History

History is one of the three most popular majors at Roanoke College.

When you study history you gain strong research, critical thinking and writing skills through extensive projects and one-on-one work with professors. Roanoke's History Department boasts as many tenured professors as some large state institutions. They teach everything from Latin American and African history to European and public history. 

At Roanoke, you'll get to experience history firsthand. The earliest residents of what would become Salem have been documented through archeological evidence going back to 8000 B.C. Salem was a Civil War stronghold and was once was marketed as the "Switzerland of the South." You'll search for artifacts during archaeological digs and intern with Virginia's Department of Historical Resources. You'll have opportunities to study in England, Germany, Argentina, South Africa, and many other places through Roanoke's May Term history classes and other study abroad opportunities.

If you enjoy the mental discipline history fosters, like analytical reading, library and archival research, writing and arguing interpretations, history can provide a great step towards careers in journalism, research, law and historic preservation. Studying European and world history can give you an advantage finding employment in international business and finance.

We offer both a major and a minor in history.

Daniel Ayers: The Folk Storyteller

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A history major, Daniel channeled his love for folk music into his academic work, which opened the door to earning a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Scotland.

“What I love most about Roanoke's history department is the interaction you have with professors and the passion they have for teaching and the subjects they teach.”

John Stang '12

Student interns at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

An internship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum meant Tyler Merrill '14 spent his fall days in downtown Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the National Mall.  Along with other participants in the Lutheran College Washington Semester program, he took classes, went on weekly field trips and volunteered with non-profit organizations. The Holocaust Museum was of particular interest to Merrill, a history major with plans to teach high school, coach a swimming team and possibly enter law school a little later in life.

Merrill says his most memorable experience in the nation's capital was volunteering as an advocate for homeless and runaway youths. "D.C. has wonderful programs for the homeless," he says. "It's phenomenal...I was left with a passion for getting involved and doing my part to help right some wrongs."

Professor John G. Selby | History

The long-lost papers of Civil War veteran George Bernard have been collected and annotated by Dr. John G. Selby, John R. Turbyfill professor of history at Roanoke. His book, Civil War Talks: Further Reminiscences by George S. Bernard and Fellow Veterans, was published by the University of Virginia Press. This book completes what Bernard had intended more than a century ago to be a two volume set covering his experiences with the Army of Northern Virginia. This volume, using key papers of Bernard's that were found by a collector in 2004, focus on the closing days of the Civil War, including the siege of Petersburg and a soldier's reaction to the surrender of the army by General Lee at Appomattox.

The Roanoke Times had high praise for Selby's work: "Roanoke College's Dr. Selby has done a masterful job of organizing and introducing the material. His annotations are as detailed as a reader could wish."

Sample Course Offerings:

  • HIST 213: Age of Alexander the Great
  • HIST 246: The Holocaust
  • HIST 273: Latin American Revolutions 
  • HIST 277: American Tourist in Rome (May Term course in Italy)
  • HIST 284: Modern Middle East

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Our grads work at great organizations.

Breadth of Faculty Expertise is Exceptionally Large for a Small Liberal Arts College

The Historical Society—Roanoke’s oldest campus organization

Founded in 1875 by the College's first president, David F. Bittle, the Society is the oldest student organization on campus. It is devoted to preserving historical memory at the College, offering historically-grounded programming to our students and the campus community, and serving as the social center of the department's relationships with students.

Founder's Day

On Founder's Day, the Society puts on a series of events to honor the first president: David F. Bittle. The evening begins with a trek to the cemetery on the Hill to meet Bittle face-to-face, and concludes on the back quad with a bonfire and lots of activities and ceremonies.

Bittle's Bash

After the sun sets on Founder's Day, the Society gets an opportunity to celebrate Bittle's Birthday in the Colket Center. Between the karaoke performances of the students and their faculty, it's always a night to remember.

History Through the Lens

The Historical Society hosts a film series every year, with faculty introducing films dealing with, or from, the past. Recent films have included "M", "Daisies", "The Seventh Seal", and "Downfall."

Historical Dress-up Day

Each year on Founder's Day, the Living History Lab helps faculty, staff and students dress up for a particular era in time. Last year, the lab costumed 84 people and many other participated as well. 

Departmental Colloquia

Every semester, the Historical Society hosts a series of events designed to promote historical understanding and the career prospects of our students.  Typical offerings include "What Can I do with a History Degree", "Study Abroad Options", and a discussion on the importance of Hannah Arendt.

Spring Picnic

Each year at the end of the spring semester, the department and the Historical Society host a picnic for our students on the department's deck.

Roanoke College Coffee Shop Talks

"Witches and Witch Hunters in Early Modern Europe"

Roanoke College Coffee Shops provide a relaxed forum for discussion and inquiry on a wide range of topics. Each one-hour talk includes a short presentation, followed by questions and discussion.

Learn more

Date | Time: Thursday, October 05, 2017 | 8:00 PM
Location: Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea, Salem