History had a very small representation in the early curriculum of the college. The Laws of 1783 do mention “Bolingbroke on History” as one of the books to be studied in the senior year. William Gammell, professor of rhetoric, instructed the junior class in modern history in the third term of 1843-44, in accordance with a vote of the Corporation in September 1843, using as a textbook Smythe’s Lectures on Modern History, which he reported to be satisfactory for the course, although “requiring of the student a vast amount of collateral reading of history.” In 1845-46 he added recitations in history for the senior class, and in the second term of 1847-48 “read lectures on American history to the senior class.” In the second term of 1850-51 there was a newly created chair of history and political economy held by Gammell. James Burrill Angell 1849 commented on Gammell’s teaching, “His course in history was fuller than that at any other college except Harvard. It was chiefly devoted to English constitutional history, although some time was given to American constitutional history. It called for solid and fruitful work.” Gammell, retiring in 1864, was succeeded by a former pupil, Jeremiah Lewis Diman. Barnas Sears taught history at the end of the 1863-64 academic year. Diman’s course consisted of a course of two terms in the senior year, the first extending from the fall of the Western Empire to the close of the Mediaeval Period, the second from the Renaissance to the end of the American Colonial Period, ending with a study of the United States Constitution. In 1871 Diman’s annual report mentioned the increased attention being given to the history of Political Opinion, and in 1872 he announced that the class was responding to a new method of reading widely instead of being confined to a single text and of writing every four weeks an “elaborate historical essay.” In 1877-78 Diman added an elective course for seniors in the history of architecture. Diman died suddenly at the beginning of the second term of 1880-81. The continuation of his history course presented a problem, but, at the request of the senior class, Professor Diman’s lectures from previous years were read to them. The reading was performed by one of Diman’s former students, Professor Alonzo Williams. Samuel Stillman Greene took over the instruction in political economy. For the next two years William C. Russell was acting professor of history and political economy, until Elisha Benjamin Andrews was appointed to the professorship in 1882. Andrews introduced courses in international law and the diplomatic history of the United States.
John Franklin Jameson was professor of history from 1888 to 1901. In 1889-90 the Brown University Historical and Economic Association gave two series of public lectures in Manning Hall, presenting such speakers as Woodrow Wilson, Francis Wayland 1846, and Edward Everett Hale. In 1891-92 Jameson introduced a new course of practical exercises in American history, in which students did independent work on selected topics, using original materials in local libraries. At about the same time the Seminary of History, Political Economy, and Political Science, a voluntary association of teachers, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates met regularly in the library for discussion. Wilfred Harold Munro 1870 was associate professor of history from 1891 to 1899 and professor of European history from 1899 to 1911. Theodore Collier was associate professor of European history from 1911 to 1917, professor from 1917 to 1923, and professor of history and international relations after 1923. He introduced courses in Asian and Russian history. William MacDonald was professor of American history from 1901 to 1917.
The professors who joined the department in the 1920s and 1930s and their fields were Robert H. George, English history, in 1923, Chester Hugo Kirby, modern European history, in 1927, James B. Hedges, American history and economic life, and Sinclair W. Armstrong, modern European history, in 1930. and Carl Bridenbaugh, American colonial history, in 1938.
Hans Rothfels, as visiting professor, taught seventeenth and eighteenth century European history from 1940 to 1946. Irving A. Leonard was professor of Hispanic civilization from 1940 to 1942, and Edmundo O’Gorman was visiting professor of Latin American history in 1942-43. After World War II, the History Department was strengthened by the arrival of several new professors, Edmund S. Morgan in 1946 to teach American colonial history and American social and intellectual history, Barnaby C. Keeney in 1946 as professor of medieval history, and William F. Church in 1947 as professor of seventeenth and eighteenth century European history.
In the next twenty years a distinguished faculty was assembled to teach a much wider range of history, especially when funding received in the late 1960s permitted the department to expand its curriculum, which had been limited to European and American history. Added to the department faculty were: in 1958, William G. McLoughlin, formerly of the Political Science Department (American religious and cultural history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries); in 1959, Donald G. Rohr (nineteenth century German social and intellectual history); in 1964, John L. Thomas (Civil War and Reconstruction); in 1965, Bryce Lyon (the Middle Ages); in 1966, Stephen R. Graubard, who had been a visiting professor the year before (Modern British and French history) and Anthony Mohlo (Renaissance and Reformation); in 1968, A. Hunter Dupree (history of science and technology), Abbott Gleason (Russian history), Barry D. Karl (recent United States history), R. Burr Litchfield (French and Italian economic and social history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), Norman Rich (German political and diplomatic history since 1850), and David Underdown (English politics in the seventeenth century); in 1970, Howard P. Chudacoff (nineteenth and twentieth century United States urban history), Charles E. Neu (foreign relations of the United States in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries), Robert C. Padden (the expansion of Europe and Comparative American colonial societies) and Gordon S. Wood (American colonial history); and in 1973, Lewis Perry Curtis (modern British history) and James T. Patterson (American history). Women professors first joined the department in the 1970s, although Margaret S. Morriss, who was Dean of the Women’s College was given the title of Associate Professor of History in 1923. Mary Gluck (intellectual history) came in 1978, Naomi Lamoreux (American economic history) in 1979, and Joan Richards (history of science) in 1981. They were first appointed assistant professors and have since been promoted to tenure. Patricia Herlihy joined the department as a tenured professor of Russian history in 1986, along with her husband, David Herlihy, who was a professor of medieval history.
The present History Department offers instruction ranging from the histories of Classical Greek and Roman civilizations to the histories of Europe, the Americas, and Asia in courses which may deal with a particular country, a particular time period, or a particular topic. Among the department chairpersons have been James B. Hedges, Edmund S. Morgan, Robert H. George, Donald G. Rohr, Bryce Lyon, William F. Church, James T. Patterson. Anthony Molho, Gordon S. Wood, Howard P. Chudacoff, and Abbott Gleason.