Dickinson Hall, home to the Department of History
|Approximately 60 faculty members|
|Students||Approximately 200 undergraduate students and 130 graduate students|
The Princeton University Department of History is a world renowned academic department at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1871, the department is one of the leading programs in the country for the study of history. Its focus is in both teaching, offering coursework at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and in research, organizing numerous research initiatives and public events. The department is home to approximately 60 faculty members, many of whom teach courses in other departments as well.
In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked the department as No. 1 in the United States, tied with Stanford University and Yale University, while the National Research Council ranked the department as No. 1 in the country for research and scholarship. The department's affiliates have also been awarded five Macarthur "Genius Grants" and four Pulitzer Prizes. Notable alumni include two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Initial coursework for the history curriculum began in 1871 with courses on the philosophy of history and political science. The first faculty member to have the title of Professor of History was Charles Woodruff Shields, from 1869 to 1882. Eventual president Woodrow Wilson founded the Department of History, Politics, and Economics in 1904. Winthrop More Daniels became the first chairman of the new Department.
Economics branched off in 1913, Politics in 1924. Interest in the History in the Philosophy of Science emerged in the 1930s, making the now History of Science program one of the oldest in the country. The program was officially established in the 1960s by Professor Charles Coulston Gillispie.
The department launched The Papers of Thomas Jefferson project in December 1943, which aims to prepare the "definitive scholarly edition of the correspondence and papers written by America's author of the Declaration of Independence and third president." As of 2017, the program has published 43 volumes of documents written to or by Thomas Jefferson.
Lawrence Stone, professor at University College and Corpus Christi College (Oxford University) joined the department in 1963 after two years at the Institute for Advanced Study. He served as chairman from 1967 to 1970 and was fundamental in its development as a highly regarded leader in the discipline. The Lawrence Stone Lectures, annual lectures held at the university, are named in his honor. He had previously had an academic dispute with Hugh Trevor-Roper, then Regius Professor of History at Oxford University over the origins of the English Revolution in the "storm over the gentry" debate.
In 1968, Shelby Cullom Davis, Class of '30, gave $5.2 million to the department in order "to assure the continuance of excellence in scholarship and the teaching of history at Princeton University." With these funds, the department established the Davis Center for Historical Studies. The center hosts weekly seminars, conferences, and a cohort of postgraduate students each year. In 1969, Dr. Nancy Weiss Malkiel became the first woman to join the Department of History. The Davis Center eventually became one of the most innovative and influential centers for historical studies.
Robert Darnton, a historian of eighteenth-century France, joined the department in 1968. He, along with anthropologist Clifford Geertz at the Institute for Advanced Study, began to co-teach courses on European "mentalities" that explored the applications of anthropology in history. This relationship culminated in Darnton's 1984 The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History, which offers a new historiographical framework for describing the past.
Natalie Zemon Davis was the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies from 1978 to her retirement in 1996. She taught various courses on early modern France, anthropology, and early modern Jewish history. She related on historical instances of radical events, such as urban riots, youth revolts, and feminism, which reflected contemporary interests. By the 1980s, the department acquired a reputation as the "hot history department".
In 2015, a $5 million gift from John P. Birkelund, Class of '52, established the Program in History and the Practice of Diplomacy at the University. The interdisciplinary program combines coursework in history, politics, and other social sciences in order to aid in preparation "for careers in governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that preserve stability and improve lives around the world."
Nine Princeton historians to date have served as president of the American Historical Association: William Milligan Sloane in 1911, Dana Carleton Munro in 1926, Thomas J. Wertenbaker in 1947, Julian P. Boyd in 1964, Robert Roswell Palmer in 1970, and Joseph Strayer in 1971, Gordon A. Craig in 1982, Natalie Zemon Davis in 1987, and Anthony Grafton in 2011.
Currently, the department is based in the neo-Gothic Dickinson Hall in Princeton, New Jersey.
The Department of History offers a diverse array of coursework and opportunities for research. Students are able to take courses in other departments, such as Politics, Classics, East Asian Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Undergraduate students who concentrate in History can earn an A.B. degree and are able to choose from over forty different undergraduate courses each year. Additionally, undergraduates can showcase their research in the biannual publication of the Princeton Historical Review. Like all undergraduates at Princeton, history concentrators are required to complete a senior thesis based on original research. The department awards the Stone/Davis Prize to support archival research away from Princeton for students' senior theses. The Laurence Hutton Prize in History is awarded annually to the department's top student.
The graduate program in history prepares students for a career as professional researchers and historians. Each year, the department receives approximately 400 applications and enrolls a cohort of 20-25 students each year. Upon passing the requirements of the program, students are offered a Ph.D. in History or a Ph.D. in History of Science. Alumni of the program often progress to careers in academia, including at Harvard University, Yale University, or Stanford University, as well as in law, government, and business. In the 2018-2019 academic year, approximately 8.6% of applicants were accepted into the program. All graduate students are guaranteed full-tuition coverage and a five-year stipend. They also may earn additional funding from Princeton's Assistantships in Research and Assistantships in Instruction programs.
The Department of History is ranked consistently as one of the highest ranked institutions for the study of history in the country and in the world. U.S. News & World Report college rankings places the department at No. 1 in the United States. The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes the National Research Council rankings which ranks Princeton as No. 1 on its Research rank; No. 1 on its S-Rank for its scholars; and No. 2 on its R-Rank for its quality based on faculty reviews. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranks the department at No. 7 in the world.
The department maintains a number of affiliations with a number of centers and research institutes.
The Davis Center for Historical Studies, known also as the Shelby Cullom Davis Center, is designed to foster research on specific themes and topics through its weekly seminars, conferences, and workshops. Founded in 1869, the center offers a number of professorships and fellowships for leading scholars in the field. Emphasis is placed on an interdisciplinary approach to studying the past in a multitude of geographical areas and periods. Its weekly seminar has been recognized as one of "the most interesting, lively and controversial in the country" due to the "use of cultural anthropology to interpret the past."
The Global History Lab allows scholars to discuss their research at monthly workshops, take courses in the discipline of global history, and conduct individual research projects with faculty. The program aims "to study the histories of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas in international perspectives." The department has also created an edX-run massive open online course (MOOC). The founding director of the Global History Lab is Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History.
Founded in 2007, the Center for Collaborative History oversees the history department's working groups, workshops, research projects, and initiatives. It supports research projects, conferences, and symposia hosted by the department. It also coordinates collaborative projects with other academic institutions. Current special projects include the Climate Change and History Research Initiative (CCHRI) and the Public History Working Group.
Several people associated with the department have also won Pulitzer Prizes:
Additional faculty members include:
James Baker, A.B., 1952
Steve Forbes, A.B., 1970
Elena Kagan, A.B., 1981
George F. Kennan, A.B., 1925
Lewis Lukens, A.B., 1986
Sonia Sotomayor, A.B., 1976
Marie L. Yovanovitch, A.B., 1980