International History

Carol Benedict, Field Chair; Anthony Pirrotti, Curricular Dean 

Processes of historical change have become increasingly global during recent centuries. The major in International History combines a broad introduction to the analysis of historical changes that transcend national boundaries with the opportunity to explore a particular theme or question in the context of a self-designed major concentration.

The major goes beyond study of the formal relations between states - the traditional subject matter of diplomatic history - to address themes in social, cultural, and intellectual history. Historical scholarship today draws on ideas and data from subjects as varied as anthropology, philosophy, sociology, political science, religious studies, and literature, and this mix is reflected in the coursework for the International History major.

In addition, the major exposes students to a range of theoretical tools and methodological approaches to historical analysis, and places special emphasis on the development of critical thinking, argumentation and writing skills.

Goals of the Major

The goal of the International History major is to prepare students to understand how the world got to be the way it is today and the forces that govern its ongoing evolution. It is designed to introduce them to the breadth and depth of the human experience by a comparative study of past and contemporary societies and cultures, and to develop their ability to conduct research, analyze and assess evidence, and articulate sound conclusions both orally and in writing.

Our students thus acquire knowledge and skills that help them develop as informed, engaged, and thoughtful citizens and scholars. The study of international history will enable our students to become more involved with the complex world they live in, and to maintain throughout their lives a spirit of inquiry and curiosity that can not only make them more active in their communities, but also provide them with personal enrichment and enjoyment.

Objectives of the Major

The study of history plays a distinctive and central role in a strong liberal arts curriculum. Knowledge of history is essential to understanding the emergence of the modern world and to grappling with continuing global interactions and conflicts. International History majors enjoy considerable freedom to focus their work on their own areas of interest and to design programs that complement the rest of their academic work.

The International History major will enable students to:

  • develop the ability to explain and contextualize change over time on the basis of evidence.
  • distinguish between types and genres of sources and between evidence-based conclusions and unfounded statements.
  • use sources to formulate questions and construct original arguments, and develop their ability to support their conclusions orally and in writing with evidence and appropriate documentation.
  • identify, evaluate, and compare historians’ different interpretations of the past, thus understanding the discipline of history as an ongoing conversation between sources, scholars, and students.
  • identify and trace major themes, issues, and developments in comparative, international, and global history, and gain the ability to formulate comparative questions and arguments about different societies and cultures.

Students in the Honors program will further develop these abilities and their research and writing skills, and will produce theses comparable in quality and depth to many Master’s theses.

International History at Georgetown

The major in International History draws on the resources of the School of Foreign Service, the Department of History, and other departments at Georgetown University to offer a program of study that focuses on historical changes that transcend national boundaries. One of the cornerstones of the major is the history of international relations, a field in which Georgetown is especially rich in resources. International history also addresses themes in social, economic, cultural, and intellectual history and draws on ideas and information from fields as varied as anthropology, philosophy, sociology, political science, economics, religious studies, and literature.

The History Department faculty at Georgetown is uniquely international in its research and teaching interests, and offers a rich choice of courses to undergraduate students. The Faculty includes specialists on virtually every major region in the world. There are courses at both the introductory and the advanced levels on all periods of history and most areas of the world as well as courses that present thematic, comparative, and global perspectives.