Why Study History?

In today’s fragmented, fast-paced society, a true and rich understanding of political, cultural, and religious environments will prove an asset as you pursue professional goals. History majors sharpen a host of intellectual skills, including the ability to read analytically, reason carefully, argue logically, and communicate persuasively. Studying history at Wheaton provides students with a diverse selection of course offerings by outstanding faculty members who integrate faith into the curriculum and foster an environment of community through small class sizes. You’ll be introduced to the joys and challenges of studying the past in such a way that you’ll better understand yourself, your own culture, and the broader world. And you’ll be equipped for a variety of vocational paths, including business, politics, law, journalism, teaching, the ministry, and further graduate work in history.

department faculty

Why Study History at Wheaton?

Classes are small — generally ranging from 8-15 students — and afford intimate interaction with faculty and extensive collaboration with peers. Your introductory general education course has a maximum class size of 35, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for personal contact with faculty both in and out of the classroom.

You’ll critically evaluate historical evidence, build logical arguments, and persuasively communicate those arguments. You will learn to write as never before. Our classes place great emphasis on the ability to transform evidence into persuasive argument, skills that are broadly transferable to any number of vocations.

We bring scriptural principles and theological reflection to everything that happens inside the classroom. You will engage in theological reflection about the past with an eye to the present and future and will learn how to think Christianly while thinking historically.

The seven full-time and two part-time faculty members include both veteran teachers and early-career faculty. All are engaged in research related to their areas of specialty and they bring the fruit of that research to the classroom experience. They are published authors, with books published through Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford university presses, among others.

Phi Alpha Theta: Wheaton College hosts a chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, an international history honor society.  The chapter sponsors a variety of history-related outings and social activities, including movie nights, trivia contests, panel discussions, and field trips.

Assistantships: Approximately a half-dozen students annually serve as Teaching or Research Assistants to department faculty. 

Study Abroad: History majors participate in a variety of study abroad programs that enrich and complement their historical studies.  In recent years, History majors have studied in Jerusalem, Oxford, Prague, Seville, Shanghai, and Tokyo, among other places.

Internships: History-related internships are recommended for students contemplating careers in Public History.  In recent years, the Department has helped to place students at museums or historical societies in Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

Humans Need, Global Resources (HNGR) Internships: History majors also can build on their historical coursework by serving internships with Wheaton's Human Needs and Global Resources program.  Most recently, two of our majors have each spent semesters working in Thailand. 

What Will I Learn?

  • The traditional History major focuses on the transmission of historical knowledge and development of historical thinking skills that are directly transferable to a broad range of vocations.
  • The History/Social Science major is a teacher education concentration designed for students seeking licensure to teach history and social studies in the secondary grades. It combines a streamlined program of historical study with coursework in political science, geography, pedagogy, and other social sciences.

Requirements for a History minor include courses in World History, Historical Inquiry and one upper-division course in two of the following areas: world, U.S., or European history.

The History Major with Honors is granted upon the successful completion of a senior thesis through enrollment in HIST 498 and 499.

Students will be able to 

  • understand and critically evaluate primary and secondary historical sources
  • interpret the past using sound historical reasoning
  • use evidence to construct well-reasoned and persuasive historical arguments and to evaluate the strengths and limitations of other scholars' assessments of the past
  • evaluate the implications of Christian thinking for understanding and interpreting the past.

Consult the course catalog for full listing of current courses available in this field.

At a Time Like This, There Has to Be a Hymn in Here Somewhere!

Vice President for Advancement, Vocation, and Alumni Engagement and Assistant Professor of History Dr. Kirk Farney explores the life and work of Charles Wesley, an English leader of the Methodist movement, who spent his life tirelessly writing hymns for every situation and circumstance.

"At a Time Like This, There Has to Be a Hymn in Here Somewhere!"

Possible Careers for Historians

A history major cultivates habits of mind, skills in research, and a perspective on the past that help to prepare you for a range of careers. The Center for Vocation and Career will be happy to partner with you to explore the many options available to you with this flexible degree.

  • Museum Exhibit Designer
  • Museum Exhibit Content Creator
  • Product Marketing
  • Content Strategist
  • Competitive Intelligence Analyst
  • Social Media Manager
  • Web Content Editor
  • Copywriter
  • Public Relations Account Executive
  • Political Campaign Staff
  • Think-Tank Researcher
  • Journalist
  • Screenwriter
  • Novelist
  • Publishing
  • Acquisitions Editor

Students have pursued master’s degrees in specialized fields of history such as museum studies and archival work. With the advent of the History Channel and the popularity of “living history” sites, opportunities for careers in public history are growing.

The most recent graduate school placements pursued:
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Princeton University
  • Washington and Lee University
  • University of South Carolina
The generous friendship and intellectual stimulation of History faculty and students have continued well beyond my time at Wheaton and have been enormously helpful as I pursue advanced academic study. — Thomas Wilson '13, Frankfort, Illinois
Studying history made my experience in Wheaton in the Holy Lands infinitely richer, not only by imparting the joy of learning from those in the past, but by giving me the tools to explore the past responsibly and lovingly. — Annie Dehnel '15, Edina, Minnesota
I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that my legal jobs after graduation (and my externship with a judge while a law student) were all due to the Wheaton connection. Small schools such as Wheaton have long coattails that large schools find hard to beat. — Ruth Langworthy J.D. '10
Danielle Susanj '10, History alumna
Danielle Acker Susanj '10
Appellate Lawyer
A Variety of Experiences Prepared Me for Law School
"The variety of my experiences at Wheaton, including my history major, enabled me to go on to law school and to pursue a career as a lawyer. From developing strong research skills, to requiring me to read and digest large quantities of information quickly, my pursuit of a history degree formed a crucial foundation for law school and my work as an appellate lawyer."
Laura Schmidt History Alumna
Laura Schmidt '05
Archivist, Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton, IL
Understanding Historical Voice And Context
"My history major from Wheaton taught me a lot about understanding historical voice and context, which greatly aided my career as an archivist and how I view the world around me as well."