History in the broadest sense is the study of the human past. In a narrower sense it is the study of the records and relics of the human past. In so broad a field, various subdivisions have to be recognized - political history, economic history, social history, intellectual history, and many others. History is studied in terms of cultures, or countries, or periods, or human activities in the past, insofar as those relationships can be discovered from the materials, written and otherwise, that people have left behind. Two historical events can resemble one another but they can never be the same because they differ in time and place. One purpose behind the study of history is the effort to broaden and deepen our own experience by learning as much as we can about the experience of mankind in the past. History is always concerned with change.
Historical Studies at the University of Alberta offer the opportunity to select a programme from a diverse range of courses that explore the history of much of the world through many different periods, countries and approaches to the human past. In the first year students may take a selection of world history courses: CLASS 110, HIST 110, HIST 111, HIST 112, HIST 114 or HIST 116. These courses provide a general exposure to the discipline of History - for example, how historians approach the past, deal with evidence, produce conflicting interpretations, and so on. They also help place the student's own civilization in historical context, and allow you to make comparisons with other civilizations, as well as to understand the emergence and problems of today's global society. Finally, they help students make better informed decisions about more advanced courses.
As students become more involved in historical studies, discover the variety of courses and excellence of many instructors, a common grievance is the lack of time to take so many courses that would be of interest. Students are strongly urged to see one of the Departmental advisors when planning their programmes, especially beyond the first year. A properly balanced programme combining both breadth (exposure to several fields) and depth (developing concentration in one or two fields) provides the background needed for graduate studies and honours programmes.
Historians like to think that the discipline of History is one of the best ways of training the mind that is to be found in Arts. Virtually any aspect of human endeavour can be examined using a wide variety of techniques from both the humanities and social sciences. That is what lends to History the unceasing re-interpretation of the past as both new evidence and new questions cause historians to re-evaluate the human record.
In that sense, history never becomes "dated." The study of History also contributes to the liberal education of students by helping them to develop skills in critical thinking and oral and written expression. Beyond that, History offers a number of related areas for employment opportunities. Many archivists, librarians and museum personnel have historical backgrounds. Some government departments and even some businesses have historical and archival divisions.
Those who do well may wish to consider advanced study and a career as a professional historian at the college or university level. There are also many other areas for which History is an excellent preparation. Among these are teaching, law and government service. In the latter category, graduates of the history program have entered careers as diverse as Clerk of the House of Commons, foreign service officers with External Affairs, and positions with Intergovernmental Affairs and Alberta Culture. In such positions the generalist background, and the ability to conduct research and write intelligible reports is highly valued.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact the Department.