Division of Social Sciences
Janet Sorrentino, Chair
T. Clayton Black
Through stimulating teaching of the works of historians, and also non-historians, we foster in our students a sense of the development of past societies and a curiosity about why these developments occurred. We believe that understanding the past through a maturing historical consciousness and instruction in the proficient use of primary and secondary sources can improve students’ understanding of their own time. Students at Washington College are trained as generalists, studying a variety of geographical areas and eras, and able to apply their skills of research and analytical thinking to whatever interests them.
The study of history is closely related to other disciplines that inform the student’s understanding of the world. History gives a context to and a wider perspective on the approaches offered by the political scientist, the geographer, the economist, the sociologist, as well as the disciplines of art history, music, and literature. History is in many ways the broadest of the traditional disciplines. In other words, it has a great deal to contribute to the making of a cultured person. We endeavor to promote among our students an appreciation for outstanding cultural achievements, an appreciation which helps them to know who they are and who they might become.
Engaging in historical studies at Washington College is an excellent preparation for future careers. Our graduates have been successful in secondary school and college teaching, archival, curatorial, and museum work, law, journalism, and publishing. Many of our majors work in other areas traditionally attracting liberal arts graduates—business and government, for example.
One year of introductory work at the College level is required for admission to the major.
A major in history consists of two of the yearlong introductory sequences:
HIS 101, 102. Early Origins of Western Civilization
HIS 103, 104. Modern World History
HIS 201, 202. History of the United States
Students also take 8 courses at the 300 or 400 level. At least one course must be selected from each of the following five categories:
1. Pre-1860 United States
313: Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century America
315: The Early Republic
319: African-American History
342: Victorian America
343: History of American Women
414: Comparative Cultural Encounters
2. Post-1860 United States
318: Historical Film Genres
319: African-American History
334: The American Civil War
335: Reconstruction and the Gilded Age
336: Progressivism and the Twenties
337: The New Deal and World War II
342: Victorian America
343: History of American Women
344: Hollywood Films in the Depression and World War II
3. Early Europe
351: Ancient Rome
353: Medieval Europe
354: Renaissance and Reformation
355: Women in Medieval Europe
4. Modern Europe
360: Modern Germany
391: Russia and the Soviet Union I
392: Russia and the Soviet Union II
371: History of South Africa
381: History of Modern China
383: History of Modern Japan
357: Early Islamic Civilization
372: Colonial Latin America
473: Latin American Literature as History
Students will also take any two additional history courses at the 300 and 400 level, plus HIS 399: Historical Method, and the SCE. Departmental special topics courses (HIS 394 or 494) offered in the above subject areas can be counted toward the requirements.
History majors have opportunities for internships with the Kent County Historical Society, the Maryland Department of Archives and History, the Maryland General Assembly, the Office of the Governor of Maryland, and the Hansard Society for Parliamentary Government in London, and others.
History majors are eligible to prepare for secondary school teaching certification either in history or social studies. To ensure proper scheduling of courses, interested students should consult with the chairs of the History and Education Departments as early in their college careers as possible.
Students who major in history may wish to pursue a regional concentration. These concentrations are administered through the International Studies Program, but students are not required to major in International Studies. Current regions of study include African, Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, Near Eastern Studies, and Western European Studies. More information about the requirements for these concentrations can be found in the International Studies Program section in this catalog.
Senior Capstone Experience
The Senior Capstone Experience in history consists of studies in historiographical techniques and preparation of a substantial senior thesis. During the spring term of the junior year, history majors participate in a required course entitled Historical Method (HIS 399). In connection with this course, each student is assigned a thesis advisor under whose supervision a prospectus, preliminary bibliography and other elements are prepared. Students who wish to be considered for departmental honors, or who are preparing for graduate study in history or related fields, should request permission to attempt an honors thesis. Students who wish to be candidates for honors on the senior thesis must have a 3.5 grade point average by the start of Spring semester junior year.
The history minor consists of at least six courses: one of the introductory sequences (101 and 102; 103 and 104; 201 and 202) and at least four more courses at the 300 or 400 level. At least one of the upper-level courses must be in U.S. history; at least must be outside of U.S. history. Introductory sequences must be taken at the college level; AP credits will not count toward the history minor.
Students selecting history as part of their distribution requirement may take any one of the following year sequences:
HIS 101, 102. Early Origins of Western Civilization
HIS 103, 104. Modern World History
HIS 201, 202. History of the United States
Completion of any one of these sequences is a prerequisite for admission to departmental courses numbered 300 or 400.
101. Early Origins of Western Civilization I
Focuses on ancient societies, from Sumer through imperial Rome, whose cultures contributed to the development of Western civilization. The course stresses the multiplicity of cultures that melded and conflicted in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds, and looks to the origins of cultural symbols that appear and reappear in the emerging Western world.
102. Early Origins of Western Civilization II
Studies European society from the fall of the western Roman empire through Galileo and Newton. The course is a continuation of History 101; it builds on the assimilation of ancient culture into Roman, Germanic, Greek, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic societies. It traces the development of Europe through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution. Note: HIS 101 is not a prerequisite for HIS 102.
103. Modern World History I
A survey of world history from the fourteenth century to the end of the eighteenth. This course treats the increasing integration of world civilizations through commercial and cultural interactions and traces the emergence of Europe as a center of global economic and military power. Prominent themes include the Mongol empire, Black Death, Age of Exploration, Reformation, Gunpowder empires, Enlightenment, and French revolution.
104. Modern World History II
A survey of world history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course examines the world in the age of global integration and includes such themes as the rise of republicanism and nationalism, the industrial revolution, imperialism, communism and fascism, the world wars, the Cold War, and globalization, among others. Note: HIS 103 is not a prerequisite for HIS 104.
201. History of the United States to 1865
A survey of United States history through the Civil War, this course begins with the history of the first residents of North America, Native Americans. Includes the founding and development of the various colonies that eventually joined to form a new nation, and the early history of that nation—political, economic, and social.
202. History of the United States Since 1865
This survey of United States history starts with the Reconstruction era and traces the growth of the nation to the present. We will study how the nation was restored after the Civil War, how the United States industrialized, urbanized, and became a world power in the twentieth century. Note: HIS 201 is not a prerequisite for HIS 202.
313. Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century America
The social, economic, and political structure of Colonial America; the background and development of the American Revolution; and the interaction of social and political life during the Confederation, Constitutional, and Federalist periods. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
315. The Early Republic
This course explores the history of the early American republic from the framing of the Constitution to the Civil War. The course investigates the clash between Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian visions, the development of party politics and a popular political culture, territorial expansion and the dispossession of Native Americans, the spread of King Cotton and slavery, the transportation and market revolutions, religious revival and social reform, and the sectional conflict between North and South. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
318. Historical Film Genres
In this course, a selection of film genres will be presented for comparative analysis, including four or five genres such as gangster films, “film noir” detective films, westerns, musicals, or films that depict and characterize professions such as journalism or jurisprudence. Films will be selected within each genre that offer different commentaries on recurrent social themes in American history. This course will also incorporate a significant amount of reading and research in primary-source documents relating to the historical periods and themes represented in the films. It will also include new secondary-source and interpretive texts. The course will thus extend the students repertoire of analytical skills in the field of history to more sophisticated intellectual challenges. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
319. African-American History
Examines the experience of African Americans from African origins through two centuries of slavery to emancipation in 1865, through segregation, the civil rights movement, up to the present. This course explores the nature of racism and race relations as well as Black initiative. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
334. The American Civil War
This course encompasses the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) in all pertinent areas. In addition to military history, the course reviews significant historical interpretations of the causes and effects of the Civil War; the dimensions of social, economic, political, and diplomatic history pertaining to the war; and the evolution of war aims relating to the central issues of slavery and race relations. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
335. Reconstruction and the Gilded Age
A study of the thirty-five years of American history that followed the Civil War, with particular emphasis given to problems of reconstruction, the achievements and costs of industrialization, the economic and social problems confronting workers and farmers, and the major intellectual and cultural cross-currents of American life during the late nineteenth century. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
336. Progressivism and the Twenties
A study of America’s early-twentieth-century age of reform and the very different period that followed in the 1920s. Emphasis is placed on the politics and culture of reform at the local, state, and federal levels from 1900 through 1920; the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson; the impact of World War I; and the cultural contradictions and ferment of the 1920s, culminating in the Wall Street crash of 1929. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
337. The New Deal and World War II
A study encompassing a period dominated by the presidential leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Emphasis is placed on the crisis and challenge of the Great Depression, the interlude of Herbert Hoover’s administration, the themes and occasional contradictions of the New Deal, the struggles for the redefinition of American society, and the challenge of totalitarian aggression in World War II. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
342. Victorian America
Examination of American social attitudes and behavior in both the public and private spheres during the nineteenth century. Topics include marriage and the family; childhood; the individual’s role in society; entertainment; race and ethnicity; religion; migration; immigration; urbanization; and reform movements. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
343. History of American Women
Examines the private lives and public roles of women throughout American history, from colonial settlement to the present. Social attitudes and laws and policies affecting women are studied, as well as women’s daily lives, experiences, and accomplishments. Attention is given to women of different races, classes, and ethnic backgrounds. Topics include women’s right to vote; involvement in reform movements; family life; education; birth control and abortion; and economic activities. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence required.
344. Hollywood Films in the Depression and World War II
This course uses American films of the 1930s and early-to-mid 1940s combined with appropriate readings to provide a richer understanding of the social and cultural history of the era encompassed in the regular upper-level course HIS 337 (New Deal and World War II). Films from a variety of genres—social protest/ topical exposés, melodramas, screwball comedies, musicals, historical romances, gangster films, and “film noir” detective films—will present a wide array of themes reflecting the moods and preoccupations of the era. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence required.
351. Ancient Rome
The social, cultural, and political history of ancient Rome and its dominions, from prehistory through the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century C.E. Topics will include republican and imperial government, Rome’s army and conquests, the Roman family, Roman religion, and the rise of Christianity. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
353. Medieval Europe
An exploration of the cultural and political development of medieval Europe in the period 500-1500. Topics covered include the fall of Rome, kingship, feudalism, the medieval church, art and architecture, literary culture, and the realities of everyday life. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
354. Renaissance and Reformation
A study of Europe in the period 1400-1648. Cultural developments in fifteenth-century Italy are the starting point; students then explore religious and political change, and social and economic trends throughout Europe. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
355. Women in Medieval Europe
A seminar exploring the lives of women and their role in society from the fifth through the fifteenth centuries. Topics include legal status, economic activity, marriage and family, and women in religion. Readings include both traditional and feminist-influenced secondary works, medieval works about and for women, and the writings of medieval women themselves. Discussion is a major component of the course. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
357. Early Islamic Civilization
Early Islamic civilization from its origins in Arabia to its expression in several imperial regimes in the sixteenth century (e.g. Ottoman, Mughal). We will examine the creation of a Muslim community, the development of a rich and dynamic civilization, the competing claims for political and religious authority, the forging of empires and their break-up, as well as contacts with the non-Muslim societies. Thus we will be studying a universal religion as it was expressed and incorporated into a variety of unique cultures that differed in ethnicity, language, geography and beliefs. Students will acquire an understanding of basic vocabulary, geography, historical sources and narrative, through directed readings, lecture and class discussion. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
360. Modern Germany
An examination of Central Europe from unification of the German lands in the mid-nineteenth century through the Kaiserreich, World War I, Weimar Republic, National Socialism, Cold War division, and reunification. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
371. History of South Africa
Traces the political, economic, and social history of the Republic of South Africa. Beginning with the earliest inhabitants, the course traces the diversity of African institutions, the establishment of European colonies, the policy of apartheid, and African resistance. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
372. Colonial Latin America
This course surveys Spanish and Portuguese America from the pre-Columbian era to the present. Topics include the origins and evolution of indigenous civilizations, the process of European conquest and colonization, the formation of mixed cultures, and the struggle for independence. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
381. History of Modern China
This course traces the history of China from roughly 1800 to the present. It devotes special attention to the development of nationalism and communism in China and China’s uneasy relationship with the West. Topics will include the Opium War and Taiping Rebellion, Republican era and warlordism, China in the Pacific War, Maoism and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, among others. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
383. History of Modern Japan
An examination of Japan from the late Tokugawa era (ca. 1800-1868) to the present. The course looks at the causes and consequences of the Meiji Restoration, Japan’s rise as a modern industrial state, its struggle with democratic government, imperialist expansion, the impact of World War II on the country’s subsequent political, social, and economic development, the “Japanese Miracle” of the 1970s, and Japan’s current difficulties in confronting its past and defining its place in the twenty-first century. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
391, 392. Russia and the Soviet Union
Russian political, social, economic, and cultural developments from the founding of the first eastern Slavic state to the present. The first semester treats Kievan Rus, Muscovy, and the Imperial period from Peter the Great to Alexander II. The second semester deals with the final decades of the Russian autocracy, the revolutionary movement, World War I, the revolutions of 1917, the Civil War, and the history of the Soviet Union to the end of the Gorbachev era. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
399. Historical Method
A study of history as a discipline. Classroom lecture and discussion on fundamental aspects of research and synthesis plus the history of historical writing. With the help of an assigned advisor, each student prepares first a prospectus and then a preliminary chapter of the eventual senior thesis in history. Both papers are presented to the class for comment and review in workshop format. Enrollment is limited to history majors. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
414. Comparative Cultural Encounters
This seminar examines interactions among native, European, and African peoples during the initial centuries of North American colonization. Situating the American colonies within a broader Atlantic World and offering a comparative approach, the course investigates processes of cultural conflict, exchange, adaptation, and transformation. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
473. Latin American Literature as History
This seminar employs new and classic novels to investigate diverse trends in modern Latin American history, focusing on the insight each text offers into the land’s people and institutions. Collectively, these volumes illuminate sweeping historical themes, harnessing personal stories to broad, impersonal forces and surveying a range of topics, from poverty and repression to adaptation and rebellion. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
474. Historic Preservation and Cultural Resource Management
Provides a comprehensive overview of historic preservation and cultural resource management as practiced in the United States. Examines the history of the preservation movement, the role of preservation in American culture, and the legislative framework for historic preservation. Reviews the growing field of cultural resource management, looking at issues in architectural design, contract or “salvage” archaeology, and heritage tourism. Prerequisite: 200-level coursework in archaeology or American history, or permission of instructor.
190, 290, 390, 490. Internship
194, 294, 394, 494. Special Topics in History
Intensive study of specialized topics or limited periods in American history. Such courses will be offered occasionally and topics will vary. Prerequisite: One year in introductory sequence in history required.
195, 295, 395, 495. On-campus Research
196, 296, 396, 496. Off-campus Research
197, 297, 397, 497. Independent Study
SCE. Senior Capstone Experience
See page 183.
Courses Offered In The Washington College Abroad Programs
208. Introduction to Latin American History
An introduction to Latin American History from the pre-conquest period until the present. Topics include regional geography, Pre-Columbian cultures, the colonial experience, independence and the problems of nation-building, economic and political trends from 1850 to the 1930s, demography and society, Latin America and international relations, Mexico since the Revolution, the Cuban Revolution and aftermath, Central America, and the future of democracy in Latin America. Offered in the Costa Rica program only, in the spring semester. (In English.) Prerequisite: May not be taken with History 209 or History 210. Three credits.
357. Topics in French History
The course focuses on some aspect or period of French history. Specific topics change from year to year. Courses in the past have looked at the period from World War I to World War II, the Fourth and Fifth Republics, social developments since World War II, immigration and national identity, and the evolution of the European Union. Offered in the Paris program only, in the fall semester. (In French.) Prerequisite: Introductory sequence in history desirable and FRS 202 or equivalent required. Three credits.
358. Modern Italian History
The course describes the historical evolution of Italy from its unification in 1860 to the present, with special emphasis on the connection between historical events and political and social developments. Offered in the Siena, Italy, program only, in the spring semester. Prerequisite Introductory sequence in history desirable. (In English.) Three credits.
359. Topics in Modern European History: the History of Spain
This course deals with the history of Spain from its unification under Isabel and Ferdinand through the contemporary period. Topics covered include the reign of the “Reyes catolicos;” the Spanish Empire under Charles V and Philip II; the decline of the Empire under the subsequent Habsburg rulers; the Bourbon reforms; the crisis of the “ancienne regime” and the formation of the liberal state; the democratic interlude and the restoration; the failure of the restoration; the Second Republic and the Civil War; Spain under Franco; and the return of democracy since 1975. Offered in the Granada, Spain, program only, in the fall semester. (In Spanish.) Prerequisite: Introductory sequence in history and Hispanic 303 or equivalent required. Three credits.
364. Topics in Modern German History
This course focuses on some aspect or period of German history. Past courses have covered German history from 1870 to 1933. Topics included the achievement of German unification, the politics of Bismarck, Wilhelm II, the First World War, and the Weimar Republic. Offered in the Bayreuth, Germany, program only, in the spring semester. (In German.) Prerequisite: Introductory sequence in history and German 202 or equivalent required. Three credits.
372. Introduction to African and South African History
An introduction to broad themes, problems, and debates in South African and African history. Designed both for students who do not proceed to History second-level courses and for those who require a foundation for the most in-depth courses in South African and African history offered at the second and third levels. Note: This course may not be taken with History 371. Offered at Rhodes University, South Africa.
373. South African History in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
This course surveys southern African history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The central theme of the first part of the course is the establishment of a thoroughgoing colonial system in the region during the nineteenth century. In the second half of the course the main focus is on the rise of capitalism, urbanization, cultural change, and popular resistance in twentieth-century South Africa. Note: This course may not be taken with History 371. Offered at Rhodes University, South Africa.
374. Race, Class, Nationalism, and Ethnicity in Twentieth-Century South Africa
South Africa has long been a country marked by divisions of race, class, and national and ethnic affiliation. This course explores how these divisions have arisen and gained expression. It also examines how these different identities have come to be represented by different interest groups and debated by scholars. Offered at Rhodes University, South Africa.
375. History of England 1715 to Present
Rise and decline of a global power, the transformation of an oligarchy into a democracy, and the consequences of industrialization and urbanization. Offered in the London program only, both fall and spring semesters. Prerequisite: One of the introductory sequence, History 261, 262 preferred. Three credits.