About the Department

Fushimi-yagura, Japan. Photo Contributed by Yajun Mo

Dear Members of the UCSC Community:

As students of history, we are situated in a particular academic and political environment. We ourselves are products of particular histories. What we see when we look at the past is unavoidably shaped by our present sensibilities and concerns. We ask about the past at a time when the health of the world economy and the notion of unending progress are open to question and challenge, when previous paths to development and wealth have proven unsustainable and inequitable, and when the fate and future of our own public university system is uncertain.

The study of history cannot solve these problems for us. But it can help us ask how wealth has been accumulated, how ideas of the good life or the just life have taken shape and been challenged. It can help us understand the various ways that humans have interacted with the nonhuman world, and how human activity has produced change over time. It can help us appreciate the record of the past, as it has been preserved in texts, objects, oral narratives, monuments, and memory. It can alert us to experiences that have not been preserved, and help us to ask why the accounts of some events and peoples have been recorded, while others have disappeared from view. And it can train us to pay attention to contingency - the role of the unexpected - and to the crucial work done by humans in interpreting our world and surroundings over time. History is good to think with.

Welcome to the Department of History at UC Santa Cruz. We look forward to thinking with you - as well as reading, talking, writing, and arguing with you - as you explore the past in all of its dimensions.

The History Department at UC Santa Cruz