Information for New Students
The History Department welcomes you to Whitman College! We are one of Whitman’s largest departments, and offer a curriculum that is incredibly diverse for a school of our size. In small classes you will be able to explore historical phenomena across the globe and across time, in eight distinct fields. From Alexander the Great to the Arab Spring, our courses cover issues that inform the choices that we as global citizens need to make today.
All of our 100- and 200-level courses (with the exception of 299) are suitable for first-year students, and we invite you to peruse our offerings and contact faculty if you have any questions.
Why Study History?
The study of history develops your understanding of the human condition through the ages. Learning about women and men in different times, places, and environments makes you aware of the possibilities and limitations of humanity and helps you to understand your own situation. History is the most comprehensive of the liberal arts, embracing, potentially at least, whatever people in any walk of life, at any time, have done or endured. By liberating us from the confines of our own time and place, history makes life larger and richer.
As professional historians, the history department naturally hopes that students will share our enthusiasm and find in history a lasting source of intellectual challenge, pleasure, and enrichment. History is worth studying for its own sake and for the improvement of the life of the mind. The study of history teaches you to think creatively, independently, and with discipline. In addition, Whitman's history department helps you to hone your skills in analysis, synthesis, and writing. All history courses require writing outside the classroom. Proper grammar and spelling are crucial to good writing and will be considered in the grading, including the comprehensive exams. (Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers, or Diane Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual, are the appropriate guides for acceptable form for all papers written in history classes.)
History, therefore, is also an excellent preparation for many rewarding careers as well as for post-graduate study. History students acquire analytical and expository skills; they learn to sift and organize information, to formulate arguments, and to express them in oral and written form with force and clarity. These skills are useful in any career, and they are indispensable in such professions as law, business, government, journalism, and education.
While a few of our recent graduates have gone on to become distinguished graduate students and then professors of history, Whitman history alums have succeeded in a great number of fields. Former Whittie historians are now working as physicians, attorneys (including an Assistant DA in New Orleans), archivists, and non-profit consultants, and one has even become one of the top young photographers in Washington, DC. Our rigorous program teaches comparative methodology as well as skills in critical reading and writing that translate to career opportunities as rich and varied as the field of history itself.
The History department offers majors in both History and History-Environmental Studies, as well as a minor in History. For more information, see our Major Requirements. Please come talk to us—we are eager to begin the enquiry with you!
Advanced placement credit for the College Board Advanced Placement Tests in history is granted as follows: students with a grade of 5 on the American History Test will be considered to have completed the equivalent of History 105 and 106 and receive eight history credits. Students majoring in History may only apply four of those credits to the major. Students with a score of 5 on the European History Test will be considered to have completed the equivalent of History 183 and receive four credits in history. Students with a score of 5 on the AP World History Test will be granted four credits, but they will not be considered the equivalent of any course. A student has the option of repeating a course for which AP credit has been granted, but with a commensurate reduction in the advanced placement credit.