Where to study History?
January 3, 2008 8:33 PM   Subscribe

Looking for unique schools or programs for the study of History. In the US or abroad.

I am looking for a school (or other form of education) where I can study History in a broad and inclusive way. I dont want to learn dates- I am more concerned with expanses of time. I want a program that combines the formation of earth, the rise of life, evolution, extinction, geology, the beginings of consciousness, early civilizations, religion, forms of goverment, types of thought, and the cultures of the world.

I want an understanding of history that surpasses birthdates, wars, the reigns of kings, etc...

So if anyone knows of a school, program, internship, university, or any other form of learning that I haven't named... please provide suggestions- and maybe a little about it.

Thank you
posted by Nillocsoc to Education (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I want a program that combines the formation of earth, the rise of life, evolution, extinction, geology, the beginings of consciousness, early civilizations, religion, forms of goverment, types of thought, and the cultures of the world.

Generally, you'll find that 'history' only pertains to the period since the invention of writing. Looks like you also want to look in to anthropology, philosophy, geography, zoology and more.
posted by pompomtom at 8:40 PM on January 3, 2008

You might want to be a little specific. Are you looking for a degree? Undergrad or graduate? Do you already have a degree? In what discipline?

Also, your desired subject matter isn't "broad and inclusive," it's almost certainly impossible vague. You'd have more luck if you came up with something more concrete (not necessarily specialized, but more tangible).

Given the limited information, I'd say History or Anthropology degree any large state university is going to be your best bet. You're not going to have any single course that covers the massive constellation of topics you presented, but there should be number of diverse choices from the History, Geology, Anthropology, Archeology and Sociology departments that given four years, you'd almost certainly have a studied each of those topics in a variety of collaborations and depths.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:41 PM on January 3, 2008

I think what you're looking for is a liberal arts degree. They're available at any US school. Or, you could go to Carleton University's Bachelor of Humanities program, which does something similar. That way you can take a variety of courses from a variety of different disciplines to construct the kind of curriculum you're looking for.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:50 PM on January 3, 2008

I want an understanding of history that surpasses birthdates, wars, the reigns of kings, etc...

The good news is that at the college level no one teaches history as a set of names and dates! Really you could go to any decent program.
posted by LarryC at 8:54 PM on January 3, 2008

Response by poster: I appreciate the responses- and I am fully aware of the "vagueness" of my initial question.

I know the traditional route is to study a specialized area- "History". What I am asking is if aynone has found or experienced a school or program that offers (essentially) the entire history of earths existance. When I say history, I am not assuming recorded histroy. When I said "inclusive" I meant that I want a program that literaly includes everything that has occured to this planet since it began.

I understand that few if any of this sort of degree exist. I am only asking information from people who might have heard, read, or experienced something like it.
posted by Nillocsoc at 8:56 PM on January 3, 2008

Best answer: As someone who once wanted to learn everything, which is a goal that seems not too far from your own, I've found that no one program is really up to snuff in terms of comprehension. A lifetime of independent study is the path I've taken. Living near world class libraries and developing my internet research skills have helped me the most. Developing methods for making sense of and integrating diverse sets of information has also been important.

If, however, having a mentor in this project is important, then maybe finding a professor you find particularly enlightening could serve as a guide to what academic program you should be in.
posted by tbastian at 9:20 PM on January 3, 2008

A combination of archeology, anthropology, classics, history, & east asian studies might work. See any top school, liberal arts or not.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:45 PM on January 3, 2008

University of California has a History of Consciousness department, but I don't know if they have a full program.
posted by rhizome at 10:06 PM on January 3, 2008

St John's College in two locations - Annapolis, MD or Santa Fe, NM - seems perfect for you.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:52 PM on January 3, 2008

Might I suggest a particular strategy for your independent study? Study interpretations, not facts; historians, not history.

For instance, in months 1-6 you might study Hesiod's Theogony, the surviving presocratic fragments, Plato's Phaedrus, Aristotle's Politics and History of Animals, Thucydides on the Peloponnesian War, Herodotus's Histories. 7-12, you would study Pliny's Natural History, Plutarch's Lives, Tacitus, Sallust, Dio Cassius, Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. 13-18, Augustine's City of God, medieval commentaries on Aristotle's natural history, Albertus Magnus, Athanasius Kircher, Froissart's Chronicle, Bede's History of England, Theophanus' history of early Byzantium, Vasari on the Renaissance painters. 19-24, Bishop Ussher, Francis Bacon, Paradise Lost, Dryden, Buffon's Universal History (good luck!), Hume's History of England, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Voltaire's Age of Louis XIV, Dr. Johnson's Lives. 25-30, Hegel, Michelet, Ranke, Macaulay, Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the French Revolution, Burckhardt's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Darwin's Origin of Species and Descent of Man, Marx's Capital, Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. Use your imagination for the twentieth century.

This list is obviously Eurocentric and off the top of my head, but there are tremendous advantages to studying interpretations rather than facts. When you read an "outdated" interpretation of natural or recorded history, you simultaneously acquire a profound knowledge of the time and environment that produced it. You also come to appreciate their continuing relevance; often, you will find that modern scientific authors are dependent on schemata laid down centuries earlier, and this will break down any lingering convictions you might have about the unhistorical nature of the scientific process. Studying interpretations also imposes a deep sense of humility: if so many before us could have gotten it so wrong, can we be much better ourselves? Finally, using this method you are exposed to some of the very finest monuments of human culture.

You'll want to find someone more knowledgeable than I to flesh the list out, but it's a workable way to approach the subject in a methodical and systematic way.
posted by nasreddin at 1:05 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get thee to Merry England.

Oxford has a nice degree at University College called "PPE" - Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

If you have to stay stateside, Princeton probably has the best history department of any US college. Yale's is obviously not too shabby, either. Add U. Chicago, UVA and William and Mary to that list as well.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:21 AM on January 4, 2008

Archaeology! I know some people have already recommended it, and I know that it can be a bit different on the other side of the pond. I reckon the course I did was as close to being a general introduction to everything as you're going to get at university. I studied at a small department which tended to focus on early-medieval and medieval Britain. Even so, we also covered the development of civilization, various world civilizations, anthropology, human evolution, geology, religion, philosophy, cultural studies, history of thought, biology and more. The other great thing about it for me was that we also covered lots of more practical skills as well, not only how to dig holes, but statistics, technical drawing, planning, project management, a whole raft of computer skills...

OK, so admittedly, we only skimmed some of these things. But I would think, in a bigger department with a broader range, you would be able to follow up anything that interests you, especially one that lets you take the occasional module in other departments to cover any gaps.

Seconding, that History at university level is not about dates and kings (and it is as much about studying interpretations as it is about studying events), but (with my pedantic archaeologist's hat on) it is about studying writing, and there is a lot more to humanity than that.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:03 AM on January 4, 2008

Like rhizome said, University of California Santa Cruz has the interdisciplinary History of Consciousness program, though it is Ph.D. only. It is very hard to describe, so looking at their students' research interests is probably more helpful than their homepage. For example, one student's interests include "Ethnography; historiography; tropical biology; indigenous movements; ant colonies; sciences of imperialism; surveillance; contact zones; violence; authenticity; parody; American diasporas; technological, cultural, and biological hybridity; West Papua; Melanesia; Southeast Asia; Panama; Latin America." It may be too "critically" and culturally oriented for you, though.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:53 AM on January 4, 2008

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