History & Social Sciences

Anthropology, economics, history, political science, sociology, American studies, international and comparative policy studies

The departments within the division of history and social sciences share a common concern with human social behavior, although each has a distinctive perspective and methodology. At the core of the division's curriculum is the belief that an informed awareness-of how societies have developed, how their institutions and mechanisms function, and how different societies interact-is essential in an increasingly complex world. By the time students graduate, they are able to critically assess and interpret social phenomena and solve real-world social problems.

ClassroomThe division implements these principals through a highly integrated program that requires students who major in the division to take considerable coursework outside their major. Students are thus exposed to a variety of approaches to the study of human society; they also learn to apply methodologies and tools from the different disciplines to pose and answer questions. They develop a strong collegial relationship with the faculty, and faculty members from departments outside the major field frequently provide consultation as the student develops a thesis topic.


In addition to the five departmental majors, interdisciplinary majors are established in linguistics, American studies, international and comparative policy studies, history-literature, and mathematics-economics. Students may also design their own interdisciplinary major, such as political science-philosophy or history-theatre. The programs of study are further enhanced by opportunities for study away from Reed, both within the U.S. and in many other countries.

Notable Alumni

  • Eric Westervelt '91, American studies: international correspondent, National Public Radio
  • Gary Snyder '51, anthropology: one of America's most distinguished poets, winner of 1975 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, associate of Jack Kerouac and other Beat writers
  • Govindan Nair '83, economics: vice president for financial and private sector development, the World Bank, working in telecommunications reform and information technology in developing countries
  • Dale Jorgenson '55, economics: one of the most distinguished economists in the U.S., director of the program on technology and economic policy at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • Ron Herndon '70, history: director, Albina Ministerial Alliances, human rights activist, president of the national Head Start Association, chair of Portland's Black United Front
  • Susan Strasser '69, history: author of books on the history of American consumption, professor of history at the University of Delaware
  • Janet Fitch '78, history: best-selling author of White Oleander, now a major film
  • Richard Danzig '65, political science: former secretary of the U.S. Navy, Rhodes Scholar, attorney
  • Susan Brody '71, political science: executive director of the Oregon Dispute Resolutions Commission, fellow of the American Leadership Forum
  • Karen Oppenheim Mason '64, sociology: director of gender and development, World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Return to Majors