Michael Szonyi, Harvard University
About Our Department
We engage our students through the study of the past. We are committed to the idea that the most compelling stories are often the most revealing ones. In addition to teaching students the particular skills of historical inquiry, we provide them with tools that serve them beyond their majors and beyond the university.
The discipline of history poses challenging questions about the ways that human beings have made the worlds they live in. There are many approaches to history. Some historians study politics, whether that means political parties or the ways that people who never held public office nonetheless act to shape public life. Others study the lived experience of everyday Americans or the popular culture that reflects how people understand the world around them. Still others are especially interested in the kinds of stories about the past that we tell ourselves, for those stories reveal a great deal about our own society and about earlier times. While it is not true that history repeats itself, it is true that without knowledge of the past we are unable to understand the present.
Some history majors go on to pursue graduate work in the field and become professional historians, but most find that the knowledge and skills they build through history courses fit them for a wide range of careers. Our graduates have attended law or medical school, and have pursued careers in government, education, research, business, communications, international agencies, publishing, museums and archives, public advocacy and many other fields.