History Department

Map of the world

At Reed, history is treated as a basic component of general education. The department attempts to include in its course offerings as many periods and areas of study as student enrollment and available faculty make possible. The priority, however, is on diversity of approach—constitutional, intellectual, economic, social, diplomatic, cultural—rather than on specific coverage of conventional fields. The aim is to arouse sufficient interest in history to stimulate a student’s independent inquiry and the necessary analytical thought and perspectives that go with historical study.

The department tries to inculcate students with a sense of history—to impress them with the legacy, conscious or unconscious, that each present has inherited from its past, as well as the many perspectives one can have on that legacy. While many graduates have become prominent as professional historians and teachers of history, it is even more as a fundamental contribution to liberal, humanistic education and the development of a critical intelligence, carried through in many different professions and ways of life, that the department program is conceived and directed to majors and nonmajors alike.

The department expects students to develop competence in various periods and areas of history, as specified in the course requirements, and to attain analytical skills common to all fields of history. The junior qualifying examination in history requires students to analyze a significant piece of recent scholarship in the discipline. The examination is offered once each semester, in the first week of classes. Students in the major ordinarily take the exam in the first week of the second semester of their junior year. The department encourages but does not require its students to pursue the study of a foreign language.

For students who wish to pursue interdisciplinary study in American history and some other area—for example, literature, economics, or government—Reed offers an American studies major. Among other possible programs are interdisciplinary majors involving history, such as history–literature and international and comparative policy studies.


The Department of History at Reed College is excited to welcome two new colleagues:

Radhika Natarajan joins the history department as an Assistant Professor of History and Humanities. A historian of Modern Imperial Britain, her research focuses on the social transformations wrought by decolonization. She is writing a book on engagements between social workers and migrants to Britain from the decolonizing empire, examining how these interactions transformed older, imperial frameworks of community and difference into contemporary multiculturalism. She has also recently published an article on the Commonwealth Arts Festival of 1965, an important moment when the nations of the former empire came together to perform their post-imperial association. She received her PhD in 2013 from the University of California, Berkeley. At Reed, she looks forward to teaching Hum 110 and offering courses in British and twentieth century history.

Alan Shane Dillingham, Visiting Assistant Professor of History & Humanities, comes to Reed from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Prior teaching at Dickinson Dillingham completed his PhD in Latin American History at the University of Maryland. His research interests include modern Latin America, indigenous cultures, and the Global 1960s. He is currently at work on a book project that explores the relationship between indigenous peoples and capitalist modernization through a regional focus on the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. In addition to teaching a conference of Humanities 110 at Reed, Dillingham will offer a course on Native Histories of the Americas and a course on 1968, Social Movements and Revolution in Latin America.

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