Affiliation: School of Social & Cultural Studies
The discipline of History as it is practiced today, with its emphasis on meticulous research and dispassionate interpretation of the events of the past, has claimed a central role in the modern liberal arts curriculum since the mid-nineteenth century. The working historian draws continuously upon the content and methodologies of other disciplines, while contributing critical dimensions of depth and cosmopolitanism to other scholars’ understandings of their own disciplines, by recalling and illuminating the political, economic, and social contexts in which those disciplines and their subjects of study evolved.
At the undergraduate level, History serves much the same function. Historians do not predict the future, but they do help to explicate the present by focusing on the choices that individuals and societies have made as they faced the exigencies of the past: the “winning” choices that carried our human universe to where it is today, as well as the “losing” choices—the roads not taken. The undergraduate should carry a familiarity with the history of his or her own and other societies to his or her study of the arts and sciences and to his or her role as a responsible, knowledgeable, active citizen of the cosmopolis.
Besides fostering tolerance, informed civic responsibility, and an attitude of celebration toward the social and aesthetic richness of cultural pluralism, the study of History aids the undergraduate in developing skills of meticulous research, critical thinking, and lucid, graceful, effective expository writing.
The undergraduate who majors in History at Truman gains familiarity with the history of the United States and the world community. All majors fulfill four core requirements: a foundational two-semester sequence taken during the first year of study (World History I & II) that ties development of grammatical skills and use of primary source material to knowledge and themes essential to understanding the global community; a US historiography course taken within a year of beginning the major (HIST 3103 - US History and Historiography, Through Reconstruction or HIST 3104 - Historiography of the Modern United States ) that ties continued development of grammatical skills and the use of primary source material, along with exploration of historical interpretation, to the knowledge and theses essential to understanding United States society; a research-oriented course and Senior Seminar; and five upper-level electives in History selected by the individual student in consultation with his or her assigned advisor, for a total of forty credits of study.
World History I & II provide the modern student with the opportunity to explore the global past and identify and illuminate themes and developments that span multiple cultures and time periods.
A course in US historiography provides an introduction to the methodology of the historian and the challenges of historical research and debate, against the background of United States history.
The required research-oriented course, chosen from among several offered each term, is designed to provide students the opportunity to complete original historical research involving the use of primary source material as they develop advanced understanding of a given topic, period, region, or nation in a seminar format. Students sharpen the fundamental skills of historical research to which they were introduced in the World History sequence and the historiography course. They select a research project, identify and locate sources, evaluate their usefulness, and turn their research findings into a written analysis, structured according to the accepted practices of the American historical profession.
Senior Seminar is a culminating, capstone experience aimed at drawing on insights from the student’s previous courses and applying those insights to the production of a polished and sophisticated independent research project and presentation.
All History majors will develop their skills as speakers and as writers. All History-major required and elective courses are Writing-Enhanced, and the variety of informal and formal written products will range from single page to article-length, depending on the nature of the assignment. Students will examine “writing about research” in various classes, including their required historiography class. Students can expect to make at least one formal oral presentation in their Senior Seminar, but they may give several more depending on their elective choices. Most other History courses involve less formal speaking experiences within the classroom and, occasionally in more public settings, with a special emphasis on presentations and other oral communication products aimed at specialist and non-specialist audiences.
DEPARTMENTAL HONORS IN HISTORY