The Department of History at Smith endeavors to cultivate in its students a critical understanding of past and present human societies that will help them become informed, thoughtful and engaged citizens of the world. By offering our students the opportunity to discover historical inquiry as a meaningful part of their humanistic formation, history contributes directly to the highest intellectual mission of the college.
The study of history offers many rewards. The training in careful reading, rigorous analysis, and effective writing and oral communication has numerous applications for all students whether or not they choose to go on to advanced studies in history. Exposure to different historical epochs opens new horizons, placing at our students' disposal a far wider range of human experiences than any individual could plausibly acquire in her own lifetime. With the world appearing to become ever more complex and bewildering in the variety and multiplicity of the interactions of its parts, we can help students understand more clearly not only their place in contemporary society but also the longer term political, social, economic, intellectual and cultural currents that are coming together in our increasingly globalized world. History thus belongs still at the very heart of a 21st century liberal arts curriculum.
We give our students the opportunity to study history within a national or regional context as well as comparatively, through examining historical societies that are removed from each other in geographical space and in time. The department therefore strives to maintain a balanced curriculum that no only has areas of coherence and intellectual depth but also covers some of the most important human societies of the past wherever they might be found.