History has been an integral part of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum at Vanderbilt since the university was founded in 1873. The first undergraduate students of the discipline immersed themselves in subjects as various as the Roman Empire, English constitutional history, the history of religion (including Islam), political economy, and contemporary American politics. Graduate study came early—in the 1880s—to Vanderbilt. Taught in weekly seminars, a new instructional form, students were expected to master the standard texts—in ancient history and in legal history, for example—while the more advanced among them engaged in innovative research on such issues as the Civil War, local government in the South and Southwest, the tariff, Henry George, and socialism. Vanderbilt’s first Ph.D. in history was awarded in 1899, one of only three awarded in the South before 1900.
Today, the Department of History’s 40 full-time faculty members offer courses that span the globe—from Africa and Asia to Europe, Latin America and the United States—and that introduce students to a range of historical questions and methodologies. The undergraduate program attracts over 150 majors, and the graduate program annually enrolls about 10 students in a variety of fields. Department faculty are at once devoted and skilled teachers on the one hand and innovative and accomplished researchers and writers of history on the other.