“Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it.”
As historians, we take pleasure in the difficulty of our profession. Our gaze falls upon the entire sweep of human experience, and our subject humankind, is the most perplexing of all. As a consequence, the history department in a large American university can often seem to outsiders like a Tower of Babel, or the proverbial Ship of Fools, a place where a variety of approaches, fields of study, and scholarly voices collide. Certainly, this is the case at the University of Maryland. Here in College Park in a single hallway, one can find a world-renowned specialist in the history of slavery in the U.S. working alongside an environmental historian whose studies have examined the development of the German Autobahn, or a film historian who has explored the rise of modernism in the American cinema. Walking a little farther along this same corridor, one discovers specialists in sixteenth-century Venice, the American Revolution, women’s history, the Progressive Era, American legal history, African colonialism, Habsburg Vienna, and ancient Rome.
As a consequence of the variety of subjects we study, we often have little in common as far as method or viewpoint. We are convinced nonetheless that there is a method in this very diverse madness. We learn from one another, and thus our variety of approaches is a great strength.
We do not study the past to illuminate the present, or to predict the future, but to train our minds to be better able to react to the challenges of the present. As historians, we are not nostalgic about the past, but we do find it an infinitely fascinating reservoir of dilemmas, wisdom, and folly. So have a look around our webpages, and read some of our faculty bios. Then, you’ll see just how diverse and rich a place College Park’s history department is. We hope you’ll want to join us.
Our students have distinguished themselves in law, medicine, academia, broadcasting, and the theater. And so, when people ask you why you’ve decided to study history, you can answer confidently “Because it’s the story of the human condition, and as such it presents the ideal foundation for whatever profession I might want to pursue.”
The Medieval and Early Modern Field Committee is now accepting proposals for its November 2017 conference.
Former PhD student Darren Speece has written an Op-Ed discussing protesting in the Trump Era v. during the Redwood Wars.