Mission Statement and Learning Goals
The past matters. The discipline of history works to understand the past on its own terms and reveals its relevance for the present.
History analyzes human experience in context as it changes over time. It examines the complex intersections between human actions and the social, cultural, economic, environmental, and political forces at work in particular times and places. History uncovers the relationship between past developments and current conditions and it highlights the contingent, constructed nature of contemporary social structures and power relations. Historians construct interpretations of the past that illuminate the commonality and the diversity of individual and group experiences within and across societies. They also explore how human societies remember and represent the past and analyze how historical interpretations change over time. Thus the study of history reveals how people have used the past to create meaning for their lives.
The CSB/SJU History program supports the liberal arts mission by providing students with insight into the human condition while also building skills in critical analysis and effective communication. We lead students into an empathetic encounter with the past and engage them in the practice of historical interpretation. Together we imagine and reconstruct people's lives across place and time and within diverse circumstances. In these ways, the History program supports the colleges' commitment to global education and cultural literacy. We cultivate an understanding of how the past molds but does not determine the present, and we examine how current realities are historically constructed rather than naturally given. By encouraging students to recognize complexity and question the status quo, we prepare them to become effective citizens and contribute to the common good. Ultimately, the History program nurtures the curiosity and careful thinking that prepare students for a thoughtful and aware life.
Why study History?
Students of history develop intellectual skills and habits of mind that prepare them to find meaningful work and become successful in a wide variety of careers. They do so by learning how to interpret the past through the process of historical analysis. The study of history also encourages a lifelong effort to understand the human experience and prepares students to engage with the concerns of contemporary societies.
History students learn to:
- Analyze data by breaking complex entities into component parts, comparing and contrasting them, and constructing cause and effect relationships among them;
- Synthesize information by selecting and marshaling relevant evidence into an explanatory narrative;
- Evaluate arguments by weighing the validity of their premises, methodology, and conclusions;
- Argue a position by carefully weighing divergent interpretations and grounding conclusions in evidence;
- Write clearly by employing logical organization and precise language; and
- Discuss effectively by respectfully listening to and participating in intellectual conversations to deepen understanding.
Principles of Historical Analysis
History students discover that:
- Societies and cultures change over time and that no single human experience is universal
- People are shaped by their historical context
- Primary sources are influenced by their historical circumstances
- Historians construct disparate interpretations of the past and these interpretations change over time
Historical Habits of Mind
History students develop:
- A curiosity about the past and its relationship to the present
- An appreciation of the complexity of the past
- A practice of analyzing things in context rather than in isolation
- A practice of grounding interpretations in evidence
- An intellectual imagination that allows for a sympathetic understanding of others
History students are prepared to:
- Understand how the past has shaped contemporary societies
- Participate actively and knowledgeably as democratic citizens
- Interact respectfully with others in a global society
- Seek meaning and pursue positive change in the world
The History program addresses multiple audiences-from students who take a single history course to fulfill a Common Curriculum requirement to History majors.
All students will
- analyze primary sources for perspective conditioned by the document's purpose, its audience, its historical context, and/or the author's identity
- synthesize appropriate evidence from a variety of course materials to construct plausible arguments about the past
- explain the multiple causes of historical change.
History majors will hone the above skills to some sophistication. Building upon these skills and in addition to them, History majors will
- evaluate secondary sources for argument, methodology, and evidence;
- identify and evaluate the historiographical development of a particular topic; and
- craft a substantial research paper based on primary sources that situates the author's original argument within the historiography of the topic.