The Department of History at Hampden-Sydney College offers a breadth of courses by region, time period, and theme. To help you pursue your interests in history, the department emphasizes our particular strengths with Pathways. 

Pathways are not required for the major or minor in history. Instead, they suggest how you can combine courses to study a particular theme. Such combinations provide perspective and deepen your understanding by drawing on courses from different time periods, on different parts of the world, or with different historical approaches. You could take as many, or as few, courses in a path as you wish. 

Each pathway has an overview of the theme, plus a list of relevant courses we plan to offer in the upcoming three years.

Culture and Society

“The Mesa Drive-in Theater in Pueblo, Colorado.Culture and society are fundamental to the human condition, and courses in this track examine the myriad ways in which they shaped the lived experiences of people in the past. As a field of analysis cultural history is extensive and varied, incorporating not only the study of “high culture” in its various forms of artistic expression such as literature, art, architecture, and music, but also the critical examination of the underlying values and assumptions that shape understandings of the world and that inform a wide array of beliefs and practices, from religious rituals and sexual mores to fashion and foodways.  Social history examines aspects of culture in studying  the interaction of human groups.  It encompasses demographic trends such as birth and mortality rates, economic activity and performance, labor regimes, wealth distribution, housing practices, family structure, gender roles, race relations, and much more. Such a range of inquiry not only requires that social and cultural historians work with a broad assortment of written and material evidence, but also their extensive engagement with related disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, and archaeology. 

(Photo: The Mesa Drive-in Theater in Pueblo, Colorado;
Credit: Gates Frontiers Fund Colorado Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Upcoming courses in this track

HIST 205: East Asia (Fall 2021)
HIST 206: East Asia (Spring 2022)
HIST 211: Colonial America (Spring 2022)
HIST 285: Drinking and Popular Culture (Fall 2021)
HIST 285: Introduction to Public History (Spring 2023)
HIST 285: Conflict and Culture on the American Frontier (Fall 2021)
HIST 285: American Historical Archaeology: Methods & Interpretation (Spring 2023)
HIST 299: Piracy (Fall 2023)
HIST 305: The Age of Enlightenment (Fall 2022)
HIST 307: Early Modern Britain (Fall 2021)
HIST 308: Renaissance Italy (Fall 2022)
HIST 321: Colonia Virginia (Spring 2024)
HIST 323: Invasion of America (Spring 2024)
HIST 324: Early Modern Atlantic History (Spring 2023)
HIST 328: The French Revolution (Spring 2023)
HIST 345: The Mongol Expansion (Spring 2023)
HIST 385: American West on Film (Spring 2022)
HIST 499: Violence in Early Modern Europe (Fall 2021)
HIST 499: The British Empire (Spring 2024)
HIST 499: Violence in Early Modern Europe (Fall 2021)

Empires and Colonies

Toussaint L'Ouverture, Haitian revolutionary, ~1802Empires are complex systems of rule where a core dynasty, state, or social hierarchy rules over subordinate peripheries, often inhabited by different cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups. Studying the practice of empire means studying how bureaucratic systems, military force, and ideologies preserve and maintain imperial power. Courses in this path study the theory of empire: the political beliefs and cultural attitudes that justified and legitimated the domination of one people or territory over others. Empires have been forums for exchange, where domination has facilitated migration, the extension of trade, and the spread of new ideas — and fused these concepts into new forms. The history of empire is also the history of colonies — the subordinate peoples, territories, and cultures who both contributed to and suffered from the impact of empires. Courses in this path may explore imperial subjects’ resistance to and negotiation with the imperial center, as well as the consequences of empire.

(Photo: Toussaint L'Ouverture, Haitian revolutionary, 1802)

Upcoming courses in this track

HIST 211: Colonial America (Spring 2022)
HIST 214: Civil War & Reconstruction (Spring 2022)
HIST 221: European Imperialism (Fall 2021)
HIST 285: Atlantic Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade (Fall 2021)
HIST 285: The Civil War in the West (Spring 2023)
HIST 222: Modern France and its Empire (Spring 2024)
HIST 299: Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail (Research Methods Seminar) (Fall 2022)
HIST 299: Empires (Fall 2021)
HIST 324: Early Modern Atlantic History (Spring 2023)
HIST 325: East Asia in the Age of Imperialism (Fall 2022)
HIST 326: East Asia in Revolution (Spring 2024)
HIST 327: The Age of the American Revolution (Spring 2023)
HIST 322: History of the Caribbean (Fall 2023)
HIST 385: Ottoman Empire (Fall 2022)
HIST 499: Travellers’ Accounts of Colonial Southeast Asia (Spring 2022)
HIST 499: The British Empire (Fall 2023)
HIST 323: Invasion of America (Spring 2024)

Memory & History

Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing  the Alps (1803), left, is reimagined by Kehinde Wiley in Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (2005), rightThis path explores the ways in which individuals and groups create — and identify with — narratives about the past. Memory is a way to forge a personal connection to the past, often tied to one’s own identity or membership in a community. When shared within a community, memories reflect things that are collectively agreed on as relevant to the present. Historical memory is fluid, evolving, contradictory, sometimes manipulated, and frequently mobilized for contemporary purposes. Courses in this path explore how individuals and societies remember the past. Other courses may explore how families, ethnic groups, racial groups, religious congregations, localities, or nations collectively negotiate memories of the past. For both individuals and collectives, historians explore how memory becomes identified with objects, individuals, events, and specific places. The study of memory explores how works of culture may alter or express memories. Courses may also engage why some things are remembered, and some forgotten. Memory encompasses victory, but also tragedy and defeat; collective pride, but also collective guilt. The study of memory is the study of what individuals and groups feel is important about the past, and what this tells us about the present.

(Photo: left: Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1803; right: reimagined by Kehinde Wiley in Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005)

Upcoming courses in this track

HIST 207: Middle East Survey (Fall 2021)
HIST 208: Middle East Survey (Spring 2022)
HIST 285: Introduction to Public History (Fall 2023)
HIST 285: The European Holocaust (Fall 2022)
HIST 285: Oral History (Fall 2023)
HIST 385: American West on Film (Spring 2022)
HIST 499: The Allied Occupation of Japan (Spring 2022)
HIST 499: Nationalism (Spring 2023)

Politics & Power

Teddy Roosevelt speaking t the back of a railroad car, 1907.The confluence of “politics” and “power” has often reflexively pointed to “Great Men” who pulled the political and economic levers of society. Such depictions typically included an obligatory nod to the government as a monopoly of legal violence—and thereby the sole, true authority—in civilized nations. In more recent decades, historians working in this area dissect the relationships of peoples—male and female, free and enslaved, citizens and subjects, loyalists and dissenters, reformers, criminals, and revolutionaries—to institutions of power that range from state and national governments to international federations and trade unions, religious organizations, and even corporations. While charting the rise and fall of states, protest movements, religious conflicts, and revolutions, the courses in this pathway explore institutions replicating their power and the arrangements of citizens and subjects (who belongs, who doesn’t, and who decides). Ultimately, this pathway revolves around how individuals exercise agency (or fail to) while navigating the tug-of-war between different institutions’ power in their daily lives.

(Photo: Teddy Roosevelt speaking in the back of a railroad car, 1907;
Credit: Underwood & Underwood, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Upcoming courses in this track

HIST 130: Michelangelo’s Rome, Shakespeare’s London (Spring 2022)
HIST 205: East Asia (Fall 2021)
HIST 206: East Asia (Spring 2022)
HIST 210: Latin America (Spring 2022)
HIST 215: Twentieth Century America (Fall 2023)
HIST 216: Twentieth Century America (Spring 2023)
HIST 230: Twentieth Century Europe (Fall 2022)
HIST 201: England and the British Empire (Fall 2021)
HIST 202: England and the British Empire (Spring 2022)
HIST 285: The Great African War (Spring 2022)
HIST 299: Empires (Fall 2021)
HIST 299: Terrorism (Spring 2022)
HIST 307: Early Modern Britain (Fall 2021)
HIST 308: Renaissance Italy (Fall 2022)
HIST 309: Religious War in the Early Modern Era (Fall 2023)
HIST 327: The Age of the American Revolution (Spring 2023)
HIST 328: The French Revolution (Spring 2023)
HIST 329: Britain in Revolution (Fall 2022)
HIST 333: Nazi Germany (Fall 2023)
HIST 332: Russian & Soviet Modernization (Fall 2022)
HIST 385: Law & Society in the Islamic World (Spring 2023)
HIST 385: Ottoman Empire (Fall 2022)
HIST 385: The Age of Napoleon (Spring 2024)

Race, Gender, & Identity

A Cholita wrestler rests between matches. Cholitas are indigenous women in Bolivia.This path explores the ways that human beings throughout history and across cultures have conceived, constructed, and used identity. Courses may variously explore concepts like race, gender, class, and ethnicity and the intersections between these categories. Identities operate at a personal level, as individuals define themselves and their relationships to other individuals. Simultaneously, identities are defined by larger state and social structures, that variously constrain and create opportunities by defining social difference. Courses may explore how different identities are placed within social hierarchies, defining, challenging, and justifying the status of racial, gender, class, and ethnic groups within legal mechanisms of the state, religious beliefs, social customs, and socially-acceptable occupations. Courses investigate how tensions between self-identity and collective definitions of identity create cultural and political conflicts. Historians look to concepts of historical identity, in part, to help consider contemporary debates and questions about race, gender, class, and ethnicity today. 

(Photo: A Cholita wrestler rests between matches. Cholitas are indigenous women in Bolivia;
Credit: Kenneth Lehman)

Upcoming courses in this track

HIST 180: The Moton Story: Prince Edward County and the Civil Rights Movement (Fall 2021)
HIST 209: Latin American Survey (Fall 2021)
HIST 219: African American History (Spring 2022)
HIST 220: African American History (Spring 2024)
HIST 285: Atlantic Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade (Fall 2021)
HIST 285: Introduction to Public History (Spring 2023)
HIST 285: The European Holocaust (Spring 2022)
HIST 304: Medieval Civilization (Spring 2022)
HIST 322: History of the Caribbean (Fall 2024)
HIST 385: Law & Society in the Islamic World (Spring 2023)
HIST 499: Nationalism (Spring 2023)

War, Violence, & Diplomacy

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial; the Genbaku Dome was near the center of the blast.Classes in this path explore the links between societies and institutions of violence, and the means to prevent violence. These histories may explore how military institutions organize armies, conceive of the practice of war, and their peacetime role. They may consider how political leaders pursue wars for specific goals and the ways that faiths, beliefs, ideologies, and dynastic loyalties shape the conception of violence. Courses may consider how both soldiers and people on the home front  experience warfare. Other courses in this path focus on the use of diplomacy to achieve various goals while avoiding war. Courses may look at mass violence uncontrolled or only partially controlled by governments: guerrilla warfare, terrorism, riots, rebellions, and private feuds. Across these approaches, as historians we look at past contexts to understand the motivations for violence and the ways that wars have been fought, and, in some cases, avoided.

(Photo: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial; the Genbaku Dome was near the center of the blast;
Credit: Surgeonsmate, licensed under Creative Commons)

Upcoming courses in this track

HIST 213: The Coming of the Civil War (Fall 2021)
HIST 214: Civil War and Reconstruction (Spring 2022)
HIST 215: Twentieth Century America, 1900-1945 (Fall 2023)
HIST 285: Conflict and Culture on the American Frontier (Fall 2021)
HIST 285: The Crusades (Fall 2021)
HIST 285: The Great African War (Spring 2022)
HIST 299: Piracy in the Early Modern World (Research Methods Seminar) (Fall 2023)
HIST 299: Terrorism (Research Methods Seminar) (Spring 2022)
HIST 299: Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail (Research Methods Seminar) (Fall 2022)
HIST 299: War and the Environment (Fall 2023)
HIST 301: Grand Strategy and the Second World War (Spring 2022)
HIST 304: Medieval Civilization (Spring 2022)
HIST 313: History of American Foreign Relations (Spring 2023)
HIST 329: Britain in Revolution (Fall 2022)
HIST 322: The Age of Napoleon (Spring 2024)
HIST 333: Nazi Germany (Fall 2022)
HIST 345: The Mongol Expansion (Spring 2023)
HIST 346: Samurai Culture in Japanese History (Fall 2021)
HIST 377: Warfare, Society and Western Civilization (Fall 2021)
HIST 499: Violence in Early Modern Europe (Capstone Seminar) (Fall 2021)

Worldviews & Big Ideas

"Religion is poison — protect the childen" reads this Soviet poster from 1930."This path studies how worldviews and big ideas shape human societies. Historians who look at big ideas chart how ideas are passed down through intellectual traditions, how they change according to the times, but also how ideas change the times. These histories may explore “ways of knowing,” in the form of both faith traditions and secular intellectual movements. Courses may explore how worldviews shape the experience of everyday life and both define and are defined by social life. They may consider political ideologies, and the way ideas shape political systems. Any of these approaches can also explore the transference of ideas between cultures, and how they took on new meanings on such adoptions. Across this expansive subject area, as historians we look to context to understand how worldviews and big ideas were lived — constantly changing and in motion —rather than eternal concepts frozen on the written page. 

(Photo: "Religion is poison — protect the childen" reads this Soviet poster from 1930)

Upcoming courses in this track

HIST 205: East Asia to 1800 (Fall 2021)
HIST 206: East Asia since 1800 (Spring 20212
HIST 207: The Middle East to 1250 (Fall 2021)
HIST 208: The Middle East since 1250 (Spring 2022)
HIST 209: Latin America Survey to 1820 (Fall 2021)
HIST 210: Latin America Survey since 1820 (Spring 2022)
HIST 213: The Coming of the Civil War (Fall 2021)
HIST 221: European Imperialism (Fall 2021)
HIST 230: Twentieth Century Europe (Fall 2022)
HIST 299: War and the Environment (Fall 2023)
HIST 301: Grand Strategy and the Second World War (Spring 2022)
HIST 305: The Age of Enlightenment (Fall 2022)
HIST 317: American South (Spring 2023)
HIST 327: The Age of the American Revolution (Spring 2023)
HIST 346: Samurai Culture in Japanese History (Fall 2021)
HIST 332: Russian & Soviet Modernization (Fall 2023)