The dedicated faculty and distinctive history of the Department of History give it a unique character, and foster a learning environment that revolves around close interaction among students and professors. We pride ourselves on helping our students to acquire a deep and broad knowledge of the events, personalities, and issues of world history, and to develop the methodological and analytical skills required to open up all realms of the past to critical inquiry. For recent news from the Department, see From the Chair.
In 2001, the Department received a generous endowment from Harrison Ruffin Tyler in support of faculty, undergraduate, and graduate research and teaching. The gift was made originally in honor of his father, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, a former President of William & Mary and chair of the Department. The Department feels that, given Lyon Gardiner Tyler's views on the Confederacy and on slavery, it is untenable to honor his name in this way. In 2021, the Department was renamed by a Board of Visitors' motion in honor of Harrison Ruffin Tyler. His gift it was that has helped shape the Department in fundamental ways over the past two decades. It has been used to build an increasingly diverse faculty, and it underwrites research and guest lectures that address a remarkable range of subjects. Past Tyler Lecture series have addressed, among other topics, Jewish history, US history, World War I, the Cold War, Imperialism, and the histories of slavery, racism and discrimination. All these advances are rooted in our Department’s keen desire to reclaim individuals and groups long denied the opportunity to escape the margins of society. The extraordinary generosity of Harrison Ruffin Tyler—whose gift came with no limitations on the scholarly activity it would make possible—continues to bear good fruit.