Why Study History?

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Man standing on a rooftop with binoculars

People who study history are fearless explorers of the past. They investigate past politics, societies, cultures, languages, health, art, education, money, conflicts and more, look at how things have developed over time and connect the dots to understand how we got where we are today.

It might be about the past, but there are plenty of careers in history that you can pursue today. Why study history? Because it's great news for your future!

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'Why study history? You'll learn skills you can apply in a huge range of careers'

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We made this infographic to give you a quick overview:

But it’s all in the past, why is history useful to students now?

It would be great to know what could happen before we make an important decision wouldn’t it? Well, studying history can help us do this on a big scale.

Learn more: Our History Subject Guide links what you learn in class to your career

By analysing past events we learn about the consequences of people’s actions, from kings and queens to the London baker who forgot to put his fire out on September 2nd 1666...

History tells us about the future

If we apply this knowledge to the present, governments, businesses and individuals can learn lessons from past mistakes or successes and make informed choices about their futures. 

For example, economists might compare the causes of the recent recession with past economic crises, like the Wall St Crash, and work with politicians to avoid them happening again.

History gives us a more balanced outlook on the world

Could our knowledge of the Wall Street Crash prevent future

economic crises?

In history we study lots of different sources and learn that events are often the result of complex and multiple factors. It’s never as simple as person A whacking person B over the head and starting a war. Politics, communication, beliefs, misunderstandings and even the environment can shape the way things turn out.

Look at all the different stuff that came together to make things spiral out of control in Game of Thrones… (OK we know this isn't real history, but an understanding of medieval European politics helped to write it!) Essentially, history helps us see the bigger picture in 3D.

Studying history can also be inspiring. When we discover what people have achieved against the odds and how things can change over time, it can give us the motivation we need to succeed.

What skills will I get from studying history?

History teaches us to ask two very important questions: why and how. This is key to sharpening your critical thinking abilities, which combine the following skills:

Historians look at all the available evidence and come to conclusions, a lot like a good detective, which helps them learn to be organised and manage information. If you’re working with ancient history, you may not have a lot of source material to go on and it will be up to you to bring together all your knowledge and to try and solve the mysteries of the past.

What careers in history can I do?

Easter Island heads

These guys might look like relics of the past - but they can

teach us about people ancient and modern

With your ace analytical, writing, debate and detective skills, you’ll be primed for a huge range of careers in history and beyond. Areas you could go into include:

Deep breath!

What subjects does history go with?

Studying history at GCSE will help you with other GCSE and A-level essay subjects like:

Because it helps you develop both writing and analysis skills, it can also be really useful alongside a science subject or maths to broaden your knowledge and abilities.

What degrees and other qualifications do I need history for?

If you want to study history at university or, in some cases, American studies at university, you’ll a need to take it at A-level.

You won’t need it for other specific courses but the Russell Group recommends history as an excellent subject for keeping your options open when choosing a degree. It can be especially useful for courses that include elements of history and essay writing like:

  • Archaeology
  • Economics
  • Classical studies
  • Modern languages
  • English
  • History of Art
  • Law
  • Politics
  • Teaching
  • Religious studies

History GCSE or A-level can also be useful for vocational courses or school leaver jobs in journalism, administration, marketing or law.

Useful links

Historical Association Student Resources: Includes podcasts and how-to study guides

Other Subjects in our Why Study? series:

Image credits

American Union Bank via Wikimedia

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