Department of History

Learning Goals for History Majors and Minors


History is a versatile and wide-ranging major, offering students many opportunities to expand their knowledge and practical skills. History majors and minors study how cultures, political and economic systems, mentalities, identities, and institutions change over time, and consequently gain insight into the roots of their own experiences and how the world works today. History students also learn valuable skills that can be applied to all manner of future careers: how to analyze evidence and weigh its value and reliability; how to establish likely cause and effect, and find bias and hidden assumptions in sources of information; how to argue persuasively, both verbally and in written form; and how to write clearly and logically. These skills are widely prized in many professions, from law to criminal justice, business to consulting, scientific research to politics and the public sector.

All students studying history at Rutgers University-Newark should be familiar with the learning goals that the department seeks to fulfill in our courses. These are the goals that all history courses share, and that motivate the overall curriculum that the department has designed for majors and minors. Individual courses might have goals specific to the content of each class.

Students who study history at Rutgers University-Newark will develop an understanding of the ways in which our knowledge of past events, experiences, and processes is crucial to an understanding of the present. This entails appreciation of:

  1. How human individuals, communities, and groups are shaped by the pasts of the societies in which they live.
  1. How the institutions central to society both shape and are shaped by those pasts.
  1. The ways in which human agency—how humans believe, produce, create, and act—shape and is shaped by society.
  1. How economic, political, ideological, cultural, and environmental forces shape and are shaped by human experience.
  1. How the broad diversity of human experience is central to any understanding of the past and the present.

In addition, students of history will develop the following skills:

  1. The ability to read, critically evaluate, and interpret the academic work of historical scholars.
  1. The ability to read, critically evaluate, and interpret a wide range of historical source material, including but not limited to political tracts, laws, diaries and personal papers, speeches, reports, letters, journalistic production, art, literature, and film.
  1. The ability to use both secondary and primary sources to construct arguments about historical events, processes, and experiences.
  1. The ability to express these arguments in effective written work.
  1. The ability to conduct independent historical research and derive original historical arguments from this work.