The major in history exists because of that special environment in which man lives: time. History is a way of understanding the ways men and their societies change over time. Furthermore, history properly understood should focus not just on the events and changes, but also on the reasons for those changes. Thus, history stresses more than just knowledge of places or facts; rather, it stresses analysis and insight.
History serves to instill in its practitioners a number of qualities. The ability to analyze and understand is paramount to an understanding of history. The ability to express oneself well, be it in speech or in prose, is crucial. The ability to adopt a critical sense of one’s material is important, as is the ability to read accurately and well. Students should be able to cultivate a historical sense that will free them from the presuppositions of their own era, and teach them empathy for other peoples and places. History has long been considered the ally of the statesman and lawyer, and serves these professions well. Finally, as Cicero noted, “To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to live the life of a child forever.”
The history major begins with a core program that is required for all undergraduates and has several aims. First, it is meant to provide a framework and background for the University’s curriculum such that students can develop an understanding of the historical context in which the other subjects they are studying arose. Second, it is meant to give all students a sense of era and period, a sense of history. Third, it is meant to give the students a common culture and context for discussing and interactions based on their knowledge of history. Finally, it is meant to assist the other departments at the University in the inculcation of analytical skills for critical thinking and reading, as well as good prose style and writing habits, in Ave Maria students.
Dr. Paul Baxa, Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Department