Tennessee Polytechnic Institute first awarded a bachelor's degree in history in 1929. At that time the Department of History and Social Sciences offered a mere thirteen history courses and four additional ones in political science. In 1941, reorganization created the Department of Social Sciences with an expanded curriculum that included two upper-division courses in history. Between 1941 and 1959, the Department added several faculty including five historians. By 1959, the Department had eleven full-time faculty (six historians, one political scientist, two sociologists, and two geographers) and forty-four courses, including nineteen in the history curriculum.
In 1960, the master's program began. Then in 1962, the Department of Social Sciences divided. The Department of History and Political Science was one of the products. Between 1962-1971 the faculty expanded to approximately its present size. In 1971, the Department of History and Policial Science split to form separate departments. In the 1970's the Department developed courses in Military, Diplomatic, Religious, Science and Asian history, put its curriculum on a stable, two-year rotating cycle, and established a modest scholarahip program. Although overall enrolllment figures in this period remained fairly stable, the number of history majors declined slightly. In an alleged cost-saving measure, the TBR ordered that the masters program be phased out by 1985. The last theses, Betty Jane Dudney's "Civil War in White County, 1861-1865," was completed in June of that year.
During the 1980's, faculty replacement and curricular revisions, reflecting new concerns of historians nationally, resulted in adding courses in Women's History, Film Studies, Vietnam, and African-American History. Two faculty hired in the 1990's allowed the department to expand its course offerings into the areas of Native American History, Environmental History, and the History of the Middle East. Faculty hired since 2000 have further broadened the curriculum with courses in social, cultural, and most recently, Latin American history. The period since 1990 has also witnessed a growth of majors. The current enrollment of eighty-nine majors ties the all-time high, first set in 1997.
The department supports a variety of missions by providing the general student population survey courses in Western, World, and American history. The Department also provides a variety of upper-level course offerings for majors and non-majors. These courses contribute greatly to the University's efforts to enhance cross-cultural understanding. The Department also shares TTU's special commitment to the Upper Cumberland region.