Historical study helps you develop:

  • Survival skills for the global marketplace: Students intensively study a diverse array of societies and cultures including the United States, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. This process cultivates the ability to think in new ways and to understand ways of living different from their own.
  • Written communication skills: Students write frequently in every history course. They learn how to bring order to a body of data, to organize an argument, and to communicate ideas effectively. Each student takes at least three intensive writing seminars in the department, and some choose to cap their college career by writing a substantial honors thesis.
  • Oral communication skills: Students develop their abilities as public speakers in classroom debates, seminars, one-on-one meetings with faculty, and presentations to classes and other audiences.
  • Analytical skills: In analyzing written texts, students learn how to pin down a writer’s exact meaning and to draw out the unspoken implications of his or her statements.
  • Research skills: Students are taught to use the full range of information resources including rapidly expanding electronic and digital methods to locate the specific information relevant to a problem.

Both the College and the history department counsel history majors about potential careers and maintain large collections of literature to assist them. Majors in history develops skills that are important for further professional study and are in demand for a wide variety of jobs. Law schools recognize that the study of history cultivates the kinds of research, analytical, and writing skills that lawyers must possess, and many recent history majors have won admission to prestigious graduate law programs around the country.

The same skills have opened up opportunities for history graduates in banking, marketing, business management, public relations, and advertising, as well as in journalism and public policy.

Recent Lafayette history alumni have enrolled in graduate schools such as the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, and the University of Pennsylvania. Fields of study include history, law, economics, teaching, business, health & public policy, information resources, and more.

Businesses and organizations that benefit from the skills of recent Lafayette history graduates include well-known names such as BBDO, Chesapeake Energy Corp., Deloitte & Touche, Massachusetts General Hospital, Princeton University, Random House, and Teach for America. Occupations range from teaching history and organic farming to equities trading and rare books auctioneering.

The History Department faculty believes that all Lafayette history majors should master the following seven skills and bodies of knowledge and have organized the curriculum accordingly.

These are skills, knowledge bases, and capacities that characterize a well-educated citizen, one able to act thoughtfully and meaningfully in a rapidly changing world. We aim to educate young women and men to be effective employers and employees in a broad variety of professions, to be active members of their communities, and to be erudite and ethical friends and neighbors.

1) That students acquire a broad knowledge of important historical events and developments around the globe and are able to evaluate their causes and meanings. 

  • Is the student able to identify major historical events and developments in each of the major areas we teach (United States, Latin America, Europe, Eurasia, East Asia, Middle East, and Africa)?
  •  Is the student able to construct a historical explanation based on causal reasoning?
  • Does the student demonstrate an ability to compare historical processes from different regions and time periods?

2) That students become familiar with the nature of historical inquiry and historical methods.  

  • Is the student able to distinguish between primary and secondary sources?
  • Does the student demonstrate an understanding that history is something produced by scholars in conversation with one another, rather than simply “facts” about the past?
  • Does the student demonstrate an ability to devise methods of investigation appropriate to the historical question(s) he or she wishes to answer?

3) That students are able to analyze societies and ideas in a comparative fashion. 

  • a. Does the student raise questions of the course materials that demonstrate a comparative approach to the readings?
  • b. Does the student demonstrate knowledge about how other societies have faced a range of problems and issues?

4) That students develop strong analytical skills.  

  • Is the student able to identify the main argument of a scholarly text?
  • Is the student able to evaluate alternative points of view from historians with different perspectives?
  • Is the student able to develop and present a well-reasoned, logical historical interpretation and to support that interpretation with evidence from primary and secondary sources?

5) That students develop strong research skills.

  • Is the student able to find primary sources through library search engines and bibliographic references?
  • Is the student able to find secondary sources through library search engines and bibliographic references?
  • Is the student able to work together effectively with librarians on a research project?
  • Is the student able to navigate the web and to judge the reliability of the sources he or she finds there?

6) That students are able to communicate complex ideas orally. 

  • Is the student able to respond precisely and intelligently to questions posed by the professor?
  • Is the student able to verbally describe and/or critique the content or argument of one or more course texts?
  • Is the student able to give a formal oral presentation that demonstrates an ability to organize thoughts effectively, to speak clearly, and to use visual aids effectively?

7) That students are able to communicate complex ideas in writing. 

  • Is the student able to construct an argument that is coherent, compelling, and based in evidence?
  • Is the student able to revise his or her paper in effective ways?
  • Is the student able to write in a manner that is clear and informative?