History is a record of human activity. It is also a human reconstruction of that activity. History is a sequence of development over time. It is also a set of interrelationships at any given time. History is a way to understand and interpret present-day reality. If we don’t understand the past, we cannot comprehend the present nor make wise choices for the future.

At Calvin, history is not a dry recital of names and dates but an investigation into human society, how it works and how it has shaped the modern world. It is an exploration of times and peoples different from ourselves—yet quite familiar when we get to know them.

We practice history as Christians, aiming to present the data of the past in an honest and intelligible whole that gives insight into the diversity human experience, our cultural heritages, and our responsibilities to God and humanity.

Program flexibility

As a history major you will learn to look closely and dig deeply in areas of interest to you. Explore North American and European history as well as Latin American, East Asian, African, and Middle Eastern history. A variety of minor programs also enable you to tailor your history degree to fit your vocational goals.

But you will also learn to think critically and to see from a variety of perspectives. Take a wide range of other liberal arts courses including a foreign language, especially if you are expecting to enter a graduate program. Study abroad for one semester, and January interim trips to a gain an international perspective. You'll receive a broad and deep education that will prepare you for life in a variety of endeavors.

Gifted scholar-teachers

The members of the history department all hold doctoral degrees from major universities in North America or Europe. Their expertise ranges from antiquity to the twentieth century, from the Wild West to the Far East, and from England to southern Africa. The expertise of several faculty also enables them to teach in other Calvin departments including classics, Dutch, and Spanish, and at Calvin Theological Seminary.

Open doors

Imagine talking to an archeologist with over 30 years experience working in the Middle East—in his office. Imagine having your survey courses taught by a full professor with over 20 years of teaching and research experience, and talking with him after class. In the Calvin history department, you don't have to imagine.

As a history major, you will enjoy close contact with these distinguished Christian scholar-teachers in classes, at social events, and in their open-door offices. Classes are small enough for faculty and students to get to know each other personally, and opportunities for individual counseling and discussion are frequent. Faculty and visiting scholars discuss their research at monthly colloquia, and students have opportunities to do internships or collaborate on faculty research.


Calvin’s Hekman Library is the largest private academic library in the state. It is well stocked with historical literature, journals, and other resource materials, including government documents, many of which are available electronically.

The library is also home to Heritage Hall, the official archive of Calvin University, Calvin Seminary, and the Christian Reformed Church. The collection includes personal papers, information about ministers and missionaries, and accounts of the Dutch migration.

The H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies houses one of the world’s finest collections of material on the Calvinist Reformation. history students also have access to the Colonial Origins Collection, a rich store of materials pertaining to Dutch emigration, the Christian Reformed Church, and related institutions.  

And the Mellema Program in Western American Studies makes Calvin one of the best places in the Midwest to learn about the Old West and the New—from Native peoples, Spanish conquistadors, and cowboys to Hollywood moguls, tourists, and Silicon Valley billionaires.