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An Embodiment of the Liberal Arts: History Across Disciplines


Discovering history has been profound for Brian Dickinson ’18, who had intended to take a premed track and major in biology at Hamilton. He jettisoned that idea his first year when he just happened to take Early Middle Ages as en elective. With that course, history totally eclipsed the sciences for Dickinson. He’s certain history is the only major for him – and grateful he had the chance to realize that. Dickinson minors in medieval and renaissance studies.

“History has taught me to look from the eyes of another person, to remove myself from the situation and be able to understand people for what they are. It’s like the ultimate practice in empathy, and it’s changed the way that I’ve been able to perceive everything else,” he says.

The first course in medieval history was more compelling for him than any introductory science course. History had always been his hobby, and the course gave him an in-depth look at a subject he’d always liked. “Beowulf has always been my favorite story of all time, and we actually got to read Beowulf. I was happy,” says Dickinson, who kept on taking medieval and Renaissance courses.

He plans on taking two more before he graduates: Introduction to Old English and Medieval Art and Architecture.

“I think that a medieval Renaissance minor perfectly embodies the liberal arts because the requirements have you take medieval Renaissance courses in three different departments, so you have to take something outside of history. So that could be music, that could be Hispanic studies, French, Art or literature even,” Dickinson says. “So it allows you the chance to not be pigeonholed in history but have a practical experience.”

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