The study of history opens the door to new ways of understanding the past and the present. By examining societies in other times and places, students gain an appreciation of the diverse beliefs, institutions, social arrangements, and technologies that have shaped human experience.
Historians seek to understand the forces that drive historical change and the contexts that give such change meaning. History asks students to do much more than just memorize a set of facts. It asks students to solve intellectual puzzles, evaluate conflicting evidence, and assess the merits of different scholarly interpretations of the past. It asks students to think about big questions:
How have different cultures and societies made sense of historical change? How have they adapted and changed in the face of dramatic transformations in the environment, belief systems, and political economies? How have they grappled with conflict and crisis? How have the meanings of concepts that might seem natural or timeless—concepts like “the family” or “race” or “gender” or “work” or “citizenship”—actually varied in time and place?
Because every subject has a history, students might find themselves investigating anything from the intimacies of private life and the history of the body to more classic topics such as social movements, revolutions, and wars. History also invites students to reimagine the traditional ways we carve up geographical space by examining not just the histories of nations but also the histories of regions, trade, and cultural exchange. What history teaches is a way of thinking, a way of questioning, and a way of wondering about the world. After all, the past is never really fixed in stone.
UCSB’s History Department features two paths to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.):
UCSB’s History Department features two paths to a minor in the field of History: