Course Feature - Philosophies of History

Students in HSTR 422 research the responses of historians from the time of the ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, to historians in the present day to the question: “What is history for?”

Students in Associate Professor Aaron Weinacht’s Philosophies of History course address the question: “What is History For?” From the Ancient Greek Historian Thucydides, to the present, philosophers and historians have offered many different answers to this question. Students in HSTR 422 spend a good deal of time reading and discussing the merits of these different answers, and by the end of the course, students are better able to articulate the rational grounds on which their own answers can rest.

History students at Montana Western make the move from “consuming” history—as in knowing about the Cold War—to “producing” history in the manner of professional historical researchers, which involves interpreting what evidence about the Cold War means. Students in HSTR 422 engage in a variety of activities, which enable them to think about this relationship between facts and interpretations. These activities have included writing about events they’ve experienced, in the manner of a nineteenth-century Romantic historian, and parsing exactly what it means to try to look at the past as a neutral observer.

Many Montana Western history students will be teachers, whether in secondary school, higher education, or in public history. As students in HSTR 422 become more reflective historians, they will also become better teachers, able to articulate questions about what all this history is actually For. History matters to everyone, so what we think history is For matters, too.