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History | WSU Department of History

Why Major in History?

Take a look at this new video from the WSU Global campus that talks about how awesome it is to be a history major!

Read this year’s annual newsletter to catch up with the Department of History!

Letter from the Chair

The Department of History had a great 2022-2023 school year, thanks to our wonderful students and faculty…. [Continue reading]


History has long been at the center of a liberal arts education and it remains so today.  As both a humanities discipline and a social science, History possesses elements of literary studies, anthropology, economics, and sociology and teaches a variety of skills that are relevant across the entire range of majors offered by the College of Arts and Sciences. At WSU, the Department of History’s Roots of Contemporary Issues Program is at the heart of the university’s general education requirements.

Learn about our distinctive programs

Alongside the History major, the MA, and the PhD, the Department collaborates with a range of graduate and undergraduate programs, including teacher education, pre-law, and interdisciplinary majors in Asian Studies, Women’s History, Political Science, and Cultural Studies. We also offer a of number graduate and undergraduate scholarships and opportunity for students to conduct faculty-mentored research.

“History is about challenge.  At WSU, professors and peers challenged me to think outside the box, and create original thoughts and theories often times going against perceived norms.  History at WSU challenges students to go beyond, be diligent, and persevere academically.  Writing, reading, and thinking skills are developed and molded to form an ever changing and perfecting student experience.  I credit my study of history with all my success at WSU and with all the success I hope to have in the future.”

Kevin Schilling
B.A. History  (2017) and Top Ten Senior Awardee


“As the ASWSU student body president, I regularly rely on the skills and competencies I gained in history courses at Washington State University.  Critical thinking is consistently reinforced in the WSU Department of History, and that helps me solve complex problems involving student fee increases, curriculum changes, and student safety needs.  Additionally, the Department of History places an emphasis on crafting original arguments, and backing them up with credible, solid sources.  My position as the top advocate for students requires me to engage in discussions on a daily basis with university staff, faculty, and administrators, as we try to come up with ways to make the WSU student experience the best it can be.  With a historical mindset, I am confident in my ability to lead the students of Washington State University into the future.”

Jordan Frost
Associated Students of Washington State University 2017-2018

David H. Stratton (1927-2023) , Professor Emeritus of History, passed away on May 26, 2023 in Olympia, WA after a very brief illness.  He was a distinguished professor of history of the American West and came to teach at WSU in 1962. He had recently finished a major history of his hometown of Tucumcari, New Mexico (Tucumcari Tonite! – University of New Mexico Press) and was writing his memoirs.  He was surrounded by his family, including his daughter Nancy and her children. His obituary can be found here.

Featured Undergraduate Courses

Civil War & Reconstruction (History 316)

This course explores the causes of the Civil War, the military & political course of the war, and its social consequences in the nation’s Reconstruction. Using Abraham Lincoln as our touchstone, the course will cover topics such as the abolition of slavery, constitutional questions, the limits of military power, and America’s unfinished work. From tried-and-true works by military historians to pop culture, we will examine every angle possible to thoroughly understand this engrossing and potent struggle.





History of Mexico (History 330)
This course engages Mexico’s History through a chronological structure that takes us from Mexico’s Pre-Columbian past to the present, with special emphasis on the 19th Century, a period in Mexican History defined strongly by its past, which also largely defined a big part of the country’s future, even to this day. Through extensive analysis of primary sources and critical thinking assignments, this course helps us not only to understand traditionally understood moments and transitions in Mexican History, at the same time we will learn and discover voices previously not included in Mexican history.  The class is divided into three main thematic and chronological parts:

Part 1: Pre-Columbian Mexico, the Conquest, and the Colonial Period.  We will cover Pre-Columbian Mexico, The Conquest Period, and the colonial period leading up to 1810, the beginning of Mexico’s War for Independence.

Part 2:  The Long 19th Century. This part of the class will cover the very convoluted, complex, and often misunderstood, 19th century in Mexico. It will cover from Mexico’s War of Independence, the political chaos of the early republic, and foreign intervention including the U.S.-Mexico War, to the liberal consolidation of the state under Benito Juarez, leading into Porfirio Díaz arrival to power in the 1880s up to the turn of the 20th century.

Part 3: Mexico in the 20th Century. From the waning years of Porfirio Diaz’ regime, passing through the Mexican Revolution, the conformation of the Post-revolutionary State, growth and development in the 40s and 50s, social upheaval in the 60s and 70s, and ending in the 1990s-2000 with the establishment of a Neoliberal Mexico.


The History of Fashion and Design from 1450 to the Present (History 395)







What is fashion? What does it mean to be fashionable? And who can and cannot claim fashion as part of their history, identity, or culture? These are the types of questions this course will grapple with as we explore the cultural history of fashion in North America and Europe from the Renaissance to the 21st century. This history course will consider clothing, accessories, furniture, and other products of material culture as historical documents that can reveal the ways in which gender, race, and class have shaped the modern world.


Medicine, Science, & Technology in World History (History 483)

Don’t miss the chance to engage the world’s medical, scientific and technological traditions with Dr. Weller and fellow Cougs from multiple disciplinary and cultural backgrounds! After successfully completing History 483, engaged learners should be able to:

1- Outline the main contours of medical, scientific, and technological development and exchange among world cultures and civilizations and the related rise and decline of those world cultures and civilizations across world history.

2- Comprehend the role which the world’s religious, philosophical, and later secular traditions – as well as the world states, civilizations and empires shaped by those traditions – have each played in the emergence, development, and transmission of medicine, science, and technology throughout human history via their own indigenous (internal) innovations as well as crosscultural contact and exchange (external borrowing).

3- Critically assess the debates surrounding the medical, scientific and technological traditions of China, India, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the West (as contested constructs) and the way in which their respective medical, scientific and technological advancements and reflexive influence have affected the rise and decline of as well as ongoing interreligious, intercultural, and international relations between these world civilizations according to differing schemes of world historical interpretation.

4- Identify the main ways in which medicine, science and technology relate to: (1) globalization in world history, (2) human relations (incl. family & social structures) and communications, (3) human health and environment, (4) quality/longevity of life and standards of living, (5) business and economic development, (6) war, conquest, and world dominance, and (7) peace and conflict resolution.

Distinctive Programs and Projects

Fallen Cougars

The Fallen Cougars WSU-WSC WWII Commemoration Project purpose is to recover the lives and restore the humanity of WSC’s war dead, honoring them in a way that will be accessible to all. Dr. Raymond Sun is overseeing the project and working with a team of student researchers. The project is a collaborative effort supported by the WSU Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC), the WSU Center for Arts and Humanities, the WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), and the WSU Department of History.

A story about the Fallen Cougars Project was published in the December 2021 issue of the Center for Arts and Humanities Newsletter.

Learn more about the Fallen Cougars project by clicking here! 

Image of Bryan Hall Clock Tower, 1922, courtesy of WSU Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections
Painting Bryan Hall clock tower, 1922. Courtesy of WSU Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections.

Past as Prologue

Past as Prologue’s bi-weekly radio segments bring engaging stories of Northwest regional history to public audiences. Aiming always to connect past to present, the program shows how both regional and global history can inform our understanding of the world today and features the work and expertise of Washington State University faculty, alumni, graduate students, and affiliates.

Learn more about the Past as Prologue show by clicking here.

Roots of Contemporary IssuesA photo of protesters at WSU.

Roots of Contemporary Issues provides students with the tools to assess and address contemporary issues in a mature, reasoned way, using evidence, critical thinking, and clear written and oral communication skills.

Learn more about RCI by clicking here!

The Hanford History Project

Through the Hanford History Project, WSU leads a coalition of community partners in preserving—and enabling research on—the history of the community near the Hanford nuclear site in south-central Washington state.

Learn more about The Hanford History Project by clicking here!

American West & Pacific Northwest

Washington State University’s Department of History has long been recognized for its premiere graduate program in the American West—a region rich in cultural, social, and environmental diversity.

Learn more about the American West & Pacific Northwest program by clicking here!

Global Leadership Certificate

The Global Leadership Certificate can be integrated with any major and allows students to gain leaderships skills, cross-cultural understanding, and global knowledge. Currently, there are 12 HISTORY courses included on the “coursework” list that count towards the completion of a GLC!

Learn more about getting a Global Leadership Certificate by clicking here!