History

  • Degree Type Bachelor of Arts
  • Department History
  • Academic Division The College
  • Offerings Major

Brick wall with exposed layers and excavation notes Brick wall with exposed layers and excavation notes

History examines the past through various lenses — social, political and intellectual; textual and material — enriching us as individuals and preparing us to engage the complexities and ambiguities of the contemporary world.

History

History courses emphasize careful reading and analysis of original sources in order to approach the past on its own terms. But we also stress that studying history is an interpretive process requiring attention to methods, theories and scholarly debates. The training students receive in research skills, critical analysis and expository writing prepares them to pursue careers in business, education, law, public service and a variety of other professions.

The history major is compact enough that many students choose to double major, add a minor or sample broadly the rest of the W&L curriculum.

Our department offers a variety of courses and perspectives on the remote and recent histories of the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. It supports programs in Africana Studies, East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Russian Area Studies, and Women and Gender Studies, and offers courses in the history of science.

The history major takes students up a ladder from introductory surveys and seminars (100-level courses) through intermediate courses (200-level) to specialized research seminars (300-level courses).

As a history major, you will choose from a wide array of offerings to build a course of study!

Opportunities

History students may pursue an internship at a public or private agency or institution and can earn history credit for their experience.

W&L offers a range of study abroad options supported by the resources necessary to ensure a suitable international experience for any student. The History Department sponsors several trips during the Spring Term. W&L strongly encourages student research. The History Department can provide financial assistance to students who wish to attend conferences or to engage in research travel.

The Washington and Lee History Department offers advanced students the opportunity to undertake significant original research culminating in an honors thesis. Successful candidates earn a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in history.

Outcomes

Our graduates have gone on to careers in public service, government, teaching, museum curating, law, business, finance and more.

Molly Michelmore

Department Head

Amanda Smith

Administrative Assistant

News


W&L Outcomes: Lillie Taylor ’24

Taylor is moving to Niigata Prefecture, Japan, to work as an assistant language teacher for the JET Program.

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Assistant Professor of History Nneka Dennie

Nneka Dennie Receives Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award

The assistant professor of history is one of 10 faculty members nationwide to win the prestigious award.

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W&L’s Lillie Taylor ’24 Selected for Prestigious JET Program

Taylor will work as an assistant language teacher in Japan before pursuing her teaching certification.

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Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language Scholarship

The Critical Language Scholarship Program funds a summer of overseas language and cultural immersion.

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Assistant Professor of History Nneka Dennie

Assistant Professor Nneka Dennie to Deliver DeLaney Center Dialogue Lecture

Dennie will present her research on “Southern Black Feminisms at the Turn of the Century” March 20 in the Watson Galleries.

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Pablo Abufom to Deliver Lecture on Latin American Politics

The Chilean activist’s talk will be held Feb. 12 at 5 p.m.

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Assistant Professor of History Nneka Dennie

Professor Nneka Dennie to Discuss Her Recent Book on Black Newspaper Editor Mary Ann Shadd Cary

The assistant professor of history will hold her talk on Feb. 7 at noon in the Harte Center Gallery.

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W&L to Host “Slices of Research” Program at Salerno Wood Fired Pizza & Taphouse

Newly promoted faculty members will present their research in a PechaKucha format on Jan. 30.

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W&L History Professor Barton Myers Featured in History Channel Series

Myers serves as a commentator for the series “Dark Marvels,” offering the history behind some of the world’s most diabolical inventions.

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History of Ghosts Payne Hall

Haunted History

Professor of History Mikki Brock’s Spring Term course explores our fascination with the supernatural.

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A Pair of W&L Professors Awarded Grants by the National Endowment for the Humanities

Melissa Kerin and Barton Myers will each receive $6,000 to support their research projects.

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Eric Moffa

W&L Education Studies Professor and Student Co-Author Journal Article

Professor Eric Moffa and Jake Winston ’24 penned the article which appeared in The Social Studies Journal.

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Sample Courses

At W&L, we believe education and experience go hand-in-hand. You’ll be encouraged to dive in, explore and discover connections that will broaden your perspective.

HIST 225

The Reformation in Britain

The Reformation of the 16th century shattered the once unitary religious cultures of England and Scotland. Although important continuities remained, the introduction of Protestantism wrought dramatic effects in both countries, including intense conflict over nature of salvation, the burning of martyrs, the hunting of witches, religious migrations, a reorientation of foreign policy, changes in baptismal and burial practices, and more. Students explore these changes and the lives and legacies of some of history’s most fascinating figures, from Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell in England to Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox in Scotland, while also constantly asking how ordinary English and Scottish men and women experienced the Reformation and its aftermath.

HIST 288

Key Thinkers on Environment

Key thinkers on the environment are central to this course, ranging from ancient greats such as Aristotle to modern writers such as David Suzuki and E.O. Wilson about the ecosystem crises of the Anthropocene. We highlight certain 19th-century icons of environmentalist awareness and nature preservation, such as Alexander von Humboldt in Europe and Humboldtians in America, including Frederic Edwin Church and Henry David Thoreau.

HIST 386

Mongols, Manchus & Muslims

The unprecedented expansionism of China’s last dynasty, the Qing (1644–1911), produced an ethnically and geographically diverse empire whose legacy is the current map and multiethnic society of today’s People’s Republic of China. The Qing Empire’s establishment, extension and consolidation were inextricably bound up with the ethnic identity of its Manchu progenitors. The Manchu attempt to unify diversity resulted in a unique imperial project linking East, Inner and Southeast Asia. This course explores the multiethnic nature and limits of this unification, as well as its 20th-century transformations.

HIST 207

Dreaming of Paris

“The City of Lights.” “The City of Love.” The capital of fashion. The world’s most romantic city. The second most visited city in the world. For centuries, Paris has held an enduring appeal as a city of devoted to pleasure, intellectual life, culture, art and fashion. This course examines the appeal of Paris and some of the mythologies of the city, as well as the reality and the history behind the image.

HIST 219

The Age of the Witch Hunts

This course introduces students to one of the most fascinating and disturbing events in the history of the Western world: the witch hunts in early-modern Europe and North America. Between 1450 and 1750, more than 100,000 individuals, from Russia to Salem, were prosecuted for the crime of witchcraft. Most were women and more than half were executed. In this course, we examine the political, religious, social and legal reasons behind the trials, asking why they occurred in Europe when they did and why they finally ended. We also explore, in brief, global witch hunts that still occur today in places like Africa and India, asking how they resemble yet differ from those of the early-modern world.

HIST 212

Crime and Punishment in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

An exploration of the history of crime, law enforcement, and punishment during the period of 1200–1650. Our central project is to investigate the deep problems of writing history from a paucity of very biased sources: the criminal records of a world of the past. We begin with the central historical questions: What counted as criminal when, who defined it, and with what authority? What could count as proof of guilt? What constituted acceptable punishment (torture, imprisonment, spectacle executions, penance) and how did this change over time? What role did politics, religion, class, gender, or marginal status play?

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.

Molly Michelmore
Molly Michelmore

Molly Michelmore

Department Head, History; Professor of History

Michelmore teaches courses on race, class and politics in postwar America, the age of Reagan, the 1960s, and the Cold War. She has researched fiscal policy and welfare state formation, as well as American political development.

Curriculum Vitae

Kameliya N. Atanasova
Kameliya N. Atanasova

Kameliya N. Atanasova

Assistant Professor of Religion

Atanasova researches the intersection of religion, law and politics by studying the social role of Sufism in the early-modern Ottoman Empire. She teaches Islamic Civilization, Sufism, Islam in America, and Muslims in the Movies.

Henryatta Ballah
Henryatta Ballah

Henryatta Ballah

Assistant Professor of History

Ballah’s teaching and research focus on 19th and 20th century Africa. Her book project explores the political activism of Liberian youth from 1950 to 2010.

David Bello
David Bello

David Bello

Director of East Asian Studies; Professor of History

Bello teaches courses in Chinese and Japanese history. His research focuses on Qing China and borderland environmental history. He has published a number of notable scholarly works on the subject.

Richard Bidlack
Richard Bidlack

Richard Bidlack

Martin and Brooke Stein Professor of History

Bidlack teaches courses on imperial Russia, Soviet Russia, Central Asia, and a study abroad course in Kyrgyzstan. He has researched Russia and Central Asia extensively and is the author of an annually updated textbook.

Curriculum Vitae

Mia Brett
Mia Brett

Mia Brett

Visiting Assistant Professor of History

Michelle D. (Mikki) Brock
Michelle D. (Mikki) Brock

Michelle D. (Mikki) Brock

Associate Professor of History

Brock teaches courses on British and Atlantic history, the Reformation, witchcraft and the devil, and the history of poverty. Her research focuses on the supernatural and religious beliefs and identities in early modern Scotland.

Curriculum Vitae

Matthew Chalmers
Matthew Chalmers

Matthew Chalmers

Adjunct Professor of History

Nneka Dennie
Nneka Dennie

Nneka Dennie

Assistant Professor of History

Professor Dennie is a Black feminist scholar specializing in African American intellectual history. Her courses examine race and gender in the United States and the Caribbean. She is currently writing two books about 19th century Black women thinkers.

Website

Romina Green
Romina Green

Romina Green

Assistant Professor of History

Professor Green Rioja’s research interests include examining structural racism in modern Chilean history and identifying settler-colonial policies that displaced the Indigenous Mapuche.

Sarah Horowitz
Sarah Horowitz

Sarah Horowitz

Professor of History

Horowitz teaches courses on modern European history and specializes in French history and the history of gender in Europe. She is writing a book on the politics of gender and sexuality in the Steinheil Affair of 1908-1909.

Curriculum Vitae

Barton A. Myers
Barton A. Myers

Barton A. Myers

Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics and History (Term 2019-2022) and Associate Professor of Civil War History

Myers teaches courses on the American Civil War, war and society, the U.S. South, and public history. His research interests are irregular warfare, soldiers and atrocity, and political dissent.

William Patch
William Patch

William Patch

Kenan Professor of History

Patch teaches courses on modern Europe, Germany history and international relations. His research focuses on the Weimar Republic, the German Federal Republic and Christian social movements.

Curriculum Vitae

Nicolaas A. Rupke
Nicolaas A. Rupke

Nicolaas A. Rupke

Johnson Professor of History

Rupke teaches courses in the history of “science, politics and the public good,” dealing with animal behavior as it relates to human morality, with Darwin and his critics, scientists as political leaders, and medical history.

Curriculum Vitae

Franklin Sammons
Franklin Sammons

Franklin Sammons

Assistant Professor of History

Melissa Vise
Melissa Vise

Melissa Vise

Assistant Professor of History

Professor Vise teaches courses on Medieval European history, violence, crime and punishment, law, and religion and culture. Her research interests are Medieval European intellectual, cultural, and religious history with special attention to the Italian peninsula.

Kameliya N. Atanasova
Henryatta Ballah
David Bello
Richard Bidlack
Mia Brett
Michelle D. (Mikki) Brock
Matthew Chalmers
Nneka Dennie
Romina Green
Sarah Horowitz
Barton A. Myers
William Patch
Nicolaas A. Rupke
Franklin Sammons
Melissa Vise
Molly Michelmore