History has long been a popular field of study, and with good reason. What better starting place can there be for thinking about how to act in the present than to understand how people have acted in the past? What better starting place for thinking about the forces that shape people’s lives in the present than to understand the forces that have shaped people’s lives in the past? And what better way to acquire the skills necessary for succeeding in the twenty-first century—critical thinking, careful reading, energetic researching, analytical writing, and effective communicating—than to choose a Major or Minor in which all of these are emphasized?
Here the Department of History wishes to highlight three primary benefits that can be gained through intensive study of the past.
- Political ideas, cultural traditions, social patterns, and economic structures inherited from the past are very important in shaping the world in which we live today. For example, we cannot make sense of current events in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, China, or Canada without studying the history of these areas. Nor can we fully appreciate the significance of the Internet without examining the development of writing, the printing press, the telephone and telegraph, and television and film. And we cannot grasp the roles of race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, and sexuality in today’s world without exploring their history.
- The study of history imparts critical thinking, reading, research, writing, and communication skills, all of which make us better citizens in a democratic society and a global community. History students spend much time comparing conflicting accounts of events and weighing different versions against one another. Doing well in History requires learning how to gather information from a variety of sources, how to think clearly when confronted with a range of often contradictory evidence, how to develop one’s own ideas and judgments, and how to express these cogently in oral and written forms.
- The study of history is good preparation for many professions and careers. Teachers, librarians, lawyers, civil servants, journalists, writers, editors, managers, and diplomats, for example, all need to process large quantities of information, assess meaning and significance, and communicate conclusions. It is no accident that many history graduates are found in these fields of work.