Why I Study History

This post comes from our third-year undergraduate student, and current President of the History Society at the University of Gloucestershire, Kathryne Ellinger.

If you are a fellow History student, I’m guessing that you endure the same reaction as I do when you tell people that you study History. It is nearly always the same reaction: ‘what are you studying? History? But why?’ This might also be followed by a statement that they believe will save the conversation, such as, ‘I was always really terrible at History at school and I found it boring’. However, I think the reason behind this never-ending response is because society collectively tells Humanities students that their degrees are pointless. Even Barack Obama in January 2014 stated that ‘folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art History degree.’ While Obama wasn’t criticising the discipline, he highlighted the underlying problem that people believe History students are not equipped for the working world.

President Barack Obama made the comments at a speech at a General Electric plant in Wisconsin, January 2014
President Barack Obama made the comments at a speech at a General Electric plant in Wisconsin, January 2014

To that I respond with: ‘you are wrong’. Throughout my three years of studying History at the University of Gloucestershire, I have learnt many skills that I never believed I would gain. Before the degree, I had no idea how to write an academic and well-structured essay (or even an e-mail), and often let my dyslexia get the better of me. Before studying History I could not think independently, rather, I did what the teachers, my family and friends expected. I couldn’t even create a persuasive argument, let alone stand up and argue what I believed in a classroom or in front of my lecturers. I would have never been able to analyse and critique what the ‘experts’ say. Instead, I used to passively believe everything I read. I had never worked in a team before, and wouldn’t have guessed I would have been a project manager. This role was an opportunity given to me in a second year module where I had to organise and manage four sub-groups in creating a historical artefact. As a result of my degree, I now read actively, analysing the work and views of historians, and from this I try to form my own opinions on the past. Aside from all the new skills I have learned, I have had an incredible two and a half years studying my favourite subject, and realised that I have a passion for Georgian Britain, which is a period that I knew very little about before coming to university. I even got the chance to study subjects outside of History which has furthered my knowledge in other areas.

Kathryne the Showcasing History trip to Stonehenge in 2015
Kathryne at the Showcasing History trip to Stonehenge in 2015

Ultimately, studying History has made me a more inquisitive, intelligent, well-rounded and independent thinker. Before starting the course, I wasn’t as comfortable discussing some the major issues and social injustices which take place around the world and even here in the UK. I would never change my choice to study History. Employers, no matter what the people tell me, will recognise the incredible skills that I have developed through my time studying this subject at the University of Gloucestershire.

To find out more about life as a History student at the University of Gloucestershire, check out the Flickr gallery and join the Facebook group: History @ University of Gloucestershire.

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