Department Chair

  • James C. Harrison
    Professor of History
    Kiernan Hall 228
    (518)783-2353
    harrison@siena.edu

Why Study History?

See the American Historical Association's answer (copied below), and look on the site for more resources.

Why study history? The answer is because we virtually must, to gain access to the laboratory of human experience. When we study it reasonably well, and so acquire some usable habits of mind, as well as some basic data about the forces that affect our own lives, we emerge with relevant skills and an enhanced capacity for informed citizenship, critical thinking, and simple awareness. The uses of history are varied. Studying history can help us develop some literally "salable" skills, but its study must not be pinned down to the narrowest utilitarianism. Some history-that confined to personal recollections about changes and continuities in the immediate environment-is essential to function beyond childhood. Some history depends on personal taste, where one finds beauty, the joy of discovery, or intellectual challenge. Between the inescapable minimum and the pleasure of deep commitment comes the history that, through cumulative skill in interpreting the unfolding human record, provides a real grasp of how the world works. - Peter Stearns