History at Hamilton

Course Catalogue

This web page for Hamilton College's History Department contains a description of the concentration a list of Hamilton's Historians and their teaching and research interests, and Special Programs and Opportunities for History concentrators.

Your history classes at Hamilton will be much more exciting than those high school history courses that have you memorize a great many names, dates, and places. Beginning with your first history course at Hamilton, you will have the opportunity to follow the silk route from China to Baghdad, explore the lives of Irish martyrs, or perhaps encounter the diversity of cultures in the American West during the expansion of European peoples in the decades before the Civil War. In our second-level courses, one can examine the civil rights movement and the New Left in 1960s America, the changing roles of class and gender in 19th- and 20th-century France, discuss the writings of American conservatives from the Founding Fathers to the New Right, or read about the discovery of the unconscious in modern European thought. In your junior and senior years, you will find yourself in small discussion courses, examining everything from the relationship between history and fiction in Chinese biographies, novels, operas, and poetry; to the development of the idea of the Holy War leading up to the Crusades; to the idea of America through biographical writing.

Try to get an early start by enrolling in one of our 100-level courses during your first year at Hamilton. These 100-level courses vary significantly in geographic and chronological focus, but any one of them serves as a prerequisite for all of our 200-level courses. Keep in mind that most 100-level courses are usually offered once a year. If you're thinking of majoring in history, be sure to develop your writing and research skills. Although there is presently no foreign language requirement, we strongly recommend study of a foreign language. Ultimately, the study of history concerns all areas of human endeavor, so don't avoid any area of the College's curriculum.

The History Major

Why consider a concentration in history? A perspective on other cultures, times, and places is essential to a liberal arts education. What's more, as a history major you will learn research, writing, and speaking skills that are valuable in many areas of life and work.

The study of history at Hamilton is academically demanding. Our concentrators are hard-working and maintain a sincere interest in a wide variety of cultures throughout the world. Our graduates have been thoroughly trained to read critically, think rigorously, and write cogently and persuasively.

Requirements for the Concentration
A History concentration consists of 10 courses. Each concentrator must take a 100-level history course (no more than one 100-level course may be counted toward the concentration). All 100-level courses are writing-intensive and are designed to prepare the student for upper-level courses. A concentrator must also take at least four courses at the 300 level or higher.

A concentrator's courses must provide acquaintance with a minimum of three areas from among Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, and the United States. At least three courses must focus upon areas outside of Europe and the United States. A concentrator in History must also take at least one course in premodern history. The department encourages concentrators to develop competence in a foreign language and to use that competence in their historical reading and research.

Concentrators may fulfill the department's Senior Program requirement through satisfactory completion of either of the following options: Research Seminar (401-403: one course credit each). Concentrators may fulfill the Senior Program requirement through satisfactory completion (a grade of at least C-) of one 400-level research seminar. These courses may emphasize the critical evaluation of scholarship in a specific field, culminating in a historiographical essay or primary research culminating in an original essay.

Independent Senior Thesis (550: one course credit). Concentrators with a departmental grade point average of 88 or higher may, with the permission of the department, pursue an individual project under the direct supervision of a member of the department. To earn departmental honors, concentrators must have a departmental grade point average of 90 or above in their coursework and earn a grade of A- or higher for the independent senior thesis. Finally, to earn departmental honors, concentrators must complete at least one year of college-level study in a foreign language and make a public presentation of the senior thesis..

A minor in History consists of five courses, of which only one can be at the 100-level and at least one must be at the 300-level or higher, as approved by the department. You might also consider a double concentration in history and another discipline in the social sciences, humanities, languages, or even math or the sciences.

All Hamilton history courses stress reading texts - both primary sources and secondary books and articles - and writing critical papers. Advanced work at the 300-level builds on these skills in research projects on topics of the students' choosing. Some particularly interesting research papers written by history concentrators include the following:

The capstone of the history concentrator's career at Hamilton is the seminar paper or honor's thesis, a semester-long research project for which the student engages in in-depth research on a problem that interests her or him greatly. Some recent research areas include the poetry of Polish ghettos during World War II; the thought of Vaclav Havel; and the French student revolt of 1968. Other recent seminar paper titles include:

Hamilton's Historians

The members of Hamilton's history department have been trained in a full range of sub-disciplines, such as social, intellectual, political, and cultural history. The department's expertise spans many areas of the globe, including the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, China, Russia, and Japan. Hamilton's historians are devoted teachers and have a particular desire to integrate research in the classroom. This past year, Douglas Ambrose was awarded the "Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award."

This is a scholastically active department, whose publications have appeared in prestigious journals and in such languages as Italian and Chinese, as well as English. The books published by Hamilton's history faculty have been widely recognized for their outstanding scholarship. Maurice Isserman's book on the rise of the New Left in America was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and Bob Paquette's book on the middle Atlantic slave trade won the Elsa Goveia Prize. Have a look at our individual faculty web pages to see for yourself.

As a result of this level of engagement in ongoing research among Hamilton's historians, history concentrators have access to energetic professors who are not merely "well read" in recent scholarly trends, but who actively participate in cutting-edge research that is read and highly regarded by scholars everywhere. An inkling of an idea for an article very often occurs in a history classroom, and then is tested and challenged by concentrators in upper-level courses. Not a few names of Hamilton students have appeared in the acknowledgments of books by members of the history department.

History Faculty (to look at the web pages of individual faculty members of the history department, click a name to open his or her page)

Special Programs and Opportunities for History Concentrators

Guest speakers: the Department of History regularly invites distinguished historians and scholars to campus. In recent years, Prasenjit Duara of the University of Chicago spoke on nationalism, imperialism, and transnationalism in Modern China; Leo Ou-fan Lee of Harvard University spoke on cultural cross-currents in the Chinese diaspora.

Study abroad: The department encourages study in rigorous programs abroad. Many history concentrators study in such foreign countries as Spain, France, Italy, England, Austria, China, and Japan for at least one semester.

Awards and prizes: We award four prizes at Class and Charter day, all for high academic achievement in history. The Edgar Baldwin Graves Prize in History is awarded to the top senior in the department; the Darling Prize in American History is awarded to the senior with the most distinguished record in American history; the Putnam Prize in American History awards a gift of books for the senior with the second-most distinguished record in American history; and the Edwin B. Lee, Jr. Prize in Asian History/ Asian Studies is awarded to a senior who has excelled in the study of Asian history or in Asian studies.

Honor society: We have a fully accredited chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society in history. Our students have delivered papers at regional and national meetings, and published papers in the society's journal. Phi Alpha Theta is one of the oldest and most respected national honor societies. Douglas Ambrose is the Phi Alpha Theta faculty advisor.

For more information about the History Department at Hamilton College, contact:
Thomas Wilson , Chair
History Department
Hamilton College
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
(315) 859-4404
FAX: (315) 859-4649

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Created by: Thomas A. Wilson

Last Modified: 10/13/06