Capstone Course

One of the unique features of our major is learning to do the work of historians, which is developing your own interpretations of the past using sources from the past. In the capstone for the major, HIST 495: Senior Seminar, you will be working with original sources on a thesis, a semester-long project on a topic of your selection. Among recent senior thesis topics completed in the past couple of years are:

  • "Fighting for Freedom and Equality in the American Civil War: The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment"
  • "German Prisoners of War in Minnesota During World War II: The Unique Relationship Between Americans and Germans"
  • "The Rise and Fall of the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota and Minnesota: 1915-1923"
  • "The Vietnam Antiwar Movement: Local Activism in Winona, Minnesota"
  • "The Island City's Survival: Winona's Role in New Deal Projects and River Traffic during the Great Depression"
  • "Vindication of Restorative Justice: A Homage to the 1960s Red Wing Reform Period"
  • "Mandatory Patriotism: The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety and Wartime Obedience, 1917-1920"

While all classes in the major use both primary and secondary sources, that is original sources and interpretations by scholars and others, the major is organized around a series of classes that will specifically prepare you to develop a thesis topic and engage in the research necessary to complete it.

Each of these three courses is offered once each year. Sophomore Seminar is open to all students, but students are encouraged to take this course early on in their major, if possible. Students must complete HIST 298 before HIST 495.

All History majors are encouraged to meet with their advisors and plan their coursework in the major, leading up to the capstone sequence.

In HIST 295: Sophomore Seminar, first- and second-year students explore a particular historical topic through in-depth, hands-on work with the different kinds of sources that historians use in our work. Past topics include:

  • 19th-Century Technology
  • World War II Through Personal Letters
  • Parks, Monuments and Public Lands

The topic for Fall 2019 will be Roots, Rock, Rebels. Students will explore the hidden stories and interconnectedness of popular music and history.

In HIST 298: Historical Methods, students develop their mastery of the nuts and bolts of historical research: how do you locate primary sources, how do you work in an archive, in a library, in the digital world? How do you cite the sources that you use in your research and writing? How do you identify and understand the different interpretations that historians bring to a shared topic? How do you develop your own topic of research? 

In HIST 495: Senior Seminar, you will be putting to use all that you have learned in Historical Methods. With the topic that you developed in 298, you will be ready to plunge into the work of the historian in analyzing and interpreting the past using both original sources and the work of other scholars and writers.