History is a wide-ranging discipline, its limits being only the interests and capabilities of the individual.

A history lecture in a museumWhether dealing with social, political, economic, cultural, scientific, or diplomatic history, the concern is to find how people lived and how they dealt with their problems. It is more an interpretive study than a study of facts; as such, it is relevant to our own day as it provides us with a means of measuring our own performance against that of our ancestors. In analyzing the transformations of societies of other times, students acquire the analytical tools for better comprehending their own social environment. In addition, the study of history provides a vocabulary of examples of human activity, which brings greater awareness to the study of other intellectual disciplines.

Departmental Goals and Descriptions

The history department aims at more than guiding students toward learning about the past. It also trains students to think critically, research effectively, and write lucidly. Students learn, through classroom experience and examinations, as well as through individual research projects, how to analyze both the form and content of source material; how to discern historical trends and patterns; how to postulate theses and support them with evidence; and, how to present conclusions in a compelling, well-organized fashion. Several speaking-intensive courses also train students to communicate effectively in public-settings.

The history program at Randolph-Macon is comprehensive enough to prepare student for graduate study and general enough to provide a solid liberal arts background for students seeking the bachelor's as their highest degree. Flexibility is provided in the History Department by independent study options, J-term courses, and the option to complete a senior project (undergraduate thesis). In addition, History students are encouraged, but not required, to enroll for an internship or for study abroad.

The particular point of view of this department is that history can best be learned where there is close collaboration between teacher and student. To that end, classes are kept small, even at the introductory level, and thereby considerable personal attention can be given to a student’s work by the professor.

Special Programs

Senior Project and Independent Study

The optional senior project enables students to gain experience in historical research and writing techniques as they prepare a major research paper. Independent study projects have spanned a wide range of topics; some have concentrated on historiography, while others have focused on areas of research and reading.

J-Term Courses

One month programs have given students unique perspectives on history and opportunities to study history while traveling abroad. For example, an interdisciplinary course offered jointly with the Political Science Department enables students to study the politics and culture in Cuba. Other courses have traveled to Austria, England, France, Germany, Spain, China, Japan, and Brazil, allowing students to study the past while experiencing the cultures firsthand.


Students interested in internships may work out special field-study programs with department faculty members. In the recent past, history majors have completed internships with the Valentine Museum, the Smithsonian, Patrick Henry's Scotchtown and Preservation Virginia, and the Richmond Holocaust Museum. Click here for a list of selected internship opportunities.

Career and Postgraduate Opportunities

A degree in history prepares graduates for a variety of career possibilities. A small number of students each year continue on to graduate study in history, while others use a degree in history as preparation for law school or the seminary. Some recent Randolph-Macon history majors have pursued careers in museum work, historic preservation, and library work. Additional fields open to history majors include public administration, investment banking, editing, employment with the federal government, and teaching. See the "current students" page for more information on career opportunities.

History majors wishing to teach at the elementary or secondary level can meet their state certification requirements by enrolling in the appropriate education courses at Randolph-Macon.

Some Graduates and Their Current Positions

  • David Balch: Vice President for Strategic Planning and Marketing, United Way of Dade County, Miami, FL.
  • Brittney Cox, Realtor, Richmond, VA.
  • Timothy "Joey" Crawford: Social Studies Teacher, Amherst County, VA
  • Rose Marie Downs: Attorney, Charlottesville, VA.
  • Ann W. Graves: Professor of Special Education, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA.
  • Dennis J. Hoover: Attorney, Baltimore, MD.
  • Timothy W. Nelson: Logistics Engineer, Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va.
  • Henry Hunter Odom, Jr.: Co-owner/Sales, Suffolk Insurance Company, Suffolk, VA.
  • Henry O. Robertson, Jr.: Associate Professor of History, Louisiana College
  • Scott M. Stroh III, Director, & Nicole Morton, Leader of Business Enterprise, George Mason's Gunston Hall, Mason Neck, VA.
  • William Sudduth, III: Head of the Department of Documents & Microforms, University of South Carolina.
  • Mark Carter Temple: Bureau Chief for the International Research & Exchanges Board, Bucharest, Romania.