Mission Statement

  1. Students of history will learn the following essential concepts and values at Bradley
    1. History: The study of history leads to interpretive accounts of the past that must be well-supported by the evidence that survives. While narrative is important in efforts to reconstruct the past, history is not simply a story of “what happened.” The past can be known to us only through a disciplined process of research, debate, and problem solving. History produces provisional accounts that may be revised when new evidence is discovered and new questions are asked.
    2. Historical evidence: Historians use primary and secondary sources to make sense of the past. These sources come in diverse forms, represent a variety of perspectives, and have their own strengths and limitations as evidence.
    3. Context: Historians can better understand people of the past by contextualizing their actions. Context includes what they were trying to accomplish; the nature of their beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge; and the culturally and historically contingent assumptions that guided their thoughts and actions.
    4. Complexity: Historians explain change, so they are intensely interested in the “how and why” questions of historical developments. They avoid monocausal explanations and categorical or reductionist thinking, because the motives and behaviors of people in the past were multifaceted, complex, and sometimes mysterious.
    5. Fairness and empathy: People in the past cannot speak back to historians. Therefore, historians have an obligation to strive for an empathetic understanding that only allows for judging people’s decisions and actions within their own historical context. In fact, history is a great discipline for teaching the value of compassion not only toward our acquaintances, but toward people whom we will never meet and who live lives that often seem quite foreign to us.
    6. Intellectual curiosity and citizenship: Historians value the study of the past for fostering an abiding curiosity about others, as well as the searching, contemplative, and magnanimous world view that is an essential component of democratic citizenship. History done well trains people to gather knowledge and weigh the evidence about any given problem, to engage calmly and rationally with a diversity of viewpoints, and to become active participants in civil society.


  2. Students of history will learn the following skills at Bradley
    1. Location and interpretation of primary sources: Learning to find and interpret primary sources of all kinds is the key to doing history. Students in our program learn to find sources in libraries, archives, and internet. They distinguish between kinds of primary sources (for example written, visual, or aural; descriptive or prescriptive; tonally objective or subjective). They consider how the historical context of the source affects its guiding concerns, language, credibility, and message. Through close analysis they address questions of genre, form, content, audience, and biographical perspective in order to discover the author’s deeper meaning.
    2. Development of historical arguments using primary sources: By carrying out original research in primary sources, upper-level students will construct accounts of historical change that demonstrate understanding of historical evidence, context, interpretation, and perspective.
    3. Evaluation of secondary historical accounts: Historical research also involves reading other scholars’ accounts. Students learn to recognize the common forms and tropes in historical writing (for example narrative, exposition, causal model, and analogy). They identify a writer’s interpretation and scrutinize the evidence and analysis upon which that interpretation rests. They critically evaluate, compare, and synthesize historiography on specific subjects in history.
    4. Range, depth, diversity, and cross-cultural empathy: Students learn about a variety of time periods and civilizations in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, and in so doing they learn about diverse cultural perspectives, the study of which promotes empathetic understanding as an antidote to “othering.” Students are required to take two courses that specifically address cross-cultural relationships, or they can fulfill this requirement by taking one such class plus a Study Abroad course. During their junior and senior seminars, students gain in-depth expertise in specific historical subjects. History naturally sparks the interest of people who are intellectually curious. Through the wide range of subject matter, students not only get to explore the areas they are already interested in, they also develop new interests and questions about world history.
    5. Comprehension of complex messages, and clear, effective, and truthful communication: Professionally trained historians should communicate well to each other and especially to laypersons about the importance of investigating the past. A grounded understanding of history is crucial to an informed democratic polity. Yet too often, untrained public figures oversimplify and thus distort the truth about the past, and the vast amount of bare, unfiltered, and often false information on the internet easily flummoxes people as well. Full comprehension of complex messages, alongside effective, clear, and truthful communication, are essential skills that historians are well equipped to develop in their students. These skills are central to good citizenship within any type of democracy. Truthfulness of communication is at a premium and needs to be protected and promoted during a person’s college education.