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History of the Government Department at Hamilton College

The first government class at Hamilton College was offered in 1826, and since then a variety of one to seven classes per year were listed in the course catalog prior to the establishment of the department. A number of classes in the field of law were offered at Hamilton during the 19th century, and in 1857, Hamilton established its own Law Department (see Law School for the curriculum of the law department), which by 1881, was named as the Maynard-Knox Law School, in honor of two prominent Hamilton alumni. The law school lasted at Hamilton until 1887 and had a total of 239 graduates (see Law School Students for a breakdown of graduates per year).

The history of the current Department begins in 1915 with the establishment of a Political Science Department, which lasted until 1957, when its name was changed to the Government Department. The Department started out with just one professor teaching three courses, but has over the years expanded and become one of the larger departments at Hamilton with 12 full-time professors and over 30 courses offered per year. (See Classes Offered for a complete list of classes offered per year, and Faculty for a complete list of professors who worked for the department each year.)

Although the department was established in 1915, it was not until 1951 that a student was able to concentrate in Political Science, (up until that point students simply received a Bachelor of Arts Degree, but after this point they did so with a concentration). (See Graduates for a list of students who have graduated from the department since 1979).

The Government Department has grown throughout its years on the hill and a number of programs and concentrations have been added over the years. In 1969 for example, the Semester in Washington D.C. was established to allow students the opportunity to gain first hand experience of what political life in D.C. is about. (See D.C. Program for a more detailed description of the program.)

Hamilton College merged with Kirkland College in 1979, and consequently so did the Government departments at the two schools. The transition was a relatively smooth one; throughout Kirkland's existence the members of the government departments had met together weekly to coordinate their curricula and students were able to take government classes at both Kirkland and Hamilton. That same year the Department expanded to include the concentration of Public Policy.

In 1984 a third concentration, International and Comparative Political Studies (ICPS), was added to the Department. This concentration was renamed World Politics in 1991. (See Requirements for a complete list of requirements throughout the years for a concentration/major in government.)

In 1988 the Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professorship of International Studies was endowed by the Linowitz family in an effort to bring outstanding prominent diplomats to campus for a semester to teach one seminar class a week to a select group of students. (See Linowitz Chair for a more detailed description of the professorship as well as a list of the professors who have held the position.)

(This research was compiled from the Hamilton College Catalogs through the years by Harmony Prosser '00)

The History of Hamilton's Government Department begins in 1915 with the establishment of the Political Science Department. A variety of government and law courses were offered prior to that year (see Pre-Department History for a complete list of government courses that were offered prior to 1915); however, until that point, there was no clear distinction disciplines, such as Economics, History, Law, and Social Science.