The History of History Departments

I was curious about when the various departments of history were established in different colleges across the world so I created this article to track my studies into this curiosity. Finding information on this topic has been more difficult compared to some other topics and therefore this study is not yet complete and is a work in progress.

My initial results showed that history departments didn’t really exist until the 19th century. Later, after I had completed my initial study, I found a source that supported these initial results.[65]

“Even though Oxford had a Professor of History after 1622, neither it nor any other British or American university had a department (‘faculty,’ in British terminology) devoted exclusively to history until the 19th century.”
J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D (2012)[65]

I was also thinking about looking into societies focused specifically on the discipline of history but decided against spending time on that. However, Edwards happened to mention this very topic and noted that those types of societies also didn’t really appear until the late 19th century.

Methodology

What I did first was list the top 30 universities for history in 2020 based on the QS World University Rankings list.[1] Then I went back through the list to include the founding date for each college and the founding date for each college’s history department. Unless the department foundation date is included below, I was unable to locate it in the time I spent searching for it.

I proceeded to do the same for the next top 20 universities for history in 2020 based on the QS World University Rankings list. You can see the data for the next 20 universities here, Part Two: the History of History Departments.

I list the concise results before the expanded results. If you’re aware of any history department that was established prior to any of the ones listed below, please reach out to me with that information. In the expanded results, if the about page for a school’s history department didn’t include the foundation date, I say so in the past tense. It may still be the case that the schools presently still do not list their history department’s foundation date but I kept my writing in past tense because after I checked, it became a matter of the past. If you check the information below and find that an about page has been updated, please let me know so I can update this article.

Concise Results

Out of the 50 universities, 12/50 (24%) had information about when their history departments were established on their websites.

1830: University College London, History department

1850s: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, chair of history

1854: University of Melbourne, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

1860: Leiden University, Institute of History

1885: Humboldt University of Berlin, Department of History

1891: University of Sydney, Department of History

“turn of the twentieth century” (1901ish): McGill University, Department of History and Classical Studies

1919: Yale University, Department of History

1922: The University of Manchester, Manchester School of History

Late 1940s: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of History

1954: The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Department of International History

2005: University of Toronto Mississauga, Department of Historical Studies

Expanded Results

1: Harvard University

Harvard University was established in 1636.[2] The about page for Harvard’s Department of History did not say when that department was founded.[3] Edwards reported that Harvard’s Department of History was founded in 1839. Edwards poses the possibility that this was the first history department in the world but as my study here shows it would be the second.[65]

2: University of Oxford

The University of Oxford was allegedly established sometime between 1096 and 1167.[4] The University of Oxford doesn’t appear to me to have a “Department of History”. Instead, they have a “Faculty of History”.[5] When was this faculty established?

3: University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge was allegedly established in 1209.[6] The University of Cambridge doesn’t appear to me to have a “Department of History”. Instead, they have a “Faculty of History”.[7] When was this faculty established?

4: Yale University

Yale University was established in 1701.[8] Yale’s Department of History was established in 1919. However, courses in history were established at Yale in the 1760’s by President Thomas Clap.[9]

5: The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was established in 1895.[10] Its Department of International History was established in 1954.[11] LSE has a Department of Economic History but the “About us” page does not say when it was founded.[12]

6: Stanford University

Stanford University was established in 1891.[13] It has a “Department of History” but its “About the Department” page did not say when it was established.[14]

6: University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

The University of California, Berkeley was established in 1868.[15] Berkeley has a “Department of History” but its “About the Department of History” page did not say when it was established.[16]

8: Columbia University

Columbia University was established in 1754.[17] It has a “Department of History” but its about page did not say when it was established.[18]

9: Princeton University

Princeton University was established in 1746 as the College of New Jersey.[19] It has a “Department of History” but its “About the Department of History” page did not say when it was established.[20]

10: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

UCLA was established in 1919.[21] I have not yet been able to determine when the UCLA History Department was established.[22]

11: University of Chicago

The University of Chicago was established in 1890.[23] I have not yet been able to determine when the their Department of History was established.[24]

12: The Australian National University

The Australian National University (ANU) was established in 1946.[25] ANU’s School of History did not say when it was established on their “About us” page.[26]

13: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan was established in 1817.[27] The “About Us” page for their history department did not say when that department was founded.[28]

14: King’s College London

King’s College London was established in 1829.[29] King’s Department of History’s “About us” page did not say when that department was founded.[30]

15: University of Toronto

The University of Toronto (U of T) was established in 1827.[31] U of T’s Department of History at St. George’s “About Us” page did not say when that department was founded.[32] U of T Mississauga’s Department of Historical Studies was established in 2005.[33] I was unable to find when U of T Scarborough’s Department of Historical and Cultural Studies was established (on their website).[34]

16: The University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh was established in 1583.[35] They have a “School of History, Classics, and Archaeology” but the “About the School” page for that school did not say when the school was established.[36]

17: Leiden University

Leiden University was established in 1575.[37] They trace the foundation of their history department to 1860.[38] I’m curious about when they first called their department the “Institute for History”.

17: University College London (UCL)

UCL was established in 1826.[39] The “UCL History department” was established in 1830.[40]

19: Kyoto University

Kyoto University was established in 1897.[41] I think the closest thing they have to a history department is their Faculty of Letters, which was established in 1906 as the College of Letters.[42]

20: The University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo was established in 1877.[43] The website for their “Department of History and Philosophy of Science” did not say when the department was established.[44]

21: Cornell University

Cornell University was established in 1865.[45] Cornell’s Department of History’s “About Us” page did not say when the department was established.[46]

22: National University of Singapore (NUS)

The National University of Singapore was established in 1980.[47] I think NUS’ Department of History’s “Introduction” page claims that the department was established in 1929 with Raffles College.[48]

23: Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University was established in 1876.[49] Their Department of History’s “About” page did not say when the department was established.[50]

24: Peking University

Peking University (PKU) was established in 1898.[51] They have a Department of History but I don’t yet know when it was founded.[52]

25: University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia (UBC) was established in 1908.[53] They have a Department of History but the “About” page for it doesn’t say when it was founded.[54]

26: The University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne was established in 1853.[55] It’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies was established in 1854.[56]

27: Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin

Humboldt University of Berlin was established in 1810.[57] Its autonomous Department of History was established in 1885.[58]

28: The University of Sydney

The University of Sydney was established in 1850.[59] Its Department of History was established in 1891.[60]

29: University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania was established in 1740.[61] Their Department of History’s “About” page did not say when the department was established.[62]

30: University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin was established in 1883.[63] I wasn’t able to find any details on when their Department of History was established on its website.[64]

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References:

[1] – https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/university-subject-rankings/2020/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[2] – https://www.harvard.edu/about-harvard/harvard-glance/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[3] – https://history.fas.harvard.edu/about. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[4] – https://www.ox.ac.uk/about/organisation/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[5] – https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/home. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[6] – https://www.cam.ac.uk/about-the-university/history/timeline. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[7] – https://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[8] – https://www.yale.edu/about-yale. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[9] – https://history.yale.edu/about-us. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[10] – https://london.ac.uk/ways-study/study-campus-london/member-institutions/london-school-economics-and-political-science. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[11] – https://www.lse.ac.uk/International-History/About. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[12] – https://www.lse.ac.uk/Economic-History/About/AboutUs. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[13] – https://www.stanford.edu/about/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[14] – https://history.stanford.edu/about/about-department. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[15] – https://www.berkeley.edu/about/history-discoveries. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[16] – https://history.berkeley.edu/about. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[17] – https://www.columbia.edu/content/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[18] – https://history.columbia.edu/department/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[19] – https://www.princeton.edu/meet-princeton/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[20] – https://history.princeton.edu/about. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[21] – https://www.ucla.edu/about/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[22] – https://www.history.ucla.edu/content/contact. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[23] – https://www.uchicago.edu/about/history/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[24] – https://history.uchicago.edu/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[25] – https://www.anu.edu.au/about/our-history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[26] – https://history.cass.anu.edu.au/about-us. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[27] – https://campusinfo.umich.edu/article/um-history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[28] – https://lsa.umich.edu/history/about-us.html. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[29] – https://www.kcl.ac.uk/lsm/about/history/index. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[30] – https://www.kcl.ac.uk/history/about. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[31] – https://www.utoronto.ca/about-u-of-t. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[32] – https://www.history.utoronto.ca/about-us/our-department/department-history-st-george. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[33] – https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/historical-studies/welcome-department-historical-studies. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[34] – https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/hcs/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[35] – https://www.ed.ac.uk/about/our-history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[36] – https://www.ed.ac.uk/history-classics-archaeology/about-us/about-school. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[37] – https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/about-us/profile/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[38] – https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/humanities/institute-for-history/about. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[39] – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/news/2020/dec/history-behind-ucl. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[40] – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/history/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[41] – https://www.kyoto-u.ac.jp/en/about/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[42] – https://www.kyoto-u.ac.jp/en/research/fields/graduate-schools/faculty-of-letters-graduate-school-of-letters. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[43] – https://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/about/chronology.html. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[44] – http://hps.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp/index_en.php. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[45] – https://www.cornell.edu/about/facts.cfm. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[46] – https://history.cornell.edu/about-us. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[47] – http://nus.edu.sg/about/founded-by-the-community. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[48] – https://fass.nus.edu.sg/hist/introduction/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[49] – https://www.jhu.edu/about/history/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[50] – https://history.jhu.edu/about/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[51] – http://english.pku.edu.cn/intro_PKUhistory.shtml. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[52] – http://english.pku.edu.cn/research_humanity.shtml. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[53] – https://archives.library.ubc.ca/general-history/a-brief-history-of-ubc/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[54] – https://history.ubc.ca/about/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[55] – https://www.unimelb.edu.au/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[56] – https://arts.unimelb.edu.au/school-of-historical-and-philosophical-studies/discipline-areas/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[57] – https://www.hu-berlin.de/en/about/history/huben_html/huben_html. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[58] – https://www.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/en/the-department/geschichte-en/geschichte-en. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[59] – https://www.sydney.edu.au/study/why-choose-sydney/student-life/student-news/2020/08/25/a-brief-history-of-the-university-of-sydney.html. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[60] – https://www.sydney.edu.au/arts/history/index.shtml. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[61] – https://www.upenn.edu/about/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[62] – https://www.history.upenn.edu/about. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[63] – https://www.utexas.edu/about/history. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[64] – https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/history/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2020.

[65] – https://somegreymatter.com/historian.htm?fbclid=IwAR3ib-watDHDRAOARp00agWanAOYA48-2R9imauJvLCKigRbj14RFDHRAEk. Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.

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