Social Science or Humanities? It’s a Conundrum.


Several weeks ago, this question appeared in my email:

The history department at MSU is part of the College of Social Science with Social Work. Yesterday a colleague said she thought it should be in Humanities. I’m curious what you think.

As it turns out, this is something I’ve spent some time thinking about over the last 30 years.* History is also part of the Social Science Division at the University of Chicago, where I did my graduate work, along with anthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology. As someone who worked primarily with sources from literature and the visual arts,** it never felt like a good fit. Today, as a historian-storyteller, I feel more strongly than ever that history belongs with the humanities. My historian friends who use lots of statistical data disagree.

I throw the question out to you, Gentle Readers: History: social science or humanities?


*Actually, now that I stop and count, it’s been 36 years. Eeep!

**Though I did build a nifty spreadsheet and perform some statistical analysis regarding the number of Orientalist works in exhibits at the Royal Society in London and the Paris Salon over the course of the nineteenth century–a task that consumed far more time than the final results warranted.


  1. Iris Seefeldt on June 7, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    When i went to school they called it all “Social Studies” That is what it is!

    • Iris Seefeldt on June 7, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      Look, now days they try to cover it up with all kinds of du-dads (Science, Humanism, History)to get people to say “Hey, that sounds like what I want to study.” Fool! Social (people, humans in time) studying. What else?

  2. Julia Traver on June 8, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    I agree — it should be considered a part of the Humanities. I was a History major over 40 years ago (Phi Alpha Theta, too). All the course work which I took to augment it was in the Humanities (music history; art history – 2 courses; philosophy; English lit – a second major; Latin; etc.). My major focus was intellectual history. Right now I consider myself as a Classicist even though at the time I thought I would go into mediaeval studies. My masters degree,however, were in professional areas: public administration and library science. I still wish to return to complete an advanced degree in what I really love.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.