Department of History records, 1932-[ongoing]

Navigate the Collection

Using These Materials Teaser

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. For a period of twenty-five years from the origin of the material, permission in writing from the...
More about accessing and using these materials...


Duke University. Department of History
Collection contains records pertaining to the operation and activities of the Department of History and its faculty at Duke University, 1932-[ongoing]. Materials present include administrative files from the Office of the Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and Director of Undergraduate Studies: correspondence, memoranda, departmental meeting minutes, budget and course material, committee files, and various subject files. The records also include course papers, inactive faculty files, Nixon Library material, and external review files. University Archives staff must be consulted in order to determine the extent of access restrictions.
31.05 Linear Feet
about 37, 250 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
25 -- Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
25 -- Trinity College of Arts and Sciences > 23 -- History


Scope and content:

The records of the Department of History contain material pertaining to the operation and activity of the Department and various faculty members. The material ranges in date from 1932-2002, bulk 1951-1985. The records are divided into seven series: course papers, subject files, administrative files, inactive faculty files, Nixon Library files, external review, and Oral History Transcripts.

The Course Papers series is composed of I.B. Holley's History 195/196, "The Concept of a University," miscellaneous, and Richard Watson course papers. I.B. Holley's History 195/196 course papers deal with topics relevant to the history and development of Trinity College and Duke University. A majority of the Watson course papers consist of oral history projects in which students interviewed family members about their personal experiences during the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War. Course papers range in date from 1954-2003, bulk 1966-1992. Subject files contain a sampling of various departmental material including directories, handbooks, minutes and memoranda, and newsletters.

Administrative files (1932-1985) include material pertaining to the activities of the Office of the Chair and Directors of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. Material present in Office of the Chair includes correspondence and memoranda. Also present are minutes and notes from various committees including Committee on Courses and Curriculum. Among the Chairs included are William T. Laprade (1937-1952), Charles Sydnor (1952-1954), E. Malcolm Carroll (1954-1957), John R. Alden (1957-1960), Richard Watson (1960-1967), Joel Colton (1967-1970), and Anne F. Scott. Director of Graduate Studies includes correspondence, memoranda, communication with the Graduate School, and notes and minutes from various graduate committees. Among the Directors included in the series are William T. Laprade, Robert H. Woody, Robert F. Durden, Charles R. Young, and Anne F. Scott. Director of Undergraduate Studies consists of correspondence, memoranda, and material from various undergraduate committees. A majority of the material was accumulated during the long tenure of Frederic B.M. Hollyday; but also includes material accumulated by Joel Colton, Robert Durden, Theodore Ropp, and Stephen A. Young. Major subjects throughout include American Historical Association and Review, Southern Historical Association, Trinity College Historical Society, and the Humanities and Russian Cooperative with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Four small series conclude the collection: Inactive faculty, Nixon Library, external review files, and Oral History Techniques. Inactive faculty files consist of alphabetically arranged name files of faculty: full professors, assistant and associate professors, and visiting instructors. Files for long-term faculty include obituaries and funeral programs. Nixon Library files contain correspondence, memoranda, and clippings from various periodicals, both local and national, pertaining to faculty reaction to the proposed location of the Nixon Library and Archives on the campus of Duke University. External Review files contain material accumulated by Professor John Cell during an external departmental review in 1999/2000 and include reports prepared by various departmental officers for the review team, a copy of the final report and responses, and files from a 1994 Departmental review. The final series contains papers and transcripts of oral history interviews held by students of History 279: Oral History Techniques with faculty, staff, and students concerning contemporary race relations at Duke University.

Biographical / historical:

The study of history emerged as a separate field of study at Trinity College in the late nineteenth-century supported by a change in popular attitudes, interests, and the ongoing professionalization of the field of historical inquiry. In 1891, Trinity College became the first southern educational institution to establish a distinct chair of history. In 1896, Stephen B. Weeks founded the Trinity College Historical Society which gave further impetus to strengthening the Department of History and supported a gradual shift from local to world history topics. By 1923, when Trinity College was ready to transition into Duke University, six semester hours of history course work was required for graduation. William K. Boyd and William T. Laprade formed the foundation of the History Department at Duke University, with Boyd's focus in American History with a concentration on Southern history and Laprade's focus on British history. In 1923, E. Malcolm Carroll joined the history faculty and shifted his research from American to continental European history to suit a void in research focus within the department. Between 1925 and 1939 the Department of History grew from six members to eighteen.

The transition from Trinity College to Duke University also included not only a change in name but also a shift from a small liberal arts college to a research university and consequently the emphasis of the Department of History. Under the direction of Boyd and President William Preston Few, the University sought to expand its collection of books and primary source material in the library to facilitate a new faculty concentration on original research and substantive contributions to historical understanding through scholarly publication. By the end of the 1930s, the Department of History had added five new faculty members that would spend their entire careers at Duke University: historian of British and Commonwealth history, William B. Hamilton; military historian Theodore Ropp; Harold T. Parker, historian of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France; English Rennaisance specialist Arthur B. Ferguson; and Richard L. Watson, Jr., historian of the Progressive Era and early twentieth-century United States.

Other noteworthy faculty joined Duke in the decades following the Second World War including Emeriti Professors Joel Colton in European history in 1947, Anne F. Scott in Women's History, military historian I.B. Holley, Peter H. Wood and Robert F. Durden, historian of the 19th century U.S. South, the Duke family, and author of The Launching of Duke University: 1925-1949 published by Duke University Press.

Currently the Department of History operates with a Chair and Directors of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies. The chairman is appointed by the Provost on the basis of the department's recommendations and in consultation with the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of the Graduate School. The chairman is appointed to a three-year term and will normally serve no more than two consecutive terms. The chairman is the principal point of contact between the department and central administration and is responsible for proposing appointees for the director of graduate and undergraduate studies; departmental committees; arrangement of the schedule of courses and teaching assignments; budget preparation, proposals, and departmental spending. Also, the chairman is to insure excellence in the faculty and to take the initiative in determining departmental needs and faculty prospects. However, the chair must cultivate the active cooperation and consent of his colleagues in order to maintain the collegial integrity of the department.

Portions of this Historical Note were adopted from Robert F. Durden, The Launching of Duke University: 1924-1949 (Duke University Press, 1993), 131-138.

Acquisition information:
The Department of History Records were received by the University Archives as a transfer between 1961 and 2002.
Processing information:

Processed by Joshua Larkin Rowley, January 2009

Encoded by Joshua Larkin Rowley, January 2009

Accessions A61-279, A67-74, A70-62, A73-68, A74-50, A74-116, A77-82, A78-123, A80-227, A82-43, A82-52, A82-64, A81-69, A81-82, A84-84, A85-46, A87-56, A88-58, A90-25, A90-75, A91-55, A91-59, A91-61, A92-15, A92-42, A92-50, A92-60, A94-20, A96-10, A96-13, A96-23, A2002-28 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

For a period of twenty-five years from the origin of the material, permission in writing from the office of origin and the University Archivist is required for use. After twenty-five years, records that have been processed may be consulted with the permission of the University Archivist.

In accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as amended, Duke University permits students to inspect their education records and limits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.

Portions of these materials are restricted by donor request.

In off-site storage; 48 hours advance notice is required for use.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Before you visit:
Please consult our up-to-date information for visitors page, as our services and guidelines periodically change.
Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Department of History Records, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.