Eight reasons why a postgraduate History degree may be for you
Considering your options once you graduate this summer? Here are eight reasons why a Masters degree in History may be your perfect next step.
1. History helps us understand the world that we live in
In 2020, the United Kingdom is dealing with a global pandemic, witnessing widespread protest in the United States against police violence and institutional and overt racism along with protests against American and British racism in the UK, and continuing concern about the impact of Brexit. None of these issues appeared out of nowhere. There is a past to all of them.
To know that past is to understand where these forces and events came from but also to gain insight in where we may be going in the future as a result of them. Only the study of history can accomplish this and position us all to be informed citizens.
However, it is not just the recent past that needs to be understood. Much of western culture is built on Greek philosophy or on Roman legal systems. Our world today is unimaginable without the discovery of print and the transformations made in communication and literacy starting in the fifteenth century. The trade and imperial of expansion of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries transformed world societies, luxury cultures, global trade networks, economic structures in ways which we still see today. We are also still very much living the repercussions of global slave trade.
Without understanding our past, we are unable to understand why our world is what it is today.
2. The past is our laboratory
From recent discoveries such as the neolithic circle of deep shafts at Stonehenge, or the discovery of King Richard III in a car park in Leicester in 2012, our past is, quite literally, all around us and more excitingly - it's there to be discovered.
History introduces us to other cultures, peoples, societies and places and helps broaden our cultural understanding of our present-day world. The past is so different from the world we live in today, and is one of the only ethical ways we have of understanding why humans react as they do in different societal settings.
The study of the past can help us to understand why our own society is how it is and gives us lessons for how to bring about change. Without understanding the past we cannot understand deep rooted attitudes and bring about societal understanding.
3. It has humanity at its heart
History is about humans – their achievements and their failures. Whether you approach it from a social viewpoint, an economic one or intellectual - at the heart of all perspectives is humanity.
4. It gives you the transferable skills that employers look for
As well as gaining all the usual skills like time management, project planning and delivery, enhanced communication skills, history postgraduates become experts in critical thinking, effective research, managing and organising complex datasets, and forming and presenting effective arguments.
In a world where we can’t necessarily rely on the truthfulness of the information we encounter day-to-day (fake news!) the ability to think critically about ‘facts’, narratives, sources, claims, and counter claims, has never been more important: a postgraduate history degree will teach you these skills.
These skills alongside the knowledge you’ll gain during your MA, will help you stand out from the crowd in the employment marketplace.
5. It is open for debate
History is one of the most contested intellectual terrains imaginable. Not only does everyone have an ‘opinion’ on how the past should be interpreted, as collective entities we have the ability to preference one interpretation of this past over others. The political-intellectual contest that is inevitably created makes the life of a historian like no other academic discipline.
6. There is an aspect of History for everybody
History incorporates every aspect of every past society that has ever existed – so whatever the geographical reach, chronological span or thematic topic, you are sure to find something that interests you. Whether it’s attitudes to gender in ancient Rome, religious belief in sixteenth century Germany, or the cultural significance of sport in twentieth century Latin America.
History is about filling in the blanks and discovering new and interesting aspects of the human existence. It helps you realise that what we may consider unique in our present world, frequently is anything but.
7. It is the perfect stepping stone for a PhD
If you’ve got future plans of completing a PhD and potentially an eye on a career in academia, an MA in History is the perfect stepping stone. An MA will further your subject knowledge, refine your research skills and open you up to new experiences that will place you in good stead for PhD research.
8. You can study in Birmingham – one of the world’s top 100 History departments
QSES ranked the Department of History at the University of Birmingham one of the world’s top 100 departments for the study of History. The department covers a wide range of British, European and world History from the early medieval period to the present. Whatever your interest, whether cultural, social, political or economic history – there is someone with related expertise in the department.
Explore our History MA programmes now