History as a discipline interrogates the past recorded in human texts, material artefacts,
media, oral traditions, and other evidence in order to render its complexity accessible
to audiences in the present. More than the mere “study of past events,” whether local,
national, or international, History is a public pursuit aimed at the preservation
and dissemination of collective memory and
the diversity of human experience across times, places, contexts, and communities.
In establishing a conversation between the present and the past, historians strive to understand historical actors, mobilize historical evidence effectively, deploy a wide array of investigative tools and interpretive methodologies and encourage interpretive debate in order to understand an often complex, incomplete and even contradictory historical record.
Although the pursuit of the past may seem a solitary undertaking, historians do not work in isolation. Rigorous debate and discussion precede “fieldwork” from archival research to interviews. Public evaluation of historians’ research, analysis and findings occurs through careful argumentation in many forms and venues, from conference papers, books and articles to documentary films and museum exhibitions. Professional ethics and standards predicated in peer review and citation underpin the results regardless of the format.
Students of history deliberatively develop positions that tie the past to the present while considering many, often divergent, narratives and perspectives. In addition, as historical perspectives shift over time, there is a constantly provisional nature to knowledge in the discipline. Students of History profit from the open-ended nature of historical research and questions, becoming more alert to context, perspective, diversity, and inclusion in both the historical record and in the historical narratives that emerge from or fail to get collected for the
In building a deep, thoughtful knowledge of the many pasts that have intersected to lead to an equally complex present, the Skidmore College Department of History prepares students to contextualize and address the moral and political quandaries of our contemporary moment. Whether engaging with ancient civilizations or contemporary societies in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, through the lens of intellectual trends, imperialisms, nationalisms, social movements, or science and technology, faculty in the History Department encourage students to develop the “historical literacy” needed in order to think critically about and act productively in the world in which they live.