Like travelers in foreign lands, students of history come face to face with the diversity of the human condition. They undergo the unsettling but salutary experience of nonrecognition and so arrive at an understanding that peoples in the past were other, that “then” was different from “now,” “there” different from “here.”
Enriched by that understanding, they are able to view their own time and place in a new light, as the outcome of local and contingent circumstances rather than as the inevitable product of human nature.
No other discipline in the humanities and the social sciences covers so wide a range of topics as history. Instead of studying just one or another segment of human activity—e.g. politics, economics, literature, art, philosophy, etc.—history integrates all of them. Located at the intersection of multiple disciplines, it is of crucial importance to all students of the humanities and the social sciences.
Finally, and most important, history teaches students how historical knowledge is constructed. Through hands-on instruction in seminars, students learn how to locate documents relevant to an historical subject and what questions to put to those documents: Where do the documents come from? Through what intermediary stages did they pass before they reached us? Who wrote them? And why?
Trained in the critical methods of historical interpretation, students of history come to understand that no document provides a transparent window onto the reality that it purports to describe. They are uniquely equipped therefore to deal critically with the unprecedented abundance of documents that circulate electronically in the “information age” of today.
For more information, please contact Professor Joshua Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.