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Catherine Denial

Bright Professor & Chair of History

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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Major, Minor

How we work

  1. You'll be a working historian from the moment you walk in the door. In 100-level history classes, textbooks take a back seat to primary sources. You'll study anything from newspaper articles and photographs to pottery and furniture. In upper-level history courses, you'll zero in on your own interests. Instead of a single capstone experience, you'll take three 300-level courses of your choice. In each, you'll complete a project based on first-hand research from primary sources. You won't leave Knox with a single independent research experience under your belt—you'll have many, each on a different subject under the supervision of a different faculty member.
  2. We uncover the roots of contemporary society. We love learning about the past, but that's not the only reason we study history. We believe that a background in history makes us more grounded global citizens. You'll understand cause and effect, learn about change over time, and take a long-term point-of-view. You'll know that people have survived before, people have resisted before, and people have grown before. Sophia Croll '16 recently explored the way our perception of the past shapes present-day society in her Honors Project, "We are the Place-Worlds We Imagine: The Construction of Historical Narratives through Memorials."
  3. We immerse ourselves in history. Students in History of Ancient Rome may find themselves re-enacting Roman battles with pool noodles to learn how centurions once fought. In Museums, Monuments, and Memory, you'll learn the theory of museum practice, then put it to use by collaborating with your classmates to construct an exhibit inspired by local history. Past topics include the Lincoln-Douglas Debate, a history of Galesburg through local streets, and the history of Captain America. You can also participate in Japan Term, an immersive experience that integrates coursework in language, history, and philosophy with a two-week trip to Japan.
  4. We are absorbed by questions of power and inequity. As we study the past, we are committed to finding the voices that have been left out of the narrative. Slavery in the Americas won't just concentrate on those who bought and sold human beings; instead, the course reclaims the voices of the enslaved, focusing on their humanity. We believe that by centering the stories of women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and people from all over the world, we are able to form a more complete picture of the past.
  5. We prepare you to succeed in whatever you do. Many students gain practical experience and prepare for their futures through Honors Projects. Emily Lobenstein '15 is pursuing a graduate degree in history with a focus on Late-Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. At Knox, Lobenstein completed an Honors Project entitled "The Triumph of ‘Domestic Trash': A Russian Feminism of the Everyday, and the Influence of U.S. Feminism, 1960-1990." Even if an Honors Project isn't right for you, our emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving will prepare you to flourish after Knox. Your ability to research well, write clearly, and articulate yourself will empower you for whatever your future holds.


Many history courses make use of the rare print and manuscript materials housed in Knox's Special Collections and Archives. There, the Finley Collection maintains every important primary source on the American Midwest printed since 1820. The Strong Collection of 18th- and 19th-century maps and photographs is also held there, as is the Ray Smith Collection on the Civil War, among others.

The Lincoln Studies Center, headquartered at Knox, sponsors several lectures a year by Lincoln experts—recent speakers have included Michael Burlingame and Cullom Davis. Two nationally renowned Lincoln scholars, Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson, direct a number of Lincoln-related research projects at the Center. Their work has been featured in news articles and on television programs on PBS and the History Channel.

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Printed on Wednesday, December 8, 2021