History Department

The mission of the Department of History is to help students develop the capacity to think historically.

This means understanding change and continuity over time, appreciating the importance of historical context, knowing how to interpret and critique primary and secondary sources, being able to construct arguments based on historical evidence, understanding the varieties of approaches employed by historians, and integrating into the study of history methods employed in related disciplines. Second, it means developing an appreciation for the histories of different regions, societies, and time periods, as well as for the differences and similarities among those histories. Finally, it involves developing an understanding of the past as past and of its importance in the present. All of these abilities are essential to well-educated persons seeking to deal effectively with the complex world in which they live.

History is an essential discipline to the liberal arts, and many of the department’s courses fulfill area requirements for graduation. The major is designed to develop necessary knowledge and skill foundations for students who wish to pursue graduate studies in history; who intend to pursue graduate studies in a variety of related professional fields, such as international relations, law, or business; or who intend to move directly into careers in fields such as business, government, or public service. For more information, please click here.

Declared History Majors can find a guide to the major here.

Majors in History are encouraged to study abroad and the department allows appropriate coursework from approved international programs to apply toward the major. See available programs at http://gustavus.studioabroad.com/.


History Department Statement on Russia's Invasion of Ukraine 3/3/22

The History Department at Gustavus Adolphus College condemns the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine and the senseless suffering, destruction, and damage it has caused so far. As scholars, we strongly reject any justification of conflict based on distorted interpretations of Russian and Ukrainian history. We support all those in Ukraine who are suffering and will continue to suffer because of this invasion. We encourage all our students to learn about the history of the region to better understand this great challenge of our times.

History Department Statement on Anti-Racism 1/26/21

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the subsequent protests against police violence, and the recent assault on the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Gustavus Adolphus College History Department faculty vigorously affirms the statement on the History of Racist Violence in the United States issued by the American Historical Association in June 2020, the Resolution on Racial Justice and Inclusion adopted by the Gustavus Board of Trustees on October 8, 2020, and the American Historical Association statement “Ransacking Democracy” condemning the invasion of the Capitol. 

 There is no understanding the present without understanding the past. In our classrooms and in our broader work with students, we are committed to anti-racism and the rejection of white supremacy. As historians, our best tools in such efforts are helping our campus and broader communities understand the complex history of race, racism, and white supremacy, especially in the United States but also in other parts of the world. The history of slavery, the Civil War, ongoing white supremacy, and racism are a critical context for making sense of contemporary events. 

Furthermore, as a department, we are committed to equity, social justice, and democracy. The department has long been committed to such ideals. For example, in 2011, our new history major curriculum required all majors to take a course that emphasized social constructions of race, class, and/or gender. Our students learn the complexity of the way these categories interact through an intersectional lens and the complicated way power is deployed in our society. We, therefore, encourage all members of the Gustavus community to learn about the history of racial oppression and freedom struggles in Minnesota, the United States, and the world.

As a department, we are engaged in ongoing discussions about how we can do more to promote the ideal of anti-racism. Some of our ongoing work will include:

  1. Thinking through and confronting the role of white supremacy in the historical profession through its history. 
  2. Efforts to engage with our community through specific moments such as Black history month, women’s history month, Asian American history month, Hispanic history month, LGBTQ history month, and Native American history month.
  3. An open forum with majors and minors to hear about the kinds of events that would benefit their understanding of race, racism, white supremacy, and contemporary events.
  4. Intentional focus on examining our curriculum and syllabi for ways we can improve topics, readings, content, and assignments with anti-racism in mind.
  5. Intentional and committed participation in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programming of the college.
  6. Intentional and committed participation in recruiting and retaining students and faculty of underrepresented groups in keeping with the College's stated aspiration "to be a community of persons from diverse backgrounds who respect and affirm the dignity of all people."

History Department Statement on Anti-Asian Xenophobia 3/22/2021

The History Department at Gustavus Adolphus College forcefully condemns anti-Asian violence in all its forms. We issue this statement in solidarity with Asian and Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) faculty, students, and staff in grief, fear, and outrage. Although we are responding in particular to the murderous attacks in Georgia against Asian and Asian American working women, we also wish to acknowledge and condemn the historic patterns of anti-Asian xenophobia in the United States that have reasserted themselves in our extended pandemic moment. We are here for you and call on everyone to StopAAPIHate with dozens of AAPI organizations.