history department

Cornell University Department of History

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Cornell University Department of History

Arts and Sciences
J. Victor Koschmann
McGraw Hall, Ithaca, New York, USA

The Cornell University Department of History is an academic department in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University that focuses on the study of history. Founded in 1868, it is one of Cornell's original departments. Its first faculty included university president Andrew Dickson White and English historian Goldwin Smith. In 1881, the department named Moses Coit Tyler the first professor of American history in the United States. Three of Cornell's twelve presidents have been members of the department: White, Adams, and Rawlings. The longest teaching member of the faculty was Frederick Marcham who, upon completing his graduate work at Cornell in 1924, continued lecturing until a month before his death in 1992 – a total of 68 years. The department's main offices are in McGraw Hall on the Arts Quad.


The department was founded in 1868 by President Andrew Dickson White as one of Cornell's original departments as the Department of History and Political Science. White had already earned a reputation as an up and coming historian, having taught at the University of Michigan as a Professor of History and English Literature from 1857 to 1863 and as a Lecturer of History from 1863 to 1867, while serving as a New York State Senator. Employing his reputation as well-regarded historian in his own right, White attracted other notable historians and upcoming of the day to his department. He convinced Goldwin Smith to leave his comfortable post at Oxford and travel across the Atlantic to rural, up-state New York. When Smith realized just how lacking the new university's library was for historical study, he promptly had his entire 3,400 book collection shipped from England for donation to the Cornell University Library and made a $2,500 bequest for the purchase of more historical works. From the College of Horace Mann (later known as Antioch College), White attracted their Department Chairman William Channing Russel. Russel would later serve as the Department Chairman, Cornell's Vice President and acting President during White's long periods abroad.

In 1881, the department notably hired the first, full-time chair of American history ever. In the spring of 1872, non-resident professor George Washington Greene, grandson of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene, offered a series of lectures on American history. Upon Russel's stepping down as the Department Chairman in 1881, the department attracted Moses Coit Tyler from the University of Michigan to take Russel's position. At Tyler's request, he exclusively taught American history .

In 1884, the department founded the American Historical Review in a joint effort with Harvard's Department of History in the model of the English Historical Review and the French Revue Historique. Also in 1884, Professors White and Charles Kendall Adams founded the American Historical Association with a handful of other leading historians of the day.

In 1887, the Department was renamed the White School of History and Political Science in honor of Andrew Dickson White. On June 18, 1891, the Cornell Board of Trustees resolved that steps be taken to form a "Department of History, Political and Social Science, and General Jurisprudence" and the following year, the faculty of economics and finance and political and social institutions broke off into a single department separate from the Department of History. Since then, the mega-department has further broken into the Department of Economics and the Department of Government.


The US News and World Report's 2008 rankings of graduate programs places the department 11th overall in the United States and 10th in the category of United States colonial history.

Numerous people associated with the department have won Pulitzer Prizes. Current faculty member Michael Kammen is the 1973 winner of the prize for History. Former professor David Brion Davis won in the category of General Non-Fiction in 1969. Alumna Sheryl WuDunn won the award for International Reporting in 1990.

Other faculty members have won other major awards for their work as historians. Walter LaFeber won the Bancroft Prize in 1996 and David Brion Davis won in 1976. LaFeber also won the Beveridge Award in 1962 and Davis received it in 1975. The French government awarded Steven Kaplan the Ordre national du Mérite and named Henry Guerlac Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. Anthony Grafton won the Balzan Prize.

Department in Popular Culture

The Onion, a parody newspaper, featured an article about fictional History Department professor Wallace Schroeder on September 9, 1997 titled, "Byzantine Empire Will Fall To Turks, Historian Warns".

Notable people


Name Class year Degree Notability Reference
1976 Ph.D. American History Historian, professor
1982 B.A. Liberal author and columnist
1881 B.A. U.S. historian, diplomat, author, and educator
1942 B.A. Medieval History United States Congressman New York 37th District, 1965–73; 35th District, 1973–83; 30th District, 1983–85; President of the World Bank, 1986–91
1981 B.A. Congressman, Illinois 10th District, 2001–present
1963 B.A. Former Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State, professor at Stanford University
1905 B.A. Author of the first book to be awarded the Newbery Medal for an outstanding contribution to children's literature, historian, educator
1978 B.A. Political pundit, host of Real Time with Bill Maher
1947 Ph.D. Historian, professor, author of The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
1941 B.A. The most decorated American serviceman, according to the Guinness Book of World Records
1981 B.A. European History Journalist at The New York Times, co-winner in 1990 of the Pulitzer Prize for her coverage on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, winner of the George Polk Award in 1989, and winner of the Overseas Press Club in 1990.
1966 Ph.D. Southeast Asian History Historian, Professor, Authority on Thai

Former faculty

Name Title(s) Field of study Year joined Year left/retired Reference
Hebrew and Chinese Literature 1874 1876
Professor of History, University President Europe 1885 1889
Associate Professor of History Modern England, Maritime 1969 ?
John Stambaugh Professor of History and Asian Studies, John Wendell Anderson Professor of History The Enlightenment 1917 1941
Professor of History, Department Chairman (1956–1963) China 1938, 1946 1944, 1972
John Stambaugh Professor of History Middle Ages 1888 1923
Ernest I. White Professor of History Slavery 1955 1969
John Stambaugh Professor of History , Department Chairman (1946–56) United States public land policy 1936 1971
Instructor in History Renaissance 1974 1975
Non-resident Professor United States 1871 1875
Goldwin Smith Professor of the History of Science Science 1946 1977
Professor of History Classics 1960 1969
Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor, Department Chairman United States foreign policy, Cold War 1959 2006
John Stambaugh Professor of History, Department Chairman Middle Ages 1925 1941
Professor of Modern European History Modern Europe 1894 1903
Visiting Assistant Professor American Civil Rights Movement (1896–1954) 2007 2008
Professor of English and General Constitutional History England 1868 1871
Professor in History Protestant Reformation 1923 1941
Professor in History Middle Ages 1931 1941
Professor of Modern European History Modern Europe 1890 1894
Professor of American History, Department Chairman (1881–?) United States 1881 1900
Professor, Department Chairman (1868–1881), University President Science, Warfare, Religion 1868 1887
John Stambaugh Professor of History and Asian Studies, Department Chairman Southeast Asia 1969 2002

Current faculty

Name Title Field of study Year joined department Reference
John Stambaugh Professor of History Sexuality, Germany 1977
Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture American culture 1965
Goldwin Smith Professor of History France, bread 1969
Professor, Department Chairman (?–present) Japan
Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor of Humanistic Studies Intellectual history 1969
Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History United States 1971
Goldwin Smith Professor of American History, Former Department Chairman (1977–1980) United States constitutional law 1966
Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor, Charles A. Alexander Professor Science 1969
Professor of Classics and History, Former University President Classics
Associate Professor Gender and culture in 17th and 18th century England


External links

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