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University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400180
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4180
(434) 924-3478 Fax: (434) 924-7891
Overview With one of the largest faculties in the University, the Department of History offers courses in African, East Asian, European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and United States history, as well as in global, transnational, oceanic, intellectual, environmental and comparative history. Many of the department’s courses delve into politics and diplomacy. A sizable number specialize in social, legal, cultural, or economic history and study class, race, and gender as well as cities, villages, workers, peasants, women, and slavery. Historians seek to explain whether people in the past acted and thought differently from the way they do today, and to describe the forces behind continuity and change over time. The study of history provides students with an opportunity to understand different cultures, and their own, more fully.
Faculty The members of the faculty are internationally recognized for outstanding teaching and scholarship, some having won major national and international prizes in their fields. Many have received teaching awards. All are firmly committed to undergraduate education, making themselves easily accessible to students.
Students Currently there are c. 350 students majoring in history. Most begin in either an introductory survey or introductory seminar. Surveys cover a broad topic or era (e.g., the age of the Renaissance; Colonial Latin America, 1500-1824). 1500-level seminars, limited to fifteen first- and second-year students, focus on reading, writing, and thinking through the study of a defined historical topic (e.g., history, politics, and the novel; revolution, rebellion, and protest in Russian history; insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan). Virtually every course in the department, with the exception of discussion sections, is taught by a faculty member. Discussion sections, limited to twenty students, supplement large lecture classes and are led by advanced graduate students. Advanced courses have thirty to fifty students. Fourth-year history seminars, a requirement for the major, are limited to twelve students, and focus on historical research and writing; a substantial thesis is required.
Whatever geographical area or thematic emphasis students choose, they learn to focus clearly and to defend interpretations supported in fact and theory. Approximately ten percent of History majors go on to do graduate work in history, often at top programs. Students with this major also go to law, business and medical school, and to graduate programs in other social sciences and humanities. History graduates also go into business, both domestic and international, government, teaching, foreign service, non-governmental agencies, public service, journalism, and writing and editing.