The History Department is one of the best in the country. It is particularly well-regarded in American history, although it is just as excellent in other sub-fields.
It is located in Fayerweather Hall, which is appropriately old and decrepit.
History of the History Dept.
The History Department was first formally formed in 1897 when seven faculty members split from the Political Science Department. It has heaped scorn and derision on the world of the political scientist ever since: Columbia historians are occasionally resentful when they find themselves dumped into offices at SIPA, and downright incredulous when someone characterizes their discipline as a social science rather than one of the humanities.
According to Jacques Barzun, prior to the 1930s the department faculty was not initially located in Fayerweather, but divided between junior and senior members, housed in Hamilton Hall, where they taught undergraduates under the aegis of the Columbia College faculty, and Kent Hall, where senior members led graduate seminars. Undergraduates had the opportunity to take first year graduate courses with the Kent faculty only upon reaching their third year, but they had the advantage of a broadly-interpreted major that allowed them to take courses in many departments. Early luminaries of the department during this period included Carlton Hayes, who taught Modern European History and Parker Moon, who taught international relations.
By 1937 the department had moved to Fayerweather, and by the end of the Second World War, had stripped away many of the strict requirements it had once imposed on graduates, like the necessity of publishing a dissertation before it became accepted. During the war years the department was saddled with the problem of too many faculty members taking up public service, but the issue seems to have subsided.
Although the department has always been known for its aptitude at American history, sheltering such giants as Richard Hofstadter, it has recently been pushing its international credentials, offering, for example, a joint MA with the London School of Economics.
A small selection of the courses frequently offered by the History Department:
- British History from 1867: Between Democracy and Empire
- Civil War and Reconstruction
- History of the City of New York