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Active inquiry into the human past

Overview   |   Meet An Earlhamite   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  


History requires active inquiry into the human past. By delving into the past, Earlham students gain a better understanding of the present, training them for citizenship and for a life of thoughtful action.

Our students are passionate about history! Students on the editorial board of the Earlham Historical Journal select examples of outstanding student research for publication in this student-run academic journal.

The Department offers month-long experiences that first-year students participate in, including one that takes students to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. to conduct original primary source research.

Reflecting the vitality and variety of courses at Earlham's History Department, "Anti-Slavery Movement in Indiana," "Contemporary China and the World," "History of Modern Turkey and Iran," and "The History of Popular Culture" have been recently added to the curriculum.

More from the History Department:


Three of our History majors recently received Fulbright Grants to spend a year abroad teaching English and conducting research in Thailand, Austria and France.

Earlham's History Major prepares students for a variety of careers. The American Historical Association ranks Earlham 16th in the country for production of future Ph.D.s.

Our majors pursue graduate school for degrees in fields as diverse as History, Museum Studies, teaching, law and public health.

Recent graduates have made successful careers as educators, in archival, library or museum settings or in public history. Many use history to prepare themselves for careers in business, law, management, medicine, politics, foreign service, publishing, political advocacy, ministry, law enforcement and public service.

Meet An Earlhamite
Sierra Newby-Smith
Revealing history

A self-described “history geek,” Sierra Newby-Smith always knew that history would be an important part of her education and career.

Rob Strobel
Business Leader

Rob Strobel '95 came to Earlham after serving in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War. He worked in management for the Kessler’s Sporting Goods chain and with the consulting firm Deloitte and Touche before joining Lithko in 2003.

Jacob Noble
From Far-Fetched to Practical

“There are plenty of things that I’m super excited about,” says Jacob Noble ’18.

Our Faculty

Tom Hamm
Professor of History; Curator of the Quaker Collection & Director of Special Collections

Sandra Lara
Visiting Instructor in HIstory

Ryan Murphy
Assistant Professor of History and Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Elana Passman
Associate Professor of History

Betsy Schlabach
Associate Professor of History and African & African American Studies

Womai Song
Visiting Assistant Professor of History & African and African American Studies

Joanna Swanger
Director of Peace and Global Studies Program; Associate Professor of Peace and Global Studies

Hong-Hong Tinn
Assistant Professor of History

Patty Collins
Administrative Assistant

Cheri Gaddis
Administrative Assistant
Plan of Study

General Education Requirements

The Department offers nine courses that fulfill the Writing Intensive Requirement, HIST 228, 231, 232, 343, 356, 362, 371, 372 and 373; 12 courses that fulfill the Domestic component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, HIST 121, 122, 204, 324, 356, 357, 366, 367, 368, 369, 372 and 373; and 12 courses that fulfill the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, HIST 226, 228, 231, 232, 353, 354, 374, 376, 377, 378, 472 and 473.

The Major

Majors complete at least 35 credits in the geographic areas offered, namely African history, East Asian history, European history, Latin American history and U.S. history, and/or in such thematic areas as African-American history, Atlantic World, colonialism and imperialism, gender, Jewish history, political ideology, revolutionary and reform movements, thought and culture, and war and conflict. Majors are urged to take an Earlham Seminar in history during their first year and an introductory course in the primary area of study.

Majors are required to take:

  • 3-4 courses from a thematic or a geographic area of their choice
  • 3-4 courses from a second geographic area
  • 2 elective courses — non-western if areas are Europe/U.S.; elective courses may also support or augment themes or areas.
  • 2 upper-level research courses, chosen from upper-level four-credit courses that are designated as giving Research Credit, HIST 484 Ford/Knight Research Project, or the Newberry Library Program.
  • HIST 410 Philosophy of History OR
    HIST 482 American Historiography
  • HIST 488 Senior Capstone Experience. The Capstone Experience is a history colloquium.

The Minor

Students must take no fewer than five courses, with at least three courses in one geographic or thematic area and one course in another area. Among these courses:

  • one must be a CP in history
  • one must be designated as giving research credit


  • one must be either
    HIST 410 Philosophy of History OR
    HIST 482 American Historiography.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*HIST 121 INTRODUCTION TO U.S. HISTORY TO 1865 (3 credits)
An introduction to important trends and topics in U.S. history from the colonial period to 1865. Includes political, economic, social, cultural and diplomatic subjects with attention to questions of gender and race. (D-D)

An introduction to important trends and topics in U.S. history from the end of the Civil War (1865) to the present. Includes political, economic, social, cultural and diplomatic subjects, with particular attention to matters of race and gender. (D-D)

This course is an introduction to the study of U.S. history that focuses on California’s past and present. The course examines California both as an ideal – one defined
by beautiful weather, booming economies, and open minds – and as a physical space produced amid urbanization, industrialization, immigration, racist violence
and environmental crisis. Students engage with cultural, economic and political events in California’s past, from native people's survival strategies in Spanish missions in the 1770s to the Silicon Valley tech industry in the 21st century. Students will build the critical reading, academic writing and discussion skills that are necessary for success in a liberal arts environment. In addition to reading academic books from history and related scholarly disciplines, students will discuss visual art, watch and write about Hollywood films, and analyze popular literature. Appropriate for first-year students. (D-D)

HIST 201 EUROPE to 1492 (3 credits)
Follows the broad sweep of European history through the initial voyages of Christopher Columbus. Beginning with the Mediterranean world of the Greeks and Romans, turns to the rise of Christianity and Islam, the upheavals of the early Middle Ages and the Triumphs and struggles of medieval kingdoms. Probes the exchanges and frequent conflicts between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim worlds; considers how trade, intellectual exchange and the spread of diseases influenced European developments; investigates key political, religious, social and cultural institutions from the church and the university to feudalism and marriage. Pays particular attention to the everyday lives of marginalized populations such as women, children, Jews and heretics to shed further light on European values. Appropriate for first-year students.

*HIST 202 EUROPE, 1492 TO THE PRESENT (3 credits)
Beginning with the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, examines European history from the dawn of the modern age to the present. Special attention to the development of capitalism in Europe, European colonization, religious conflict and political violence, the development of nations and nationalism, and the legacy of political and social revolution in Europe. Considers to the relationship between Europe and the non-European world, as well as to the position of Jews, women, and marginalized groups within European society. Appropriate for first-year students. (D-I)

*HIST 204 NEW PROMISED LAND (3 credits)
The first Jews set foot on American soil in 1584, and Jewish understanding of the United States and its non-Jewish majority have been complicated ever since. This course explores the history, sociology and theology of American Judaism from the colonial period to the present day with a particular focus on the Jewish minority experience and the evolution of Jewish-Christian relationship. Students also will consider themes of Jewish activism, the rise of the congregational denominations, the appeal of nostalgia, and the development of a particularly Jewish-American culture and cuisine. Also listed as JWST 204 and REL 204. (D-D)

An introduction to the history of the Religious Society of Friends from the 1640s to the present. Particular attention will be given to Quakers as activists and reformers and the role of Earlham in Quaker history. Also listed as REL 205.

*HIST 218 WORLD WAR II in EAST ASIA (3 credits)
This course explores the key question of how the Second World War shaped the everyday lives of Chinese, Japanese, and foreigners in East Asia and the world. In addition, students explore the reasons for and the nature of major events in the war – including the Nanjing massacre, the Chinese resistance to and collaboration with the Japanese, Japan’s wartime mobilization, the role of science and technology in war-making, the gendered and racial underpinnings of wartime labor, the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, and the U.S. government’s decision to release atomic bombs in Japan. (D-I)

A survey of traditional culture in China, Viet Nam, Korea and Japan, with emphasis on China and Korea, and on East Asia as an international system. Special attention to the historical development of the great tradition in literature, art, religion, politics and social institutions. Also listed as JPNS 226. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 228 MODERN EAST ASIA (3 credits)
A survey of East Asia since about 1800, with emphasis on China and Korea, and on East Asia as an international system. Special attention to the historical development of politics, economics, society and social institutions, literature, thought and international relations. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as JPNS 228. (WI, D-I) (AY)

*HIST 231 AFRICAN HISTORY TO 1880 (4 credits)
Introduces students to Africa's long and varied past. Surveys the development of the continent from the Nile Valley civilization to the loss of independence in the 1880s. Topics include Africa as the site of the earliest human development, ancient Egypt's relationship to the rest of Africa, the influence of Islam, the origins and nature of African states and empires, the organization and consequences of the Atlantic slave trade, the impact of European traders and missionaries, and the scramble for Africa in the 1880s. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 231. (WI, D-I) (AY)

*HIST 232 AFRICAN HISTORY SINCE 1880 (4 credits)
Surveys the African loss of sovereignty and the establishment of European colonial dominance in Africa. Focuses on economic, political and social distortions resulting from foreign domination. Considers the impact of African reactions to these developments. Special attention to the struggle for independence and the re-emergence of independent African states. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 232. (WI, D-I) (AY)

This course focuses on the process of developing, researching and writing a substantial historical research paper. It will be centered on a broad theme such as empire, power or technology. Prerequisite: Earlham Seminar or Sophomore Standing.

HIST 240 SEMINAR (3 credits)
Sophomore- and junior-level seminar on selected topics, introducing advanced research and critical writing within the discipline. Previous topics: the agrarian temper in U.S. history and nation building in Africa. (WI)

In antiquity, the Mediterranean Sea united rather than divided cultures. This course surveys ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean basin, paying particular attention to the cultural interactions that shaped and transformed the earliest history of this region. The course focuses upon four key centers of civilization: the kingdoms of the Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Among the topics we will consider: Hittite and Mycenaean relationships during the Bronze Age, Greek colonization and interaction with Egyptians, Phoenicians, Italians, and Near Eastern cultures during the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., the Persian empire and its clash with the Greeks in the 5th century, and Roman expansionism during the Roman Republic. Reading includes primary texts in English. Also listed as ANCS 241. (WI, D-I)

An examination of women's and gender history in the 19th and 20th centuries across a range of European countries with particular focus on politics, gender roles, sexuality, and culture. Allows students to question narrow (national, disciplinary, epistemological) boundaries, think critically about the gendered constructions of European society, and reflect upon the distinctive contributions of women's history. Also listed as WGSS 246. (D-I) (AY)

HIST 265 MODERN CHINA (4 credits)
This course examines the history of China’s recent past from the 17th century to the present. Students explore the rise and fall of an expansive Qing Empire, debate the vibrancy of Republican-era China, and examine the multifaceted experiences of ordinary people living in the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan. Students analyze such themes such as rebellions and revolutions, gender relations, foreign diplomacy, material culture and economic development through the myriad voices of political leaders, activists, intellectuals, students, workers, filmmakers and poets. Students gain understanding of the rise of China today within the context of its dynamic recent past.

*HIST 290 CUBAN HISTORY (3 credits)
The historical experience of Cuba is unique in the western hemisphere, and indeed in the world, for only Cuba underwent transformation from being a colony of Spain to being a neocolonial U.S. protectorate, then an independent republic, and finally a socialist country, all within less than a century. This course will neither praise or condemn Cuban socialism or U.S. imperialism, but instead help students appreciate and understand the complexities of the historical dynamics that gave rise to the current contours of the Cuban Revolution. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 324 RACE AND ETHNICITY IN THE U.S. (4 credits) Research Credit.
Examines the pattern of changing social constructions of race and ethnicity in the U.S. and their profound effects on the political, social and economic lives of individuals and the country. Begins to untangle the historical roots of the social constructions of whiteness and race, and examines contemporary issues. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 324. (D-D)

The British Empire was the most extensive the world has ever known. A little over a century ago, it embraced roughly a quarter of the world’s population. It has thus been a major force in the creation of the modern world. The British model of imperialism was arguably the most influential of the past three centuries. This course is an introduction to its history. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. (DI, RCH)

Did the years between 1300 and 1715 represent the "autumn of the Middle Ages" or did they usher in the modern age? How do we make sense of an era that saw both the brilliant discoveries of the Scientific Revolution and the seemingly irrational witch trials? The persistence of small peasant communities and the expansion of vast trade networks across the globe? Topics include the Renaissance, the Reformation, the "discovery of the New World," the Scientific Revolution, absolutism, and the escalation of global trade. (WI) (AY)

Explores the tensions between the forces of stability and the forces of upheaval from the French Revolution through the outbreak of World War I. Investigates the traditional, hierarchical nature of European society, then tracks how many Europeans sought to overturn the existing political, social, and gender order. Themes include revolution, nationalism, socialism, imperialism, feminism, anarchism, terrorism, artistic experimentation, and urban life. (AY)

Research Credit. Explores the tumultuous era of European history spanning from the outbreak of the First World War to the conclusion of World War II. Topics include the causes and legacy of the “Great War,” the outbreak of postwar revolutions, modernist culture in the interwar Europe, the rise of Fascism and Stalinism, ethnic cleansing during the Second World War, and the Holocaust. Attention to the relationship between class, gender, and race in interwar European culture. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor. Also listed as JWST 347. (AY)

In the last decade or so, scholars of Classical Greece and Rome have begun to recognize the importance of integrating both literary and artistic evidence in order to gain a clearer picture of the ancient past. Drawing upon this understanding, this course focuses on the literary and artistic works from successive periods in the history of ancient Rome in an attempt to discover the character or spirit of each age. Our sources include a wide range of texts (epic and lyric poetry, drama, history) and artifacts (architecture, sculpture, painting, daily objects). As we examine these "words" and "works" we seek to uncover the attitudes, values, and ways of seeing and thinking about the world that make each period of Roman history unique. Knowledge of a classical language not required. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as ANCS 350. (RCH, WI)

Economic inequality in the United States has soared to its highest level since the “Gilded Age” of the 1880s. This course explores the social movement that, for two centuries, has aimed to close the gap between rich and poor: the labor movement.  The class has two intellectual goals. First, it examines how historical phenomena like industrialization, urbanization and racialization have shaped the work process. Second, it traces the theories and practices that working people have used to build a movement for economic justice. The class is interdisciplinary, drawing on scholarly works in History, Political Theory, Anthropology and Economics, as well as literature, film and popular culture. Prerequisite: HIST 121 or HIST 122, or permission of the instructor. Also listed as PAGS 351. (D-D) (WI)

This class examines the history of United States cities as both physical and ideological spaces. Two methods guide the course’s approach to urban history. First, readings and discussions engage the ideas of the intellectuals who have guided urban policy over the last two centuries, examining how the work of Daniel Burnham, Robert Moses, Jane Jacobs and many others have influenced transportation systems, housing construction and neighborhood design. Second, the class explores the mobilization of ordinary people who live in cities, tracing how poor people, immigrants, people of color, single women, LGBT people and other local groups have shaped sanitation systems, public housing projects, freeway construction and urban redevelopment. Prerequisite: HIST 121 or HIST 122, or permission of the instructor. (D-D) (WI)

*HIST 353 LATIN AMERICA TO 1825 (3 credits)
An examination of the origin and development of Latin American civilization, with particular attention to the European conquest and its effect on Native Americans: the origin and development of colonial institutions and conditions which led finally to the demise of the colonial system. Also listed as LTST 353. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 354 LATIN AMERICA SINCE 1825 (3 credits)
Emphasizes the 20th century, examining patterns of modernization, development and resistance. Sources include literature and works reflecting religion and popular culture.  (D-I) (AY)

Surveys the history of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Focusing on the campaigns and struggles in the mid 1950s and 1960s when blacks and their white allies directly confronted Jim Crow segregation in an effort to gain full citizenship rights and economics opportunity. Focuses on mass movements, with some attention to other freedom struggles, particularly before the emergence of mass activism. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 356. (WI, D-D) (AY)

Explores select topics in the history of African American women from the era of antebellum slavery to the present, using such primary sources as slave narratives, autobiographies, documents and historical monographs. Topics include gender relations in the slave community, the gendered nature of slave resistance and rebellion, the politics of economic emancipation, women's activism in the struggle against racial violence and segregation and the role of women in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Also listed as AAAS 357. (D-D) (AY)

The history of England, 1460-1714. A topical inquiry into English society, politics and religion, including the English reformation, Tudor and Stuart kingship, the changing social order, civil war and political revolution, the emergence of Parliament, the constitutional monarchy, the religious settlement and the foundation of oligarchy. (AY)

The development of political ideas in America from the Puritan colony experience to the present. Examines the changing concepts of the role of government and the nature of political society through the writings of major thinkers. Also listed as POLS 366. (D-D) (AY)

A survey of U.S. social history from 1607 to the present, focusing on the historical contours of female/male sex roles. Topics include marriage, the family, child-rearing, work, education, sexuality, and gynecology and reproduction. Analyzes the effects of war, racism, slavery, immigration, industrialization and consumerism along with abolitionism, temperance, feminism, civil rights and other social protest movements. Prerequisite: HIST 121 or 122, or consent of the instructor. Also listed as WGSS 367. (D-D) (AY)

A survey of African Americans from the era of the Atlantic slave trade to the passage of the 13th amendment. Topics include the paradox of the co-existence of slavery and freedom, the nature of the slave community, the issue of slave resistance and the role of free African Americans in the abolition movement. First-hand accounts and secondary materials give students an appreciation of the African American historical experience in the United States. Also listed as AAAS 368. (D-D) (AY)

Surveys the history of African Americans from the era of Emancipation through the migrations that transformed blacks into a national, urban minority to the political, cultural and economic challenges in the era of conservatism. Topics include the struggle to define race and citizenship after the Civil War, the impact of migrations on black society and national politics, the consequences of the rise of a black industrial working class, campaigns for civil and human rights, and the emergence of the black power movement. Also listed as AAAS 369. (D-D) (AY)

The defiant bravery of king Leonidas as he and his famous band of 300 Spartan soldiers held the pass at Thermopylae against the might of the Persian Empire is a familiar one, celebrated in popular memory as an act that transcends history to become legend. Did it really happen that way? Or is this image largely a product of the imagination of Greece’s first historian, Herodotus, considered by many to be “the father of history”? This course explores the way that Herodotus immortalized the conflict between the Greeks and Persians during the 5th century B.C. Students trace the forces that shaped this famous clash of cultures, and look at Herodotus’ account in conjunction with other archaeological and historical evidence in order to talk about how history is created. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. Also listed as ANCS 371. (D-I, RCH)

A survey of the history of Asians and Americans of Asian ancestry in the United States from the 18th century to the present, with emphasis on phases of immigrant history and interactions with recipient communities in the context of U.S. historical development, and on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, naturalization and citizenship, and racial, ethnic and cultural identity. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as JPNS 372. (WI, D-D) (AY)

A survey of the history of American involvement in and attitudes toward the countries and peoples of the Middle East, with emphasis on diplomacy and policy making, scholarship and the construction of knowledge, and representations of the Middle East in American popular culture. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. (WI, D-D) (AY)

*HIST 374 MODERN JAPAN (4 credits) Research Credit.
A study of Japanese historical and institutional development in the early modern and modern periods, from the 15th century to the present. Topics include the Tokugawa period; Meiji Restoration and modernization; periods of colonialism, imperialism and militarism; postwar recovery and the economic miracle; and the challenges of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Explores economic, political, social, intellectual and international perspectives. Attention to prominent theories of development as applied to Japan. Also listed as JPNS 374. (D-I) (AY)

Focuses on 19th century issues leading to the Civil War and the multilayered legacy of the war, with particular attention to race and reunification. Examines the war's transformation of politics and the economy and the efforts of various groups to resist, control or reform a society in the throes of rapid change. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar or consent of the instructor. Also listed as AAAS 379. (WI) (AY)

Surveys the history of the Sudanic and forest regions of West Africa from c. 1000 BCE to independence. Primary emphasis on discerning the internal dynamics as well as the external factors that shaped West Africa's development. Considers the cultural and social diversity of the region, the particular nature of the Sudanic and forest states, importance of long-distance trade and Islam, effects of the Atlantic slave trade, impact of colonialism on African life and struggle for independence. Also listed as AAAS 376. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 377 EAST AFRICA (4 credits)
Surveys the history of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) from the time of the great migration through independence. Among the issues addressed are the differences between coastal and inland developments, the rise of the Indian Ocean trading network, the emerging interior states, the appearance of coastal trading systems, the early European distribution of coastal societies, the development of plantation economics, the impact of colonialism, the variety in the decolonization movements and the coming of independence. Also listed as AAAS 377. (D-I) (AY)

Surveys the history of southern African society from the earliest times to the post apartheid era. Topics include the nature of early indigenous African societies, the entrenchment of European domination, the subjugation of African chiefdoms, the role of international capital in transforming the economy, African resistance to segregation and apartheid, and the dismantling of the apartheid state. Also listed as AAAS 378. (D-I) (AY)

HIST 410 PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY (4 credits) Research Credit.
Examines the assumptions, conventions and foundations of historical argument, the constitution and character of historical evidence and the nature and scope of philosophical speculation about what history is and about the epistemological and theoretical constraints governing the work of historians. Readings include both primary and secondary materials in history, historiography, and the philosophy and theory of history.  Also listed as PHIL 410. (AY)

An advanced research seminar on a topic related to the field of European History. Specific topic is selected each semester. Focuses on the process of developing, researching and writing a 25-page historical research paper. Open to any interested student in any discipline. Prerequisite: Completion of one 300-level course in history is recommended.

*HIST 472 MODERN CHINA (4 credits) Research Credit.
A survey of Chinese historical development from the first dynasties to the present day, with emphasis on the period from the mid-14th century through the liberalizing reforms of the post-Mao era. Investigates problems of historical continuity and change, Chinese perceptions of themselves and of the West, attempts at economic and political modernization, the Maoist revolution, and the interplay between institutions and ideas. Also listed as JPNS 472. (D-I) (AY)

*HIST 473 TRADITIONAL JAPAN (4 credits) Research Credit.
A survey of traditional life and culture in Japan in a historical and institutional framework, from earliest times to around the mid-19th century. Topics include the state, relationship between authority and power, social structures, economic life, philosophy, religion, the arts and literature. Also listed as JPNS 473. (D-I) (AY)


HIST 482 AMERICAN HISTORIOGRAPHY (4 credits) Research Credit.
An introduction to the main currents of American historical thought and writing. An opportunity to examine critically the ways leading American historians have interpreted significant problems in national development through vigorous inquiry into principles of selection and causation, use of evidence and fundamental ideas. Prerequisite: HIST 121 or 122. (AY)


Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

HIST 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
For advanced students. An investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty adviser.

Required of all History majors. Includes common readings, student reports on selected works, and revision and presentation of a major paper from a previous History course.