The department encourages students to pursue imaginative, relevant, and inspired approaches to the national and global past. Students gain vital skills in writing, critical thinking, and the evaluation of information.
The Krieger School classifies history as both a social scientific and humanistic discipline. This accords very well with the wide range of explanatory and interpretive approaches to the past that now prevail in the discipline of history. One of the history program’s goals is to introduce students to these varied approaches. Although the department offers strong preparation for students who seek to specialize in a particular cultural or geographic region, history at Johns Hopkins is primarily issue and topic oriented. It also puts a premium on developing the capacity to reason comparatively and on deepening the student’s understanding of global connections among cultures in the past and in contemporary life.
The department offers undergraduate courses that range from large introductory classes to small, focused seminars that encourage intensive interaction with individual professors and with other students. Beyond the introductory level, most of our courses are also writing intensive and promote in all students critical reading skills and the ability to formulate effective written arguments. Through its core curriculum, the major deepens these capabilities and also cultivates skills specific to the historian, especially research and writing based upon the systematic analysis of primary documents. The department also offers a minor in history, an honors track for the highly qualified major culminating in a senior honors thesis, and a BA/MA program for the exceptional student.
We also strongly encourage interdisciplinary learning through our affiliations with programs such as the Center for Africana Studies; the programs in East Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, Judaic Studies, and in the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.
The overall aim of the undergraduate program is to deepen the critical habits of mind that arise from the study of time and change. These capacities are the hallmarks of liberal learning, but they are also the foundation for success in post-graduate studies and careers of many kinds, including business, law, and public affairs.
The history major is designed to cultivate the capacity to:
- Read historical scholarship critically and analytically and distinguish basic differences in modes of explanation and interpretation
- Locate and evaluate a wide range of primary sources, including documents in languages other than English, unpublished texts and visual materials, artifacts and archeological remains, and more
- Reason carefully from evidence and construct sound arguments based upon evidence
- Write clearly and cogently in both long- and short-form essays
- Manage and organize an independent project with a long time horizon
- Compare past and contemporary societies, polities, and cultures
- Understand the historical origins of contemporary life, yet retain a sense of what makes the peoples, social organization, and cultures of the past distinctive
- Better appreciate variation in human values and cultures, past and present.
The history major will be prepared for entry into PhD programs in history and allied disciplines, but also for post-graduate educations and successful careers in business, law, and public affairs.