The History Department Through the Years

The Department of History has been serving University of Minnesota students since 1885. Early faculty sought to build a department of national standing, and by 1925 the History Department was ranked twelfth in the nation.

The department expanded dramatically from the 1940s through the 1960s, as did the specialties of the scholars who broadened the department’s focus from American and European history to include Asian, African, Latin American, and immigration history. Historical specialization continued further in the 1980s with the hiring of scholars focused on social, women’s and gender, comparative early modern, and medieval history. These new hires greatly increased the thematic diversity of the department and led to the creation of several interdisciplinary centers that remain central to the intellectual vibrancy of the department.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the department revamped the undergraduate program to include writing-intensive survey courses, a more structured major, and a well-developed senior paper requirement. The department also improved the graduate program through a host of high-quality admissions. Following this, the department began to sponsor National History Day in Minnesota. Faculty engaged in public pedagogy by appearing on radio, television, and hosting discussions for civic and educational groups. The late 1990s were marked by a large number of retirements and what came to be known as the “Mega Search.” The new hires of the "Mega Search," and those since, have revitalized the department's program in modern European, Middle Eastern, and US history, and strengthened the study of women, gender, and sexuality; colonialism and post-colonial theory; Native American history; and historical demography.

From those first early days, the History Department at the University of Minnesota has evolved into a diverse and nationally-renowned department where faculty, staff, and students work together in their continued pursuit of historical knowledge.