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 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 another study abroad opportunities.

If you enjoy the mental discipline histories 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 in finding employment in international business and finance.

We offer both a major and a minor in history.

Daniel Ayers: The Folk Storyteller

Watch Video daniel ayers playing the guitar and singing

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

Tyler Merrill ourside the United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumStudent 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

Photo of Dr. John G. Selby

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."


Faculty recognized with Dean’s Exemplary Awards

The awards celebrate outstanding commitments to service, professional contributions and teaching excellence.

Center for Studying the Structures of Race hosts Camera Obscura exhibition

The project highlights locations on campus built by enslaved people and the importance of acknowledging the past. 

Sample Course Offerings:

  • HIST 213: Age of Alexander the GreatGloved hand touching old books
  • 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.

Logos of: The Met, Hilton, Lockheed Martin, The U.S. Air Force, Smithsonian Institution

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.

Students in the cemetery on the Hill

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.

Students at a bonfire

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.

Students watching a movie hosted by the Historical Society

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. 

President Maxey giving a speech at a history department event

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.

Students at the spring picnic

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.