Department Overview

At Lewis & Clark, the faculty believes that a critical understanding of how history is crafted is as important as learning the historical details. The development of research and writing skills is one of the main objectives of the department’s program. All majors take a unique methods course called Historical Materials, which focuses on how to find and use historical documents—books, manuscripts, periodicals, newspapers, maps, photographs—as research tools. In a second required course called Reading Colloquium, students read the best literature in a field selected by the instructor and come to grips with the variety of ways history is written and interpreted. In the history research seminar, majors conduct intensive research on a particular topic and present their findings to their classmates in the form of a thesis. This series of courses, we believe, prepares students to use research and writing skills in whatever career path they choose and equips them to be discerning students of history throughout their lives.

The curriculum in the history major and minor features a series of courses in four regional concentrations: Asian, European, Latin American, and North American history. Additional courses outside these areas deal with other parts of the world. We expect students who major in history to take courses in three of the concentrations, but they naturally develop a special interest in one. Students take a minimum of 10 courses in history, culminating in a reading colloquium and research seminar in the senior year. Course sizes range from 4 students (at the upper level) to 40 students (at the introductory level).

In consultation with their advisor, students take courses in other departments that enrich their historical study. Students who concentrate in Asian, European, or Latin American history often participate in an overseas study program, developing language facility as well as insight into the present culture of their area of interest.

The department uses the rich historical background of the Pacific Northwest and the Portland area to supplement on-campus offerings. Interested students are matched, through the department’s internship program, with local historical societies, museums, and public agencies for practical learning experiences related to history. Students also use local and regional archival materials to learn about the history of the area and to sharpen their research skills.

Students are encouraged to pursue individual interests through independent research or by assisting professors with their current projects. Students often find that experiences they have on Lewis & Clark overseas study programs provide a foundation for research projects in history.

History majors and minors become well acquainted with each other and the faculty in their years at the College. They work through the required courses together, each student meets periodically with a department advisor to talk about progress and future plans, students edit and publish a newsletter for alumni, the College sponsors a campus visit and lecture by a distinguished historian each year, and the department holds an informal potluck at least once each semester. All of these activities help to create a sense of community among history students.

After graduating from Lewis & Clark, history majors find a variety of interesting employment options. An increasing number of our graduates pursue advanced degrees in history. Many students combine their history study with appropriate courses in the College’s graduate-level teacher education program and enter the teaching profession. Other options open to history majors include graduate work in related fields such as law, public policy, or communication. A few history majors, who also majored in the sciences, have become doctors. One recent student with a double major in history and international affairs won a Rhodes scholarship. She studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University and later attended Yale Law School where she studied human rights law.

Examples of positions obtained by history graduates

  • Foreign service officer, US Department of State
  • Editor/writer of software manuals for Microsoft
  • International economist, US Treasury
  • Cultural protection specialist, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
  • Intern, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC
  • Officer (Armor), US Army/Oregon National Guard
  • Associate professor of history, University of Michigan (PhD Rutgers)
  • Director of development, Raphael House, domestic violence shelter
  • Librarian/archivist, Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Great Falls, Montana
  • Assistant to film director Darren Aronofsky
  • Curator of exhibits, Oregon Historical Society
  • Juvenile prosecutor, District of Columbia (JD Harvard)
  • Clerk, US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and Assistant US Attorney, District of Minnesota (JD Yale)
  • Teacher, Teach For America, New Orleans
  • Volunteer, Peace Corps, Kazakhstan

Examples of post-graduate fellowships obtained by history graduates

  • Davies-Jackson Scholarship
  • Fulbright English teaching assistantships in Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia, and Russia
  • Fulbright Research Fellowship to India
  • Madison Graduate Fellowship for future high school history teachers
  • Rhodes Scholarship
  • Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship

Lewis & Clark history graduates have also been accepted into dozens of graduate and professional programs at such universities as Berkeley, Boston Univ., Columbia, Cambridge, Central European Univ., Edinburgh, Georgetown, Fordham, Glasgow, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Leuven, LSE, Middlebury Institute at Monterey, North Carolina, Oxford, Rutgers, Sciences Po, Simmons, SOAS, Yale, UT Austin, Univ. of Washington, and Virginia.