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
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 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, former 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."
Since 1993, the history department has annually celebrated the first president of Roanoke College, David F. Bittle, with a Founder’s Day celebration on or around his birthday on November 19th.
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
View all courses
Our grads work at great organizations.
Breadth of Faculty Expertise is Exceptionally Large for a Small Liberal Arts College
Professor Jesse Bucher's research and teaching interests include modern Africa, South Africa, East Africa, world history, history of the Atlantic World, postcolonial studies and environmental history.
Professor Jason Hawke teaches the history of the Ancient Mediterranean World and Classical Latin. His research interests include ancient law, tyranny and democracy, and numeracy.
Professor Mark Miller's teaching fields include the U.S. in colonial and Civil War periods. Professor Miller likes to take advantage of local resources, from battlefields to newspaper archives, in teaching his courses. He is the author of Dear Old Roanoke, a history of Roanoke College, and is currently researching southern colleges and the coming of the Civil War.
Professor Gregory Rosenthal teaches courses in history and public humanities. He is also interested in environmental studies, working-class studies, queer studies, community organizing and scholar-activism.
Professor Rob Willingham's scholarship includes the history of German Jews, with an emphasis on the postwar lives of Jews in East Germany. He joined the History department at Roanoke in 2004, and has been nominated for the exemplary teaching award multiple times, winning in 2009. He has taught classes on modern Europe, the Holocaust, the Middle East, and the politics of memorialization.
Professor Whitney Leeson's research and teaching interests include economic anthropology, historical archaeology, gift exchange, medieval France, kinship and marriage, and New World contact and colonization. She is also the associate book review editor and secretary for the Sixteenth Century Journal, and book review editor for the Coordinating Council of Women in History.
A specialist in early modern Europe, Professor Michael Hakkenberg's teaching fields include the Renaissance and the Reformation; his research interests focus on the history of the Netherlands during the Reformation. Professor Hakkenberg, a Dutch speaker, frequently travels to the Netherlands. He also enjoys teaching a May term course in Italy on the Renaissance.
Professor Mary Henold's areas of expertise include 19th and 20th century United States, women's and gender history, American Catholicism, advertising and consumer culture, and urban and suburban history. Professor Henold is currently researching how moderate Catholic "women in the pews" responded to both the Second Vatican Council and the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
Professor John Selby teaches about the Civil War, 19th century American history, the Vietnam War, presidents and diplomatic history. His current research is on the leadership of General George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac from 1863-1865.
Political turmoil, revolution in Latin America, Latin American history and politics, and the culture of food are areas of expertise for Professor Ivonne Wallace Fuentes. She has also led student trips abroad.
The history of China, Korea and Japan are areas of expertise for Professor Stella Xu. She was also awarded a grant from the Freeman Foundation and ASIANetwork for her students to conduct research in China, "Reinvented Tradition in the Age of Globalization: the Silk Road and its Legacy in Contemporary China."
(not pictured) Professor Gary Gibbs' teaching fields include medieval and early modern European History, British History, South Asia, and World History (ancient and medieval). His main research areas focus on society and religion in Tudor England. Professor Gibbs serves as the Book Review Editor for the Sixteenth Century Journal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.