what’s your major? History

For students who hold a fascination with the past, Mercer’s history department offers a program with classes highlighting a variety of topics. The department consists of six full-time historians: four European historians and two American historians.

John Scott, one of the history department’s American historians, said the curriculum in the history department is designed for students to study the past through teaching as well as individual discovery. History classes at Mercer do not only consist of a lot of dates, names and memorization. History majors do take classes where they learn about a specific topic in history, but classes are also taught to equip students to research and explore the past through personal historical projects.

“Our main goals are to teach students how to think and how to communicate, especially through writing,” Scott said. “…The past is the area we explore…answering the questions ‘how and why did that happen?’ [and] communicating those answers through lively writing.”

Even though history is a required subject beginning in grade school, professors constantly encounter students who are clueless on seemingly common historical facts. Scott has compiled an ongoing (and somewhat humorous) list of things he has encountered students do not know. This list includes Henry Clay, the Cold War and Roe v. Wade.

Senior history major Max Youngblood came to Mercer having always been interested in history. After taking a few classes, history seemed like a natural choice for a major. Youngblood chose European history as his concentration, with most of his classes focusing on modern Europe.

An average history class format is not in the expected lecture and note-taking style. Youngblood describes his history classes as being “taught in the seminar format, demanding…knowledge of the reading. The seminar format also encourages a more cohesive classroom environment and the ability to verbally express ideas. Research papers [are] the history major’s specialty.”

A common question asked to history majors is what they hope to do after college with a history degree. Scott defends that history majors have a vast array of opportunities after college.

“As a result of our emphasis on critical thinking and written communication, history majors are well prepared for almost any profession,” said Scott. “Some go to law schools while others go into teaching, medical fields, academia and business….Studying the past prepares you for any path to the future.”

The history department often has a scary reputation among undergraduates who must take courses required for general education. Ali Wright, a sophomore psychology major, explains she was fearful upon enrolling in her required history course but was pleasantly surprised. “It was a lot of work, but the material was interesting and I am glad that I learned so much in the class,” she said.