difficulty than by the purposes that the courses at each level are intended to serve and the background knowledge they presume.

First-Year Seminars and Tutorials (102-199): These writing intensive courses introduce students to the richness of historical approaches to the past and to the contested subjects on which historians focus. They emphasize the acquisition of skills needed in the advanced study of history and are ideal for students contemplating a major in History. Each seminar is limited to nineteen students, and each tutorial, to ten students. In the case of seminars, preference will be given to first-year students and then to sophomores. First-year students and sophomores will be given equal preference in the case of tutorials, to which the writing of five or six essays and the oral presentation of five or six critiques of another student's essays are central. In any case, first-year students will not normally be permitted to enroll in a tutorial during their first semester. Because first-year seminars and tutorials serve as an introduction to the study of history, only one course of each type may count toward the History major; these courses can also be used to meet the department's group and concentration requirements.

Introductory Survey Courses (202-299): These courses are open to all students and are intended to provide a basic understanding of the history of peoples, countries, and geographic regions over relatively long time-spans. Most of all, they will provide students with the background necessary for more advanced study in history at the 300 and 400 level. They are offered in either small or large formats, depending on the individual course.

Junior Seminars (301): Junior seminars offer a series of "reflections on history," are required for the degree in History, and are normally restricted to junior History majors. Each seminar focuses in depth on questions of methodology, historiography, and/or epistemology and is intended to introduce students to various ways of thinking about and "doing" history, both in the present and in the past. Each year several junior seminars will be offered; prospective majors must select two junior seminars at the end of their sophomore year and will then be assigned to one of their two choices. If students are studying away from Williams during their junior year, they must enroll in a junior seminar during their senior year.

Advanced Electives (302-399): These advanced, topical courses are more specialized in focus than are the introductory survey courses (202-299) and are intended to follow such courses. Enrollment is often limited. Because these courses may presume some background knowledge, the instructor may recommend that students enroll in an appropriate introductory course before registering for an advanced elective.

Advanced Seminars (402-479): These are advanced courses normally limited in enrollment to fifteen students. Each seminar will investigate a topic in depth and will require students to engage in research that leads to a substantial piece of historical writing. All History majors are required to complete either an advanced seminar (402-479) or a tutorial (480-492). Instructors may recommend prior coursework in the area of the seminar. Priority will be given to senior History majors, followed by junior History majors.

Advanced Tutorials (480-492): These are advanced reading and writing courses that offer an in-depth analysis of a topic in tutorial format. Tutorials are limited in enrollment to ten students and priority will be given to senior History majors. All History majors are required to complete either an advanced seminar (402-479) or a tutorial (480-492). Instructors may recommend prior coursework in the area of the tutorial. The writing of five or six essays and the oral presentation of five or six critiques of another student's essays are central to tutorials.

Within each of these levels, courses are further divided by geographical area:

Africa and the Middle East 102-111 202-211 302-311 402-411
Asia 112-121 212-221 312-321 412-421
Europe and Russia 122-141 222-241 322-341 422-441
Latin America and the Caribbean 142-151 242-251 342-351 442-451
United States 152-191 252-291 352-391 452-471
Transnational/Comparative 192-199 292-299 392-396 472-479


Both majors and non-majors are encouraged to talk at any time with Professor Wagner, the department chair, Mrs. Swift, the department administrative assistant, or any other member of the department about the History major.

All majors will be assigned a faculty advisor. All majors must meet with their advisor, or the department chair, during the first week of classes during the fall semester and at the time of the spring semester registration period in order to have their courses and plans for the History major approved. Students who are interested in the senior honors program or graduate school should contact Professor Wong. Prospective study abroad students should contact Mrs. Swift.


Beginning with the class of 2002, students will be granted one semester course credit toward the course requirement in the History major if they receive a score of 4 or 5 on one or more of the Advanced Placement examinations in history. Even if two or more Advanced Placement examinations are taken, and the student receives a 4 or 5 on more than one of them, only one semester course credit will be applied toward the course requirement in the History major. Moreover, such credit may not be used to satisfy the group requirements or concentration requirements.


The major consists of at least nine semester courses as follows:

Required Courses in the Major

One Junior Seminar (History 301)

At least one Advanced Seminar (History 402-479) or Tutorial (History 480-492)

Elective Courses

Seven (or more) additional semester courses in History, at least one of these to be chosen from each of the following three groups:

Group A: History of the United States

Group B: European History (including Russian History)

Group C: History of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and/or Latin-American and the Caribbean

In addition, students must take at least one course dealing with the premodern period (designated Group D in the catalog); this may be one of the courses used to fulfill the group requirement (Groups A-C).

A single course can meet the requirement for no more than one of Groups A through C. Only one First-year seminar and one First-year tutorial (102-199) may be used to meet the group requirements.

Concentration in the Major

All students are required to adopt a concentration within the History major. The concentration should be selected in consultation with a faculty advisor at spring registration during the sophomore year. A list of concentrations is appended below and a list of the courses that fall within each concentration is available from the History Department office and can also be found on the department's website. Students must choose to concentrate in one of these eighteen broad areas unless they petition the department's Curriculum Committee to substitute a concentration of their own design. A concentration will consist of at least three courses linked by common themes, geography, or time period; only one of those courses can be a 100-level seminar while at least one must be a 300- or 400-level course. Courses in the concentration may be used to fulfill the group requirements. In selecting courses to meet their concentration requirement, students should be aware that not every course is offered every year. Courses taken abroad may be included in the concentration with the approval of the chair.

1. Africa and the African Diaspora
2. Asia and the Asian Diaspora
3. Comparative Slavery
4. Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Europe
5. Early Modern Europe
6. Modern Europe
7. Gender and Sexuality
8. History of Ideas
9. Imperialism, Nationalism, and European Expansion
10. Latin America and the Caribbean
11. Latin America and the Latina/o Diaspora
12. Religion
13. The Twentieth-Century World
14. Colonial North America and the United States to 1865
15. The United States Since 1865
16. Race and Ethnicity in North America
17. Urban and Environmental History
18. War and Revolution


The History Department offers a thesis route to the degree with honors in History. This involves a ten-course major as well as an independent WSP. Students wishing to undertake independent research or considering graduate study are encouraged to participate in the thesis program and honors seminar.

Application to enter the honors program should be made by spring registration in the junior year and should be based on a solid record of work of honors caliber, normally defined as maintaining at least a B+ average in courses taken for the major. Students who intend to write an honors thesis must submit a proposal to the History Department at this time. Students who will be away during the spring semester of their junior year should make arrangements to apply before leaving. Normally, it is the responsibility of the individual student to procure the agreement of a member of the department to act as his or her thesis advisor, and the student must therefore consult with a member of the department about a thesis topic and a possible thesis advisor prior to submitting a proposal to the department. A student who is uncertain of which member of the department might be an appropriate advisor, or who otherwise is unable to find an advisor, should contact the chair of the honors committee. An honors thesis proposal must be signed by a member of the History Department. Normally, the thesis topic should be related to course work which the student has previously done. Students should be aware, however, that while the department will try to accommodate all students who qualify to pursue honors, particular topics may be deemed unfeasible and students may have to revise their topics accordingly. Final admission to the honors thesis program will depend on the department's assessment of the qualifications of the student and the feasibility of the project.

Once the student has been notified of admission to the honors thesis program, he or she should register for History 493, Senior Honors Thesis Research Seminar, in the fall semester, for History 031 during winter study, and for History 494, Senior Honors Thesis Writing Seminar, in the spring. In addition to doing the research for and writing a thesis of approximately 75-100 pages, students will attend special presentations under the History Department's Class of 1960 Scholars Program.

During the fall, students should work regularly on their research and consult frequently with their advisors. Throughout the semester, honors candidates will also present written progress reports for group discussion to the seminar (History 493). Performance in the seminar will be evaluated on the basis of class participation and completed written work and will determine if a student will continue in the thesis program. For students proceeding to History 031 and History 494, performance in the fall semester will figure into the thesis grade calculated at the end of the year.

Students who are deemed to be making satisfactory progress on their research and writing at this point will be allowed to continue with the thesis. They will devote the entire winter study period to thesis work. They should conclude their research during winter study and complete at least one chapter of their thesis for submission to their advisor before the end of winter study. At the end of winter study, the honors committee will formally consult with advisors and make recommendations to the department concerning which students should be allowed to proceed with the thesis. During the early weeks of the second semester, students will present a draft chapter of their thesis to the honors seminar.

Completed theses will be due in mid-April, after which each student will prepare and present a short oral presentation of his or her thesis for delivery at the departmental Honors Colloquium. Another student who has read the thesis will then offer a critique of it, after which the two faculty readers of the thesis will offer their own comments and questions. Finally, there will be a general discussion of the thesis by students and other members of the department.


Study of a foreign language is basic to the understanding of other cultures. Particularly those students who might wish to do graduate work in History are encouraged to enroll in language courses at Williams.