Why History? The Department of History has been an integral part of the curriculum at Vanderbilt since the university was founded in 1873. Studying the people and civilizations of the past provides an excellent laboratory in which to improve our understanding of human nature. By observing how people have acted in the past – the challenges they faced, they choices they made – we can learn a great deal about the core characteristics of our species. We can also probe history for ways to improve today’s world. As we reflect on the past efforts of humans to make the world a better place, we can draw fruitful conclusions from both their failures and their successes. Finally, the study of history provides key foundational skills that give a tremendous competitive advantage in almost any professional opportunity. In a world in which many of us will change careers several times throughout our lives, these foundational skills provide precious flexibility and broad applicability.