The Department of History was established in the then Haile Selassie I University in 1962. Its first chairman was the late Prof. Sven Rubenson, the outstanding Ethiopianist whose Survival of Ethiopian Independence is as near definitive as any historical work can be. The Department became, as it still is, the leading center for Ethiopian history. In its first years, the Department was staffed by foreign teachers and scholars but as Ethiopian graduates returned from Ph.D. studies outside Ethiopia, the Department became, and has remained, mainly Ethiopian in composition.

The Department started out with a three-year BA Program. Courses were divided into Ethiopian, African and World History from ancient times up to post-World War II. A course on Ottoman History was later replaced by a course or courses specifically on Islamic History and Institutions. The Department later added basic courses on History and Historiography and new issues such as women’s history, urban history and diaspora history. Courses in research methods prepared, and still prepare, BA students for the BA thesis, now renamed the BA senior essay. This is the crown of the students’ effort and achievement in the BA program and involves genuine original research on archival materials and with oral informants, often on areas of the country previously neglected in historical research and writing.

From the very early days, there was an intention that Archaeology should become a separate department but until this should become feasible Archaeology became a unit, with courses, in the Department of History. To assist students with job opportunities, the Department secured a name change for its 2008 curriculum to Department of History and Heritage Management. However, after a long gestation period, Archaeology and Heritage Management became a separate department and the Department of History reverted to its original name.

The Department was among the earliest to open an MA Program (1979-80 A.Y) and a Ph.D. program in 1990. Some outstanding MA and Ph.D. theses have been produced and the Department’s graduate program has trained instructors for the History departments of other Ethiopian Universities and for TTCs.

In terms of mission and objectives, the Department has always aimed at giving students a real understanding of the country’s own history in the context of Africa and the world. We train students as teachers for high schools and tertiary level institutions and for other stakeholders. Our aim is also to produce intelligent graduates with verbal, writing and analytical skills and that our graduates should be good citizens.