Welcome to the Department of History at Sweet Briar College!
"History is not, as someone once said, 'just one damn thing after another.' Unless it is badly taught or written, it is not a dry record of events; it is about how people experience, study, and interpret the past. Each generation reviews and rewrites history in the light of its own experiences and understandings, aspirations, and anxieties. Different societies, different groups within society, and even different individuals will often disagree about the meaning of events, the ways in which events happened, and even, sometimes, whether events happened at all. There is no single history that tells the whole story; there can be many different histories, telling many different stories, and many different ways of remembering, recording, and recounting the past."---Colin Calloway, First peoples: A documentary survey of American Indian History (Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 1999), p. 2. Emphasis in the original.
History is the study of the record of past human experience. Historians understand the term "record" very broadly, so that the line between history and various other disciplines is sometimes a thin one. However, history has its own methodologies, separating it from other disciplines which generally do not focus on change over time.
The History Department has two major educational goals. First, each student gains insight into other times and cultures as she learns about the past. She discovers what has endured and how these events shaped the modern world. Second, the student gains experience in gathering, evaluating, and interpreting large and varied amounts of information, allowing her to sharpen her ability to communicate her findings to others both orally and in clear prose.
Our program prepares the student for a professional career, in which clear thinking, analysis, and writing are essential skills.