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Teaching Students to Think Like a Historian

Matthew GillisThe goal of the new course (History 299) is to not only introduce history students to key terms and concepts, and ways of working and thinking characteristic of the discipline of history, but also to give students a sense of the fascination, passion, and joy of discovery that history faculty associate with historical scholarship. This course is about process, ideas, and engagement. Rather than focusing on a narrative “History of X,” the seminars of History 299 focus on discrete themes closely linked to faculty research specialties.

In alignment with the new course’s design, goals, and objectives, Gillis selected a broad-based theme for the course: “Vengeance and Violence in Dark Age Worlds.” The theme reflects Gillis’s expertise and special interest in Early Medieval Europe, Early Middle Ages, and the Vikings.

History 299 is the centerpiece for a number of changes the faculty are making to the undergraduate curriculum in history. The intent is to offer majors aspects of a liberal-arts style education within a large, research-focused department. This means offering smaller class sizes in the upper division courses, more intensive and more hands-on research throughout the major, and the introduction of new courses that span geographic regions to explore themes of great historical and contemporary significance.