Dr. Kimberly Georgedes, chair

Dr. Robert Doyle

Dr. Michael Fitzgerald

Dr. Jeffrey Hass (Austrian Program)

Dr. James Matenaer

Dr. Matthew O’Brien


The study of history and anthropology fulfills the mission of Franciscan University by assisting our students in their discovery of truth. Furthermore, while we steadfastly honor the free agency of man, we also believe that Christ gives purpose and meaning to our subjects and our disciplines, and that both are best understood in the light of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Franciscan tradition.

It is the mission of the Department of History and Anthropology to teach our students the disciplines that they have chosen to study. For history, this includes introducing students to the historical past and training them to interpret the past in an honest and forthright manner. This is accomplished by imparting to the student the principles of historical method, which include: providing an adequate knowledge of the facts of the historical past; teaching the techniques necessary for the critical and analytical examination of historical evidence; fostering an appreciation for the synthetic and holistic study of the past (including the various aspect so culture, such as religion, intellectual ideas, politics, society, and economics); and introducing the student to the key historiographical debates regarding the interpretation(s) of the past.

The study of history and anthropology is an essential part of a general liberal arts education because the temporal and cultural aspects are foundational to other disciplines. History provides the basis for those interested in teaching history at the secondary level; and both history and anthropology are preparatory for those considering entering graduate or professional programs. However, both disciplines’ emphasis on critical thinking also provides crucial training for any professional vocation that involves the evaluation and integration of factual material in light of contrasting viewpoints. And finally, such critical skills are complementary and integral to people of faith as they work toward a deeper understanding of God’s work in our contemporary world.


History is the study of everything that men and women have ever done. Through careful study, historians identify those things in human civilizations that change, that remain constant, and that have shaped the present. In short, they make us aware of the impact of the past on the present.

Through the study of history, we can appreciate and understand the feelings, beliefs, and insights of those who lived before us. We are freed from the narrow lens of the present and introduced to the broader panorama of mankind. In a particular way, the study of history fulfills Franciscan University’s commitment to fully liberate students from ignorance, prejudice, and false philosophies that impede a discovery of truth that makes one free indeed (see Franciscan University Mission Statement I, B1, Appendix A).

From the Catholic perspective, the Incarnation is the central fact of history. As the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson wrote, the Catholic view of history is “an interpretation of time in terms of eternity and human events in the light of divine revelation.” Thus, Catholic students of history and historians believe that Jesus Christ gives meaning, significant purpose, and direction to history; that he constantly works within history; and that he remains present in and through the Church, which he established. At the same time, they believe in man’s free will, in the potential for human progress, and in the moral obligation of every Christian to work vigorously and tirelessly for what Pope Paul VI called the “civilization of love.”

The Uses and the Study of History

The study of history trains students to think critically and analytically. In an increasingly volatile job market, this training has proven to be our graduates’ most valuable asset. They are men and women who can bring fresh, critical, and creative insights to their work, who can persuade others by good argument, and who can express themselves clearly and intelligently. The study of history develops these fundamental skills through critical readings of the past, close examinations of historical evidence, and studies in the relations among ideas, social life, culture, and politics. Students learn that good historians are good storytellers, but even more so, they are skilled in the forensic arts—argument and public debate. The word “history” comes from the Greek history (istwr), a word the ancient Greeks used to refer to a man who settled civil disputes in the days before courts, lawyers, and judges. Historians are rightly thought of as detectives. To discover the truth of things, they listen to and read various stories of the past, weighing the motives of the parties who write or tell these stories. And, like good detectives, they get behind these accounts in order to bring out a new or forgotten truth. Accordingly, the study of history has customarily provided a solid preparation for law, journalism, government service, electoral politics, and similar professions.

Our History Program also prepares history majors for graduate study in history and for teaching history in secondary schools. (See the Education Degree Program section of this catalog for information on secondary certification.)

Assessment Learning Goals

  1. Students will know basic historical events of Western and American civilization.
  2. Students will become familiar with historiography and historical methods of research.
  3. Students will use historical methods to read and evaluate primary and secondary sources critically.
  4. Students will be able to present research findings in an articulate, coherent, and logical manner, supported by evidence.
  5. Students will be able to use library sources adequately.
  6. Students will be prepared to compete in graduate/professional programs.

History Course Descriptions