The Program

History is the discipline of active inquiry into the human past. The range of topics taught here, and the lines of inquiry followed here, are diverse and complementary. Earlham's History Department asks students to undertake that inquiry through the comparative study of different regions and different periods. Moreover, Earlham's history courses teach the careful, critical study of evidence and give practice in the reflective reading of sources.

There are several good reasons to study history. One of these is intellectual pleasure. Another is to understand the present through the past (as well as the past through the present). Furthermore, history provides indispensable context for other disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs. History also invites students to imaginative inference through use of museums, electronic media and the College's Quaker Archives. It is fair to add that the study of history is fine training for citizenship and for a life of thoughtful action.

Earlham's History Major prepares students for a variety of careers. According to records kept by the American Historical Association, history majors at Earlham College have a 20-year average that ranks them 16th out of more than 1,000 institutions in the completion of Ph.D.s. Graduates find employment as history professionals in college or high school teaching, in archival, library or museum settings or in public history. Most, however, use history to prepare themselves for other careers. Recent graduates also have made successful careers in business, law, management, medicine, politics, foreign service, publishing, political advocacy, ministry, law enforcement and public service.

General Education Requirements

The Department offers 10 courses that fulfill the Writing Intensive Requirement, HIST 228, 231, 232, 270, 343, 356, 362, 371, 372 and 373; 12 courses that fulfill the Domestic component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, HIST 121, 122, 270, 324, 356, 357, 366, 367, 368, 369, 372 and 373; and 12 courses that fulfill the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, HIST 226, 228, 231, 232, 353, 354, 374, 376, 377, 378, 472 and 473. The Department also offers Earlham Seminars in History and Interpretive Practices courses.

The Major

Majors complete at least 35 credits in the geographic areas offered, namely African history, East Asian history, European history, Latin American history and U.S. history, and/or in such thematic areas as African-American history, Atlantic World, colonialism and imperialism, gender, Jewish history, political ideology, revolutionary and reform movements, thought and culture, and war and conflict. Majors are urged to take an Earlham Seminar in history during their first year and an introductory course in the primary area of study.

Majors are required to take:

  • 3-4 courses from a thematic or a geographic area of their choice
  • 3-4 courses from a second geographic area
  • 2 elective courses — non-western if areas are Europe/U.S.; elective courses may also support or augment themes or areas.
  • 2 upper-level research courses, chosen from upper-level four-credit courses that are designated as giving Research Credit, HIST 484 Ford/Knight Research Project, or the Newberry Library Program.
  • HIST 410 Philosophy of History OR
    HIST 482 American Historiography
  • HIST 488 Senior Capstone Experience. The Capstone Experience is a history colloquium.

The Minor

Students must take no fewer than five courses, with at least three courses in one geographic or thematic area and one course in another area. Among these courses:

  • one must be a CP in history
  • one must be designated as giving research credit


  • one must be either
    HIST 410 Philosophy of History OR
    HIST 482 American Historiography.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*HIST 121 INTRODUCTION TO U.S. HISTORY TO 1865 (3 credits)
An introduction to important trends and topics in U.S. history from the colonial period to 1865. Includes political, economic, social, cultural and diplomatic subjects with attention to questions of gender and race. (D-D)

An introduction to important trends and topics in U.S. history from the end of the Civil War (1865) to the present. Includes political, economic, social, cultural and diplomatic subjects, with particular attention to matters of race and gender. (D-D)

HIST 201 EUROPE to 1492 (3 credits)
Follows the broad sweep of European history through the initial voyages of Christopher Columbus. Beginning with the Mediterranean world of the Greeks and Romans, turns to the rise of Christianity and Islam, the upheavals of the early Middle Ages and the Triumphs and struggles of medieval kingdoms. Probes the exchanges and frequent conflicts between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim worlds; considers how trade, intellectual exchange and the spread of diseases influenced European developments; investigates key political, religious, social and cultural institutions from the church and the university to feudalism and marriage. Pays particular attention to the everyday lives of marginalized populations such as women, children, Jews and heretics to shed further light on European values. Appropriate for first-year students.

*HIST 202 EUROPE, 1492 TO THE PRESENT (3 credits)
Beginning with the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, examines European history from the dawn of the modern age to the present. Special attention to the development of capitalism in Europe, European colonization, religious conflict and political violence, the development of nations and nationalism, and the legacy of political and social revolution in Europe. Considers to the relationship between Europe and the non-European world, as well as to the position of Jews, women, and marginalized groups within European society. Appropriate for first-year students. (D-I)

*HIST 218 WORLD WAR II in EAST ASIA (3 credits)
This course explores the key question of how the Second World War shaped the everyday lives of Chinese, Japanese, and foreigners in East Asia and the world. In addition, students explore the reasons for and the nature of major events in the war – including the Nanjing massacre, the Chinese resistance to and collaboration with the Japanese, Japan’s wartime mobilization, the role of science and technology in war-making, the gendered and racial underpinnings of wartime labor, the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, and the U.S. government’s decision to release atomic bombs in Japan. (D-I)

A survey of traditional culture in China, Viet Nam, Korea and Japan, with emphasis on China and Korea, and on East Asia as an international system. Special attention to the historical development of the great tradition in literature, art, religion, politics and social institutions. Also listed as JPNS 226. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 228 MODERN EAST ASIA (3 credits)
A survey of East Asia since about 1800, with emphasis on China and Korea, and on East Asia as an international system. Special attention to the historical development of politics, economics, society and social institutions, literature, thought and international relations. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as JPNS 228. (WI, D-I) (AY)

*HIST 231 AFRICAN HISTORY TO 1880 (4 credits)
Introduces students to Africa's long and varied past. Surveys the development of the continent from the Nile Valley civilization to the loss of independence in the 1880s. Topics include Africa as the site of the earliest human development, ancient Egypt's relationship to the rest of Africa, the influence of Islam, the origins and nature of African states and empires, the organization and consequences of the Atlantic slave trade, the impact of European traders and missionaries, and the scramble for Africa in the 1880s. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 231. (WI, D-I) (AY)

*HIST 232 AFRICAN HISTORY SINCE 1880 (4 credits)
Surveys the African loss of sovereignty and the establishment of European colonial dominance in Africa. Focuses on economic, political and social distortions resulting from foreign domination. Considers the impact of African reactions to these developments. Special attention to the struggle for independence and the re-emergence of independent African states. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 232. (WI, D-I) (AY)

HIST 240 SEMINAR (3 credits)
Sophomore- and junior-level seminar on selected topics, introducing advanced research and critical writing within the discipline. Previous topics: the agrarian temper in U.S. history and nation building in Africa. (WI)

An examination of women's and gender history in the 19th and 20th centuries across a range of European countries with particular focus on politics, gender roles, sexuality, and culture. Allows students to question narrow (national, disciplinary, epistemological) boundaries, think critically about the gendered constructions of European society, and reflect upon the distinctive contributions of women's history. Also listed as WGSS 246. (D-I) (AY)

HIST 265 MODERN CHINA (4 credits)
This course examines the history of China’s recent past from the 17th century to the present. Students explore the rise and fall of an expansive Qing Empire, debate the vibrancy of Republican-era China, and examine the multifaceted experiences of ordinary people living in the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan. Students analyze such themes such as rebellions and revolutions, gender relations, foreign diplomacy, material culture and economic development through the myriad voices of political leaders, activists, intellectuals, students, workers, filmmakers and poets. Students gain understanding of the rise of China today within the context of its dynamic recent past.

A topical study of various aspects of the history of Native American history in North America from the 19th century to the present. Sample topics include Native American education and boarding schools, woodland Indians and cultural recovery, Native American women, and tribes and political identity. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor (WI, D-D) (AY)

*HIST 290 CUBAN HISTORY (3 credits)
The historical experience of Cuba is unique in the western hemisphere, and indeed in the world, for only Cuba underwent transformation from being a colony of Spain to being a neocolonial U.S. protectorate, then an independent republic, and finally a socialist country, all within less than a century. This course will neither praise or condemn Cuban socialism or U.S. imperialism, but instead help students appreciate and understand the complexities of the historical dynamics that gave rise to the current contours of the Cuban Revolution. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 324 RACE AND ETHNICITY IN THE U.S. (4 credits) Research Credit.
Examines the pattern of changing social constructions of race and ethnicity in the U.S. and their profound effects on the political, social and economic lives of individuals and the country. Begins to untangle the historical roots of the social constructions of whiteness and race, and examines contemporary issues. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 324. (D-D)

Did the years between 1300 and 1715 represent the "autumn of the Middle Ages" or did they usher in the modern age? How do we make sense of an era that saw both the brilliant discoveries of the Scientific Revolution and the seemingly irrational witch trials? The persistence of small peasant communities and the expansion of vast trade networks across the globe? Topics include the Renaissance, the Reformation, the "discovery of the New World," the Scientific Revolution, absolutism, and the escalation of global trade. (WI) (AY)

Examines the agents and structures that shaped world politics between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union concurrent with the Gulf War. Were these five decades "a long peace" or a period of unprecedented violence in world history? Issues and themes include socialist internationalism, McCarthyism, human rights, decolonization, national liberation movements, proxy wars, the nuclear arms race, perestroika and the New World Order. Also listed as PAGS 344. (AY)

Explores the tensions between the forces of stability and the forces of upheaval from the French Revolution through the outbreak of World War I. Investigates the traditional, hierarchical nature of European society, then tracks how many Europeans sought to overturn the existing political, social, and gender order. Themes include revolution, nationalism, socialism, imperialism, feminism, anarchism, terrorism, artistic experimentation, and urban life. (AY)

Research Credit. Explores the tumultuous era of European history spanning from the outbreak of the First World War to the conclusion of World War II. Topics include the causes and legacy of the “Great War,” the outbreak of postwar revolutions, modernist culture in the interwar Europe, the rise of Fascism and Stalinism, ethnic cleansing during the Second World War, and the Holocaust. Attention to the relationship between class, gender, and race in interwar European culture. Prerequisite: A Comparative Practices course, or consent of the instructor. Also listed as JWST 347. (AY)

*HIST 353 LATIN AMERICA TO 1825 (3 credits)
An examination of the origin and development of Latin American civilization, with particular attention to the European conquest and its effect on Native Americans: the origin and development of colonial institutions and conditions which led finally to the demise of the colonial system. Also listed as LTST 353. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 354 LATIN AMERICA SINCE 1825 (3 credits)
Emphasizes the 20th century, examining patterns of modernization, development and resistance. Sources include literature and works reflecting religion and popular culture. Also listed as LTST 354. (D-I) (AY)

Surveys the history of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Focusing on the campaigns and struggles in the mid 1950s and 1960s when blacks and their white allies directly confronted Jim Crow segregation in an effort to gain full citizenship rights and economics opportunity. Focuses on mass movements, with some attention to other freedom struggles, particularly before the emergence of mass activism. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 356. (WI, D-D) (AY)

Explores select topics in the history of African American women from the era of antebellum slavery to the present, using such primary sources as slave narratives, autobiographies, documents and historical monographs. Topics include gender relations in the slave community, the gendered nature of slave resistance and rebellion, the politics of economic emancipation, women's activism in the struggle against racial violence and segregation and the role of women in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Also listed as AAAS 357. (D-D) (AY)

The history of England, 1460-1714. A topical inquiry into English society, politics and religion, including the English reformation, Tudor and Stuart kingship, the changing social order, civil war and political revolution, the emergence of Parliament, the constitutional monarchy, the religious settlement and the foundation of oligarchy. (AY)

An examination of major ideas shaping U.S. society. Considers the source of these ideas, the ways in which they become disseminated in the culture, and their impact on patterns of behavior. Focuses on authors whose ideas have profoundly shaped ideas of gender and family. Prerequisite: An Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor.

The development of political ideas in America from the Puritan colony experience to the present. Examines the changing concepts of the role of government and the nature of political society through the writings of major thinkers. Also listed as POLS 366. (D-D) (AY)

*HIST 367 WOMEN AND MEN IN AMERICAN SOCIETY (4 credits) Research Credit.
A survey of U.S. social history from 1607 to the present, focusing on the historical contours of female/male sex roles. Topics include marriage, the family, child-rearing, work, education, sexuality, and gynecology and reproduction. Analyzes the effects of war, racism, slavery, immigration, industrialization and consumerism along with abolitionism, temperance, feminism, civil rights and other social protest movements. Prerequisite: An Interpretive Practices course, HIST 121 or 122, or consent of the instructor. Also listed as WGSS 367. (D-D) (AY)

A survey of African Americans from the era of the Atlantic slave trade to the passage of the 13th amendment. Topics include the paradox of the co-existence of slavery and freedom, the nature of the slave community, the issue of slave resistance and the role of free African Americans in the abolition movement. First-hand accounts and secondary materials give students an appreciation of the African American historical experience in the United States. Also listed as AAAS 368. (D-D) (AY)

Surveys the history of African Americans from the era of Emancipation through the migrations that transformed blacks into a national, urban minority to the political, cultural and economic challenges in the era of conservatism. Topics include the struggle to define race and citizenship after the Civil War, the impact of migrations on black society and national politics, the consequences of the rise of a black industrial working class, campaigns for civil and human rights, and the emergence of the black power movement. Also listed as AAAS 369. (D-D) (AY)

A survey of the history of Asians and Americans of Asian ancestry in the United States from the 18th century to the present, with emphasis on phases of immigrant history and interactions with recipient communities in the context of U.S. historical development, and on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, naturalization and citizenship, and racial, ethnic and cultural identity. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as JPNS 372. (WI, D-D) (AY)

A survey of the history of American involvement in and attitudes toward the countries and peoples of the Middle East, with emphasis on diplomacy and policy making, scholarship and the construction of knowledge, and representations of the Middle East in American popular culture. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. (WI, D-D) (AY)

Focuses on 19th century issues leading to the Civil War and the multilayered legacy of the war, with particular attention to race and reunification. Examines the war's transformation of politics and the economy and the efforts of various groups to resist, control or reform a society in the throes of rapid change. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 379. (WI) (AY)

*HIST 474 MODERN JAPAN (4 credits) Research Credit.
A study of Japanese historical and institutional development in the early modern and modern periods, from the 15th century to the present. Topics include the Tokugawa period; Meiji Restoration and modernization; periods of colonialism, imperialism and militarism; postwar recovery and the economic miracle; and the challenges of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Explores economic, political, social, intellectual and international perspectives. Attention to prominent theories of development as applied to Japan. Also listed as JPNS 474. (D-I) (AY)

Surveys the history of the Sudanic and forest regions of West Africa from c. 1000 BCE to independence. Primary emphasis on discerning the internal dynamics as well as the external factors that shaped West Africa's development. Considers the cultural and social diversity of the region, the particular nature of the Sudanic and forest states, importance of long-distance trade and Islam, effects of the Atlantic slave trade, impact of colonialism on African life and struggle for independence. Also listed as AAAS 376. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 377 EAST AFRICA (4 credits)
Surveys the history of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) from the time of the great migration through independence. Among the issues addressed are the differences between coastal and inland developments, the rise of the Indian Ocean trading network, the emerging interior states, the appearance of coastal trading systems, the early European distribution of coastal societies, the development of plantation economics, the impact of colonialism, the variety in the decolonization movements and the coming of independence. Also listed as AAAS 377. (D-I) (AY)

Surveys the history of southern African society from the earliest times to the post apartheid era. Topics include the nature of early indigenous African societies, the entrenchment of European domination, the subjugation of African chiefdoms, the role of international capital in transforming the economy, African resistance to segregation and apartheid, and the dismantling of the apartheid state. Also listed as AAAS 378. (D-I) (AY)

HIST 410 PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY (4 credits) Research Credit.
Examines the assumptions, conventions and foundations of historical argument, the constitution and character of historical evidence and the nature and scope of philosophical speculation about what history is and about the epistemological and theoretical constraints governing the work of historians. Readings include both primary and secondary materials in history, historiography, and the philosophy and theory of history.  Also listed as PHIL 410. (AY)

An advanced research seminar on a topic related to the field of European History. Specific topic is selected each semester. Focuses on the process of developing, researching and writing a 25-page historical research paper. Open to any interested student in any discipline. Prerequisite: Successful completion of a Comparative Practices course. Completion of one 300-level course in history is recommended.

*HIST 472 MODERN CHINA (4 credits) Research Credit.
A survey of Chinese historical development from the first dynasties to the present day, with emphasis on the period from the mid-14th century through the liberalizing reforms of the post-Mao era. Investigates problems of historical continuity and change, Chinese perceptions of themselves and of the West, attempts at economic and political modernization, the Maoist revolution, and the interplay between institutions and ideas. Also listed as JPNS 472. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 473 TRADITIONAL JAPAN (4 credits) Research Credit.
A survey of traditional life and culture in Japan in a historical and institutional framework, from earliest times to around the mid-19th century. Topics include the state, relationship between authority and power, social structures, economic life, philosophy, religion, the arts and literature. Also listed as JPNS 473. (D-I) (AY)


HIST 482 AMERICAN HISTORIOGRAPHY (4 credits) Research Credit.
An introduction to the main currents of American historical thought and writing. An opportunity to examine critically the ways leading American historians have interpreted significant problems in national development through vigorous inquiry into principles of selection and causation, use of evidence and fundamental ideas. Prerequisite: HIST 121 or 122. (AY)


Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

HIST 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
For advanced students. An investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty adviser.

Required of all History majors. Includes common readings, student reports on selected works, and revision and presentation of a major paper from a previous History course.

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