Historical manuscript
Program Overview


Without history, nothing makes sense.

Knowledge of History is a Powerful Tool in an Uncertain Age

From oral histories to theories of state formation, history majors at Oberlin draw on an array of methods to investigate a range of questions. Our students learn about how people lived in the past as well as the structures and institutions that shaped their experience. With an emphasis on meticulous, detailed-oriented research as well as writing and communication skills, Oberlin’s undergraduate historians are poised to flourish in a range of professional pathways and as engaged citizens in a rapidly changing world.

An Engaged and Supportive Community of Scholars

Oberlin’s Department of History is a dynamic home for curious students. Our majors have curated exhibitions on Joan of Arc and the history of former Japanese internees. They have conducted oral histories of Lorain County and traveled to archives in Moscow and Beijing. They help professors revise textbooks, research monographs, and reinterpret overlooked historical figures, studying how history itself changes over time. Through a commitment to advising and mentorship, our world-class faculty work on the cutting edge of historical scholarship, bringing research and pedagogy together in seminars, winter term projects, capstones and public humanities exhibitions.

In the last 100 years more Oberlin graduates have gone on to earn PhDs than the graduates of any other college

Digital Scholarship

In the History Design Lab, Oberlin students experiment with how to convey information about the past to audiences of today and tomorrow.

Students in class.
Oberlin’s History Faculty have published over 25 books on topics ranging from the Arab Spring to early piracy in the Atlantic Ocean

Hands-On Archival Research

Fluency with archival documents is central to the practice of History. At Oberlin, students work with faculty mentors to enrich our understanding of the past.

A loose pile of cards, each with a photo of people. Some photos are black & white.

Undergraduate Research

Ari Henry

Ari observes and analyzes patterns of antiblack misogyny in digital spaces like TikTok and Twitter.

Featured Courses

HIST 208

Miracles and Microscopes

By most accounts, the 16th century ushered in an age of reason that replaced an age of credulous belief in spells and miraculous transformations. This class evaluates such claims, positioning scientific methods and discoveries within the social, economic, cultural, and religious contexts in which they were produced. How did alchemy, magic, and witchcraft, as well as inductive reasoning and technologies of observation all play a part in the constitution of new disciplines and truths?

Taught by
Ellen Wurtzel
HIST 314

Existentialism in European History

This class examines the major themes of existentialism (authenticity vs. inauthenticity, meaninglessness, absurdity, freedom and anguish) through reading philosophers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre. We will be looking at the development of existentialism as a philosophical trend as well as the ways existentialist philosophers anticipated, inspired and responded to political events including the rise of Nazism and the end of European Imperialism.

Taught by
Annemarie Sammartino
HIST 354

The British Empire and the Indian Ocean

From Singapore to the Swahili Coast, the Union Jack appeared across nineteenth-century Asia and Africa. Yet the largest empire the world had ever known first emerged and then remained rooted in India. This seminar offers a tour of Indian Ocean horizons in the age of empire, from Elizabethan seadogs to the dissolution of empire and indigenous anticolonialism. We will be especially interested in debating how aspects of today's international order originated in an imperial past.

Taught by
Rishad Choudhury ’07
HIST 473

Colloquium on Violence and Terror in Early America

This course is premised on the idea that violence functions as both a destructive and generative force in American life.  From pre-Columbian times through the mid-nineteenth century, violence and fears thereof provided the context within which people understood themselves, related to one another, and charted their futures. Throughout the semester students will investigate the role of violence in both the demise and growth of early modern identities, attitudes, and institutions.

Taught by
Matthew Bahar

Student Profiles

Fulbright Fellow in South Korea

Having worked on the history of nisei, or young Japanese Americans during WWII, Holly Hoang ’17 is now set to travel to South Korea as part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program.

Holly Hoang

What does History at Oberlin look like?

A professor shares a laugh with students during class.

Professor Renee Romano working with students as part of her First Year Seminar “Racing the Environment.”

Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97
A small group looks at a painting.

Professor Leonard Smith discusses Ernst Kirschner’s Self Portrait as a Soldier (1915), in the collection of the Allen Museum.

Photo credit: Yvonne Gay
People view a poster at an exhibit.

Oberlin’s “Courage and Compassion” Exhibit explored the shared story of Japanese-American WWII experiences.

Photo credit: Dale Preston
Faculty panelists, seated behind microphones.

Professor Zeinab Abul-Magd discusses international politics on a panel with professor Sebastiaan Faber and Oberlin History Alum Max Strasser, currently an editor at the New York Times.

Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.

Campus in early fall.