Son of John Tyler, the 10th United States president, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, an attorney, historian, and prolific author, was the College’s seventeenth president, taking over in 1888 a college that had been virtually closed for seven years. By 1919, Tyler's leadership had enabled William & Mary to increase its enrollment to more than 200, enlarge the faculty to 14, renovate or construct 12 buildings, and dramatically increase its endowment. Tyler also led successful efforts to admit women to the College and to make William & Mary a public institution, which it remains to this day.
The Department of History became the Lyon Gardiner Tyler Department of History in recognition of the remarkable generosity of Lyon Gardiner Tyler's son, Mr. Harrison Ruffin Tyler, who in 2001 set up a generous endowment for the Department for the purpose of supporting undergraduate and graduate study, faculty research, a distinguished speaker series, the acquisition and preservation of rare historic documents, among other activities.
The Department of History's dedicated faculty and distinctive history give it a unique character among public institutions and create a learning environment that fosters close interaction among students and professors. The faculty have areas of expertise ranging across the globe, and covering the entire period from the ancient world to the twenty-first century. Numerous faculty members have won William & Mary's, Virginia's, and the historical profession's most prestigious awards for teaching, for scholarship, and for general excellence; US World & News Report's 2017 rankings of graduate programs in History named William & Mary one of the top three places in the country to study U.S. Colonial History, alongside the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.
Undergraduate students are encouraged to explore the histories of North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Graduate students can pursue Master’s and Doctoral degrees at the Department of History.