The University of Massachusetts Amherst

History of the College of Humanities & Fine Arts

Historical South College


The College of Humanities of Fine Arts is a constellation of disciplines with roots in the University’s founding.

The administrative creation of what is today the College of Humanities and Fine Arts is a fairly recent event: its faculty was defined in 1970, and set off as a separate College in 1993, making this our 30th year. But the humanities have been present on campus since inception, as instruction in English, rhetoric, and languages was part of the Agricultural College’s initial curriculum, and a Professor of Humanities part of the founding faculty.

From the outset, student-driven pursuits produced literary societies and debate clubs. By the end of the 19th century, coursework in languages and literature had been joined by history and philosophy. At the turn of the 20th century, a Division of Humanities was established, and the university's historian reported that “in every major at least 25% of coursework was devoted to humanities and social sciences.” A Department of Fine Arts was created in the 1930s. 

The post-war growth of the University of Massachusetts drove the 1955 creation of a College of Arts and Sciences. In 1970, faculty working in the Humanities and Fine Arts were gathered in administrative community with its own dean, and the College was officially formed in 1993.