The History of History at PC
Students then were required to take courses in the history of the ancient world in the freshman year, the modern world in the sophomore year, and England in the junior year. By 1890 it was possible to earn a masters degree in history from PC by taking a few more classes in the subject beyond the baccalaureate degree. Beginning in 1901, Prof. Woodworth assumed primary responsibility for history courses and offered courses that covered much of American and European history.
A turning point in the history of history at PC came with the arrival of Prof. Marshall Brown in 1924. Under his leadership, the department offered new courses in the French Revolution, Renaissance and Reformation, South Carolina History, Near Eastern History, Teaching History, Medieval Civilization, Expansion of Europe, and Europe Since 1914. Then in 1937, the first reference was made to a history major. Prof. Brown continued to spearhead innovative courses on the history of music, fine arts, American frontiers, the South, economic history, and the history of political theory until 1945 when he assumed the presidency of the college.
After Brown’s elevation to the presidency, new faculty with training in history from Yale, Columbia, Northwestern, Harvard, Duke, and UVA came to teach at PC. In 1946, the general education program was introduced with a two-semester requirement from the social sciences that could be filled with either economics or history. By 1948, the History of Latin America was initially offered and keeping current with the times and the international realities, the History of Russia appeared as a stock course in 1950. Social history came to PC in 1951 with the appearance of a course on American social history since colonial times.
In 1953, European Civilization became a requirement of general education, and course offerings continued to expand with the addition of Civil War, Historiography, and Modern US. In 1959, the first standardized requirements for the major were stipulated in the catalog. The requirements then would describe a social studies major by today’s standards as credits in economics, political science, sociology, and psychology were expected. By this time, the department’s faculty were also providing guidance to students who were considering a career in education. It was in this year that the Department of History and Political Science made its formal appearance.
1964 brought Prof. Ron Burnside to PC and soon important and innovative changes occurred in the history curriculum. In 1967, the college changed its general education requirements from Western Civilization to World Civilizations. New courses poured forth from the department, having hired two more historians, Profs. Coker and Needham in 1968. Some of these new offerings included readings courses, Colonial History, US Intellectual History, 18th-Century Europe, Between the World Wars, Asia, Africa, and a seminar in 1920s America. Over the years, courses became more specialized. For instance, the History of Russia was split into Early Russia and Modern Russia, and Modern Europe became 19th-Century Europe and 20th-Century Europe, and Africa became Pre-Colonial Africa and Modern Africa.
Beginning in the late 1990s, the department saw another significant transition as one generation of faculty retired and another took their places. The new faculty preserved much of the great heritage passed to them by their predecessors and built upon the foundation they had established. Along with courses to complement the new faculty’s expertise, a senior seminar capstone was developed and opportunities for informal faculty-student interaction were increased. Additionally, the faculty’s commitment to study abroad resulted in offering many more of these opportunities to students, such that the department has become a leader on campus for these trips.
* Source: PC Academic Catalogs, 1880-present. Presbyterian College Archives, Clinton, SC.