History, the department's core discipline, is the critical study of the human past. Encompassing all spheres of human experience, inquiry, belief, and aspiration, it is the most integrative of humane disciplines. It is essential to any understanding of the human condition. History satisfies a deep need to know who we are, both as individual persons sharing a common humanity and as members of various groups (whether based on gender, class, ethnicity, or religion; or whether local, national, or global). The deeper our historical knowledge, the deeper our self-knowledge. And only with this type of knowledge can we formulate wise goals to help guide our future, again both as individuals and collectively. As has often been said, "if we don't know where we've come from, we can't know who we are or where we should be headed." The study of history is an indispensable part of a liberal education; it enables students to make informed judgments on a wide range of public issues and to argue their positions cogently.
The department strives to:
History is a foundational discipline in both the humanities and social sciences. Perhaps the most important reason for studying history, as indicated above, is that it gives us a better understanding of ourselves and our common humanity. As one of the humanities, history contributes, for example, to moral understanding. It teaches us about human ideals--equality, freedom, justice--and their power to triumph over adverse conditions and circumstances. It teaches us about the resiliency of the human spirit. Similarly, history has civic value. It is often described as a school of good citizenship, responsible political leadership, and sound public policy.
History is also essential in the social sciences. Fields such as political science, sociology, and economics analyze the complex behavior of people and societies. They seek to understand and predict social, economic, and political change. History offers an extensive body of information and an incomparably rich data base for the social sciences. Social scientists cannot rely only on current data but must draw on historical evidence for their theories and conclusions. Any effort to understand current or future social change is stronger if grounded in historical experience. History, in short, provides extensive material for the study of society, economics, and politics.
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