Combining aspects of art and science, history not only expands the mind but also provides critical tools to select, organize, and interpret all manner of evidence. The Vassar history faculty invite students not to take multiple-choice tests, but instead to become historians themselves. We challenge students at all levels to come face to face with the past by wrestling with the original sources upon which all history is based. Our aim is to help students develop capacities for independent research, critical analysis, and imaginative synthesis. We vary widely in our teaching approaches. What we share are the convictions that research, teaching, and learning are inextricably linked, and that teachers and students share in the experience of historical inquiry.
The department’s courses extend from the Middle Ages to the present and from the Americas to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The sources we use are equally wide-ranging, since history encompasses literature and art, philosophy and religion, scientific debates and discoveries, and photographs and film as well as more conventional texts and topics. History majors not only receive a superb education; they leave Vassar carrying intellectual passports that help them open new realms for a lifetime.
The resources of the World Wide Web are only one of many ways to extend our historical inquiries and conversations beyond the classroom. Independent projects involve frequent consultation with a faculty advisor. Ford Scholars work closely with professors for a summer, while the Clark Fellowship provides stipends for students’ off-campus research. Many history majors enrich their educations by spending all or part of their junior year in locations ranging from the U.K. to Morocco to China.