The past is not behind us; in fact it isn’t even “past”.

Woman reading on a laptop

Although most people at MIT look to the future, we can’t tell where we’re going without knowing where we’ve been. MIT’s historians examine nearly the entire range of human experience in order to provide perspective on the present.

Historians at MIT

Historians at MIT do work at the cutting edge of their fields. We are specialists in various times and places, as well as pioneers in the increasingly important comparative studies of past societies and cultures. We have taken leadership roles in developing new ways of analyzing the past.  Whether studying ancient Rome or modern America, we bring our individual expertise to bear on “big questions” of social analysis: citizenship and politics in a changing world; environment and economy; culture and identity; and the measurement of social welfare.

Our work has been supported by a wide range of prestigious foundations and centers, including the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Getty Foundation, the Luce Foundation, the US Department of Education, the Charles Warren Center, the National Humanities Center, the International Institute of Social History, the Stanford Humanities Center, the Radcliffe Institute, the SSRC and the Max Plank Institute. History scholarship has also merited numerous prizes, both within the various academic specialties and at the national level. Most notably these include the Bancroft Prize in American History, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the George Washington Book Prize. MIT historians serve in leadership positions in a wide variety of professional societies and serve on numerous editorial boards of leading journals. Seven current and emeritus members of the faculty are Fellows of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. At MIT, historians have been recognized as Margaret MacVicar Fellows, and have won the Wade Prize, the Arthur C. Smith Award, the Levitan Award and the Edgerton Award. Finally, Pauline Maier and John Dower have been recognized with the James R. Killian Faculty Achievement Award, MIT’s top recognition for lifetime professional accomplishment.