History engages in the study of the past and constitutes a branch of the Social Sciences. The study of the past is far more complicated than it appears at first glance, and especially in comparison to the view shared by most students of secondary education and society at large. The prevailing notion regarding history is that it comprises a unit of stable understandings about the past to which one can recurrently resort. A more common version of this notion views history as a diachronic body of information concerning events, dates of episodes, successions of imperial, monarchical or political governments, battles, etc. This notion devalues both the systematic efforts to recapture the past, to the extent that this is feasible, and the rich methodological and theoretical concerns raised by historians in Greece and internationally. Studies in history are not simply connected with the recycling of already known events, but with the broadening of historical thought with regard to what exactly constitutes the past.
In this context, the past is approached as a problem rather than a clearly defined source of knowledge. Since the introduction and establishment of social history, which has countered older paradigms of historical research focusing on the investigation of ”major historical incidents” and eminent personae, the discussion about the past and history is constantly enriched; as a result of this trend the field of Historical Studies is presently preoccupied with issues such as the history of gender, cultural history, textual practices in the production of historical narratives, etc. Historicizing, attempting to understand phenomena in their temporal context, investigating the notions of change and continuity in historical time constitute today important directions of historical research. At the same time, there is a growing recognition of the importance of the uses made of the past into the present; that is, the ways in which specific societies reinterpret the past, negatively or positively, and use it in the context of their own era, often temporally very distant from the past they evoke.
Although there is no consensus among historians on epistemological issues (such as the ideal of objectivity, the possibility of a complete and final reconstruction of the past, the need for interdisciplinary work, etc.) or on the priorities of historical research (such as the emphasis on the long or short-term temporal span, the shift to social history away from the more traditional preference in diplomatic history, etc.) debates within the historical community are exceptionally rich and the outcomes of historical research have influenced other related disciplines in many ways.
Historical Studies at the Department of Social Anthropology and History are influenced by these concerns and constantly adjust to new developments in historical research. Distancing itself from a “Helleno-centric” view of Historical Studies, which has dominated Greek academia and continues to prevail today in many programs, this Department has proposed a rich up-to-date and rich program which aims to treat both general and particular subjects.
The organization of these studies is based on two interrelated levels. The first concerns general courses which cover time periods of varying length and focus on the history of specific places. At this level, taught courses include Modern and Contemporary European History, Modern and Contemporary Greek History, History of the Ancient World, Ottoman History, etc. These courses are distributed, according to degree of difficulty, throughout the four years. They aim at providing knowledge, acquainting students with historical subjects and enhancing their critical thinking.
The second level of the Historical Studies program pertains to more specialized courses dealing with themes such as the History of Mentalities, Nationalism, the Urban Phenomenon, Colonialism, Historical Demography, The History of Landscape, Slavery in Ancient Times, etc. Through these courses students acquaint themselves with the emerging historical orientation, but they also come into contact with sources pertinent to these subjects of study. The Department believes that with its history courses it places an up-to-date and flexible distinctive mark on Historical Studies and the direction they should follow. Moreover, in the Department provisions have been made for a dialogue between historical and anthropological courses, thus offering students a complete rather than fragmentary view of the interaction between the past and the present.