History, as a discipline at Northwestern, aims to assist the student in the development of an informed perspective on the human past. Such a perspective is integral to a Christian liberal arts education. Lacking a sense of history, a person skims through life on the thin surface of the present. With the study of history, however, one can begin to comprehend the deep currents of culture which shape our lives and those of others today. With this comprehension one is well poised not only to reflect on the past, but also to apply insights gained thereby to resolving the problems of the present and future. History is therefore a discipline which looks backward in order to move forward; it is, in the words of one distinguished historian, “the search for a usable past.”
At Northwestern, history is taught consciously from a Christian perspective. Recognizing that there is no such thing as history written or studied from a “neutral” point of view, the department attempts to study history in the light of the Christian faith while appreciating and drawing on the aid of history written out of other commitments.
Students naturally are concerned about vocational opportunities beyond graduation. Students of history at Northwestern have a wide variety of options open to them because the study of history provides both basic training in disciplined thought and expression as well as a rich framework of knowledge within which to deal with contemporary challenges. Those who concentrate on the study of history therefore may pursue careers in education at every level. Others may go on to full-time historical research or archive management (whether in the business sector or in public institutions). Still others will find the study of history to provide a desirable foundation for graduate studies in law, pastoral ministry, and business, as well as for careers in political, civil, and diplomatic service.
Northwestern College believes, however, that the serious study of history should not be confined to those who major in the field and so introduces it to all students. The history department agrees with this emphasis, and goes beyond it to welcome all students, regardless of major, to extend their understanding of history through further courses taken as electives.