Why Study History?

The discipline of history focuses on critical analysis of text-based evidence from the past and seeks a detailed, complex understanding of individual and collective human behaviors as they have emerged, intersected, and altered over time.

Historical study examines and attempts to explain processes of change over time as they pertain to cultures, nations, institutions, value systems, and other major social phenomena. Historians also consider and outline patterns of causation that affect individual lives over time and how individuals, in turn, influence the world in which they live.

Students of history develop lifelong habits of critical thinking, inquiry-based reading of texts, effective research skills, and appreciation of complexity and diversity in human behavior. History majors also develop the skills needed to work collaboratively, organize and deliver oral presentations on historical subjects, and produce substantial research papers that demonstrate the student’s competency in historical research and written expression.

Interested in graduate school? Our students are regularly admitted to excellent History graduate programs in the United States and abroad, including New York University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Temple University, the University of Virginia, European University (St. Petersburg), and the University of Exeter (UK).  In 2015, 2016, and 2017, each, a PLU history alum completed a Ph.D. in History and won a tenure-track position teaching history in a university setting.

Beyond History, our department alumni also excel in graduate programs in law, library science, education, humanities, and others disciplines. Whether you attend graduate school or not, your education will help you reach your career goals!

Why Study History at PLU?

History students at PLU can choose from a rich selection of courses on the history of the United States, Europe, China, East Asia and Latin America. Endowed programs in the department also support strong classes in Holocaust studies and U.S. business and economic history. History faculty work closely with individual students to help them choose the path best suited to each student’s interests in history and career plans. The history department offers exciting study away opportunities and has a highly successful alumni community with noteworthy achievements in a wide range of careers and areas of public service.

Skills the Well Trained History Student Develops

The Ability to Assess Evidence (Critical Thinking). The study of history builds experience in dealing with and assessing various kinds of evidence-the sorts of evidence historians use in shaping the most accurate pictures of the past that they can. Learning how to combine different kinds of evidence-public statements, private records, numerical data, visual materials-develops the ability to make coherent arguments based on a variety of data. This skill can also be applied to information encountered in everyday life.

The Ability to Assess Conflicting Interpretations. Learning history means gaining some skill in sorting through diverse, often conflicting interpretations. History does teach the need for assessing arguments, and it provides opportunities to engage in debate and achieve perspective.

Experience in Assessing Past Examples of Change. Analysis of change means developing some capacity for determining the magnitude and significance of change, for some changes are more fundamental than others.

The Ability to Write Cogently. Students of history write numerous history papers that hone their writing skills to a high degree of clarity and intellectual rigor.

Using Technology. History students learn to use essential technologies, including research tools, word processing programs, spreadsheets, presentation software, translation programs, and databases. PLU History students also learn to collaborate in teams using Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Moreover, PLU historians perform more research using Internet-based tools (Google) than most majors. Moving to building websites and social-media marketing is typically an easy transition for History majors and minors–and some do this work while in college.

History is Useful in the World of Work. Students of history develop research skills, the ability to find and evaluate sources of information, and the means to identify and evaluate diverse interpretations. Work in history also improves basic writing and speaking skills and is directly relevant to many of the technical and analytical requirements in the public and private sectors, where the capacity to identify, assess, and explain trends is essential.