History is fundamental. Everything has a history and history is everything.

Learn to identify and discern the meaning of global and local change over time. Study the richness, diversity, and complexities of existence in a valuable and versatile major that deals, at its core, with the nature of human experience. Through the study of history, we learn to understand why events happen, how people experienced them, and how they remade societies. At the same time we come to know ourselves by discovering the ways in which the past has shaped us and the world in which we live.

faculty and student at Commencement
Professor demonstrating design work
Professor teaching
students learning in a classroom

Available as a major or a minor.

In Wells' history courses, students learn to become their own historians, conducting research on primary and secondary sources—not just textbooks, but the journals, letters, and articles produced during historical periods—and engaging in meaningful discussions with their teachers and their peers. You'll learn to write and speak about not just what the sources are saying, but what you are saying—how and why you are approaching something a certain way and how others are making competing arguments.

History is about the totality of the human experience, the good and the bad. It is both relevant and important, and those who choose to study it learn to find meaning in the past through the interpretation of evidence. They learn not just what happened, but how and why.

Lists of facts and dates can be boring when they're taken out of context, but in fact, history isn't about memorization. History ultimately amounts to good story telling. It's about scholarly arguments, coming to conclusions, analyzing source material. You'll take part in exciting and fun conversations with the hands-on history. Every history class is experiential in that regard.

Faculty in the program practice some of the newest and most interesting teaching methods, often exploring the past through game playing and roleplaying. Students may take on famous historical personas, research and prepare for the role outside of class, and discuss the issues of the time that they're studying through that individual's viewpoints. They learn to explore and express these complicated identities in classroom debates and even on social media.

These discussions, of course, aren't limited to one "type" of conversation. A history education is versatile, flexible, and fun. Students who take courses in history learn to apply their knowledge and newfound ideas in careers in library science, museum work, or the diverse field known as public history. The program is by nature multidisciplinary—a dozen Wells majors and minors require history programs, including Economics, Political Science, Women's and Gender Studies, Film and Media Studies, Spanish, and Philosophy. Through the study of history at Wells, one not only learns to research and write effectively, but also the immensely valuable analytical skill of thinking historically, of seeing the fluidity and evolution over time of attitudes and values and the societies they have created and which contain them.

Internships and Study Abroad Opportunities

Numerous internship choices exist for students with the research and writing skills of the Wells history major. Established relationships with local historical societies and museums throughout the Finger Lakes provide many options to learn and talk and teach others. Every experience is valuable, and students always come back from these with remarkable insights and a passion for the "living history" with which they've been engaged. In recent years, Wells history majors have held a number of internships including:

  • Ithaca College library archives, Ithaca, NY
  • National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
  • New York City Landmark Preservation Commission
  • Rochester Historical Society, Rochester, NY
  • Seward House, Aurora, NY
  • Wells Fargo Historical Services, San Francisco
  • Women's Hall of Fame, Seneca Falls, NY

Want to study European History in Berlin, England, or Florence? Wells makes it possible. History majors gain transformative experiences, gain amazing memories, and help to clarify how they'll spend their future through fascinating programs around the world – Check out our off-campus study programs.

Co-Curricular Activities

Share your love of history with others and practice your leadership skills by getting involved with one of many active groups on campus. Below are just a few that might catch your interest:

  • Political Activism at Wells
  • Campus Greens Environmental Club
  • Japanese Culture Club
  • Collegiate Counsel (student government)
  • The History Society
  • Model United Nations
  • P.O.W.E.R. (Praising Our Work, Ethnicity, and Race)

Students are also involved with planning, organizing, and of course participating in exciting annual events such as the Peachtown Native American Festival and Education Week, Activism Symposium, and others supported by modern languages faculty such as Tapas Night, Hispanic Heritage Month Film Series, and more.

"I just got a glimpse of the school and I loved it. All you see coming up is the lake, and you just think—oh my goodness—I did not know a place like this existed!"

Abena Poku ’16
Visual Arts: Art History Major, Community Court Chair
David Shields
The Wells College Book Arts Center presents "Muster hundreds! Towards a people's history of American wood type," the 40th Susan Garretson Swartzburg '60 Memorial Lecture by printing historian David Shields....
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Program Faculty
Michael E. Groth
Professor of History
Cynthia J. Koepp
Get Historical

History majors examine interesting and eye-opening texts from primary source material. In addition to those selected by their professors and discussed in classes, there are frequent opportunities to engage with the history of the region by working with the Aurora Historical Society and Archives, attending events arranged by the Peachtown Native American Festival and Education Week, or taking an internship with one of the many local museums. Paper writing and detailed readings are accompanied by the joy of learning to apply historical insights to any other subject offered here at Wells College—even while performing in campus theatre productions, participating in group art exhibitions, or working with Wells' archives and art collection.


Wells College promises a relevant liberal arts and sciences education. Intellectually challenging. Reinterpreted for today. Classroom teaching combined with hands-on learning. Wells graduates enter the world prepared for successful futures.

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