Why Study History?
Only a handful of history majors become historians. Some grow to be history teachers, many others move on to a different career. Indeed, people trained in liberal arts, and in history in particular, are well equipped to succeed in a variety of fields, from business to law, from archive and library sciences to politics, from administration to art. And yet, a degree in history promises much more than a fulfilling job.
History students understand the complexity of the human experience. They are exposed to its diversity as they learn about peoples and societies around the world, and as they think about how these changed over time. They see how various individuals and groups interacted in different settings, and reflect on the reasons why people acted the way they did, and on the consequences of their choices. They respect these differences, while working to understand their origin and evolution.
History students ask questions, and learn how to provide answers based on honest and critical interpretations of historical evidence. They appreciate the aesthetic value of old things, words, and images, without indulging in mere antiquarianism. Instead, they use their findings as tools to provide articulate answers to complex problems. They examine all sources of information systematically, thinking about who produced them and why. They never take anything at face value. Instead, they evaluate and distill information deliberately, becoming aware of what a source can or cannot tell them about a topic. They are aware of the limits of any one point of view, while appreciating the contribution that any voice can make to our understanding of human history. They actively search for forgotten and missing voices, as they deem it imperative for these to be taken into consideration while writing any historical account. They respect the mental and moral discipline involved in the study of history. They understand counter-evidence as a stimulus for reaching a more refined answer. They see opposite arguments as essential ingredients for the development of any opinion or idea. As such, they are the staunchest guardians against ignorance, approximation, and dogmatism.
History students make capable teachers of logic and thought. They are honest and intelligent observers. They are responsible community, nation, and world citizens. They are engaging people who make any conversation more interesting, any occasion more meaningful, and any society more valuable.