• A large electric phosphate smelting furnace used in the making of elemental phosphorus in a TVA chemical plant in the Muscle Shoals area, Alabama.  Library of Congress
  • Department of History and Social Sciences


    Escape the provincialism of the present.

    You’ve heard that “those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it,” but that is a gross oversimplification and a falsehood. History doesn’t repeat itself and historians don’t study history in order to predict the future.

    Instead, we study history in order to better understand how previous generations, over more than seven millennia, have coped with the crises and conflicts and changes that confronted them and to see how their choices shaped the world which they bequeathed to us. Historia (as the ancient Greeks called it) is not a story or the acquisition of facts but rather the process through which living generations analyze and interpret those things.

    History, then, is really all about the “here and now” and historical inquiry is the only way to escape what has been called the “provincialism of the present.” Don’t study history to find out where mankind is going; study history to find out how mankind got to where we are.

    The purpose of a university is to educate, rather than to simply train, our students and the History faculty of the University of West Alabama do that through the detailed study of human progress. History is always changing and is always subject to revision because the more that we discover, the more acutely aware we become of how little we actually know.

    History is intoxicating. History is maddening. History is contested. And history is the journey of a lifetime. Won’t you join us?

    R. Volney “Rob” Riser
    Assistant Professor of History