What do History majors do?  Everything.

Meet the Department

Know the past. Change the world.

History is not hermetically sealed in the past. We all live with its legacy and each generation has an obligation to try and right its wrongs.

Shaping the future requires understanding the past. Historians discern patterns, analyze evidence, collect and identify artifacts, and tell people’s stories, giving voice to the voiceless. By coming to know the stories of others, they learn to tell one that is distinctly their own. 
What do history majors do? Everything. The study of history is excellent preparation for careers in many fields, including law, journalism, business and finance, education, politics and public policy, social activism, and the arts.

Gain contextual perspectives on race, power, privilege, gender and sexuality.


Improve foreign language skills


Travel on off-campus programs


St Olaf student Grace Hermes ’21 has won the C. McKenzie Lewis Excavation & Field School Award from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS).

Read More!

Department News: On & Off the Hill!

Letter to the Students of St Olaf College:

Recent events on St. Olaf’s campus and elsewhere have once again put into sharp relief the ways in which racism is–and always has been–woven into the fabric of American society.

From 1492 and 1619 to Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, racial violence has pervaded American history. And, too often, that physical violence and the trauma following it has been exacerbated by the way historians approach those topics. To be clear: the discipline of history has often been complicit in naturalizing, fostering, and promoting racialized power structures, both in the United States and across the globe. At the same time, we believe that the tools and methodologies of history are powerful mechanisms for dismantling celebratory narratives that reify and uphold systems of oppression. It is in that spirit that we draft this statement of commitment to racial justice and lay out concrete plans for our role as historians in this work.

The faculty and staff of the St. Olaf History Department recognize and applaud the ongoing efforts of the student body to push for real change both on the Hill and beyond it. As we move forward as both members of the History Department and the larger St. Olaf community, we pledge to:

*Listen. We welcome thoughts, suggestions, and feedback, particularly from BIPOC students, on how the History department can directly address issues of inequity and representation in our curriculum, classrooms, events, and department. Please add your thoughts using this anonymous Google Form.

*Provide space in our classrooms to analyze critically racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other ideologies and practices of hate which serve to marginalize underrepresented groups and reinforce existing power structures;

*Provide our students with the historical context and analytical tools to help them understand the development and inner-workings of those power structures;

*Offer courses which treat issues of social justice as central to the workings of history rather than a footnote to Eurocentric triumphalism;

*Support and advocate for BIPOC faculty, both in the History Department and across the College.

To express our commitment to these objectives, we are investing resources to host a number of speakers this academic year in a new series called “History 360”. The goal of this series is to publicize the diversity of work being done by historians while demonstrating that history as a discipline is committed to having challenging, forward-looking conversations about issues of power, identity, and inequality. We will host our first speaker on October 21st at 7:00 pm. Dr. Judy Wu will speak on Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color in Congress. Please watch for announcements.

Thank you for your time and your suggestions.


The Faculty of the History Department

Department Statement

We in the history department were saddened and outraged to see the killing of Daunte Wright by the Brooklyn Center Police Department. We stand in solidarity with all people who are demanding justice for Daunte and who are calling for systemic change to methods of policing and in American society more broadly. As historians, we wish to emphasize the long history of violent, racialized policing in this country and we wholeheartedly join demands to rethink the role of policing in our society. We also redouble our commitment to explaining – through our teaching and our scholarship – the deep-rooted nature of antiblackness and other forms of racism in American life. We call particular attention to the roots of this violence in the deep-rooted forms of segregation and the yawning economic and social inequalities that characterize the United States. Along with our condolences, we offer our hope and the insights gained by studying the past towards the project of building a better future.
The Faculty of the Department Of History at St Olaf College.