Smith History endeavors to cultivate in the College’s students a critical understanding of past and present human societies that will help them become informed, thoughtful and engaged participants in 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 challenges our students’ preconceived notions and narratives of the past. We train our students to locate, analyze, and craft their own understandings of the past from a wide range of primary sources, and place such analyses in the context of historical and interdisciplinary scholarship. 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 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 at the very heart of a twenty-first century liberal arts college curriculum.
We give our students the opportunity to study history within national, regional and interregional contexts 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 not only has areas of coherence and intellectual depth but that also allows students to step outside of their respective areas of concentration or sphere of familiarity to engage the past in multiple contexts.