Dr. Sara Berry
Director of Undergraduate Studies
394 Gilman Hall
The Department of History, one of the largest in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, offers undergraduates diverse courses that range from large, introductory classes to smaller, focused seminars. The kind of history taught in these classes depends largely on the interests of individual professors, but in general it has very little to do with the kind of narrative history taught in secondary school with its emphasis on names and dates and asking students to remember "what happened?" at a given place or time. In comparison, history at Hopkins, while it generally has a narrative thread, is primarily issue- and topic-oriented. Students are introduced to the complexities of historical causation as well to areas of the past that rarely find their way into high school history courses. In general, the idea is to allow students to appreciate the variety of history, how history comes to be written and understood, and its relevance to both the present and future.
History at Hopkins is both a social scientific and humanistic discipline, and for this reason history courses are coded both "H" ( for humanities credit) and "S" (for credit in the social sciences). This double coding reflects the complexity of a subject which, depending on the professor and the particular subject examined, can be regarded as a "process" that seemingly obeys certain, still poorly-understood laws, but also a discipline that regards each individual moment in history as individual and unique. In practice, students will find that the "hard" side of history (demographic and economic history, and certain aspects of social history as well) mixes quite well with the "soft" side, with its emphasis on cultural and intellectual history. Nevertheless, whatever the particular brand of history purveyed in an individual course, the overarching idea is to allow students to deepen their understanding of (and appreciation for) the historical process itself.
History at Hopkins is also an "art" to the extent that it generally requires considerable reading, in both primary and secondary sources, and a considerable amount of writing. For this reason, most history courses are officially coded "writing intensive." They tend also to entail independent research and the confection of term papers of varying lengths. In doing these projects, students learn how to assimilate and synthesize their research and to present their findings clearly and legibly, an invaluable skill and one that can be put to use in a variety of careers. They also learn to work on their own and, in so doing, master self-motivation, another skill that proves useful for life after graduation. In fact, for these reasons, history provides a broad, useful training for a variety of careers, particularly law, business, foundations, government, teaching, the public sector, etc. A few (only a very few) elect to become historians.
History Major Checklist
History Minor Checklist
Foundations: An Undergraduate Journal in History