Jul 20, 2024  
College Catalog 2024-2025 
College Catalog 2024-2025


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Full Time Faculty: Walter Greason (Chair), Ernesto Capello (History/Latin American Studies), Jessica Pearson, Katie Phillips, Linda Sturtz, Yue-him Tam, Karin Vélez

The discipline of history investigates events and cultures of the past by focusing on specific historical eras, particular geographic areas, and/or compelling thematic issues. It uses a wide range of written, visual, oral, and material evidence as the basis for constructing contemporary accounts about the past. Historical accounts suggest not only how the past has shaped the present but how any contemporary arrangement represents only one possible result of previous struggles and contingencies. In this sense, history highlights discontinuity as well as pattern, difference as well as similarity, conflict as well as consensus, trauma as well as triumph.

The history department seeks to serve an array of educational goals for both majors and non-majors. Our first priority is to teach students to think historically. We recognize that our courses cannot cover every time period or geographic area. Rather, we seek to examine the interpretive problems that historians encounter while practicing their own discipline and when interacting with other fields of academic study and we encourage our students to apply the techniques of historical analysis both to their study of the past and to the problems of the contemporary world.

Members of the department strive to encourage a broad interdisciplinary approach and to develop students’ proficiencies in analysis, writing, and speaking. As a result, students with any academic major who wish to explore discrete eras in time, different parts of the world, or specific historical issues should find departmental offerings, particularly at the introductory and intermediate levels, appropriate for their undergraduate education. The history department participates in many interdisciplinary programs and majors including African studies, American studies, Asian studies, environmental studies, humanities and media and cultural studies, international studies, Latin American studies, legal studies, urban studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. For details, consult the appropriate descriptions elsewhere in the catalog.

Courses in history contribute to general education and the understanding of an individual’s place in society, preparing students to be better informed, active citizens in their community, nation, and world. Although an undergraduate major at Macalester can lead to specialized graduate-level study in history, most graduates pursue non-academic careers. Skills and perspectives developed through a history major, augmented by internship opportunities when appropriate, help prepare students for positions in professions such as teaching, law, business, international relations, and library and archival work; they may also contribute broadly to building successful careers in government, business, and the nonprofit sector.

The department expects its majors to:

  • Become acquainted with the many, often competing, ways in which historians construct accounts of the past;
  • Become conversant with different approaches to textual analysis, with diverse forms of historical representation, with a wide range of conceptual frameworks, and with varied ways of assessing and interpreting evidence from the past;
  • Become more proficient in a) using a variety of research and informational tools, b) analyzing and evaluating historical arguments, and c) writing and speaking clearly and concisely;
  • Come to appreciate the diversity in human experience through comparisons across time (different historical eras) and space (different geographic regions).

General Distribution Requirement

All history courses count toward the general distribution requirement in humanities except for HIST 305 , which counts as social science general distribution. Topics courses that are taught by faculty in other departments but are cross-listed with History fulfill the general distribution requirement selected by that department.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and U.S. identities and differences will be posted on the Registrar’s web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information regarding the general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements  section of this catalog.

Honors Program

The history department participates in the honors program. Students working on honors projects must take HIST 490  in the fall of their senior year and can undertake an independent study under the supervision of their honors thesis advisor the following spring. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the department are available from either the department office or the Academic Programs and Advising Office.

Topics Courses

HIST 194 , HIST 294 , HIST 394 , HIST 494  

Topics courses are occasional, often experimental courses, offered by instructors at their own initiative or in response to student requests. Recent topics courses include: Great Lakes American Indian Histories; Making History: Russian Cinema as Testimony, Propaganda and Art; From Telenovelas to Tacos: Popular Culture in Mexican History; The Victorian Empire: 1830s to 1910; Monks, Lords, War & Pestilence: Europe 950-1350; Ethics of Service; Indigenous Peoples and Museums; Modern German History, 1871-Present; History of Feminisms; US in the 1930s; France & Germany: Neighbors, Nations and Citizenship; French Revolution to European Integration; Medieval Travelers & Their Accounts; Transnational Latin Americas

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of tutorials, independent projects, internships, and preceptorships. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum  section of the catalog.

Course levels

Courses numbered 100-199 are introductory in nature. They are introductions both to the study of history and to the history of a particular part of the world. As introductions to the study of history, they all aim at teaching students to think historically and to understand that human activity must be understood in the context of a specific time and place. In addition they contain a number of “skills” components, though, in keeping with the nature of history as a time and placelinked discipline, those “skills” are taught in the context of a particular history rather than as abstract theory. 100-level courses will include attention to understanding the distinction between primary and secondary sources, examining and evaluating evidence, formulating an argument, analyzing competing arguments, and understanding the nature of history as it is constructed by historians. Courses numbered 200-299 are intermediate in nature and are driven by specific content. Some are surveys of a relatively broad period; others may examine a narrower topic. 200-level courses are appropriate to majors and non-majors alike, and may be taken by students of any class-standing though the bulk of students enrolled in these classes will probably be sophomores and juniors. Courses numbered 300-399 are aimed at history majors and minors, though they may also enroll other students who have an interest. They are generally narrower in focus than 200-level courses and many will involve some degree of independent research. Courses 400-649 are advanced seminars and independent projects ordinarily taken by seniors.


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