As humans, we put a lot of emphasis on living in the present and planning for the future; Whether this is personal goals like building a strong career or the goals of humanity together, like fighting climate change.
What's just as important, though often ignored, is the lessons and warnings that humanity can gain from looking back at its past. As an old Russian proverb goes:
If you keep one eye on the past, you are blind in one eye. If you ignore the past, you are blind in both eyes.
Recorded history began when the first civilisations created a written language, allowing those who could write to record important events for the next generations to learn from.
This was around 3100BCE with the Sumerian texts, and prior to this, you can find drawings and ancient art which tells us stories as well.
Clearly humans have an instinctual desire to record what has passed and to tell stories about it, and this is essentially what history is.
Nowadays though, you'll study historiography throughout your history course, teaching you to analyse historical sources in depth and come to unbiased conclusions.
In Australia, you can choose to study history in your high school exams from year 10-12, and you can also choose to take your studies on to university.
At high school, you'll likely study modern history mainly focussed on Australia and its allies. In a university history course however, you'll have plenty of options to define your own course of study through elective subjects and units.
History can teach you critical thinking and source analysis skills that will be essential in a career as a historian, but can also be easily transferred to use in many other fields of work, like law or economics.
In this article, we will have a look at the history courses that you can take at university, and also working with a private tutor through Superprof.
Study With a History Tutor
If you feel like you need to work with a history tutor in your spare time to brush up on your knowledge and revision; The easiest way to find the perfect tutor for your needs is by searching on the Superprof website.
Here you can find hundreds of private tutors who have years of experience in studying and teaching history. Superprof tutors are professional, and each tutor will have their own real-world experience to share with you.
If you are a university student studying advanced historiography, you can find a tutor who has specialised in this and is well placed to help you in your learning journey.
Thousands of Australian students study with a private tutor every year, helping them to reach their full potential and achieve their academic goals. As well as general historical studies, your tutor can help you with exam preparation as well as assist you when you want to apply for an undergraduate university degree or diploma.
Working with a history tutor is an excellent way to improve your understanding of the subject, and can help you to keep on top of your school or university workload.
Learn more about the cost of working with a Superprof tutor here.
What Kinds of History Can You Study?
History is a broad academic subject that covers a huge range of time, events, and information from every corner of the world. Because of this, there are a few different types of history that you can choose to study when at university.
When you choose to study history at university in Australia, you will actually need to apply for and enrol in a Bachelor of Arts degree, then choose enough history elective units that your major for the degree is in the topics you are most interested in and wish to make a career out of.
That being said, let's take a look at some of the broad areas of history in which you can choose to major or minor in throughout your history degree.
Ancient History or Classics
Ancient history is a broad period of time spanning from the creation of the first written languages around 3100BCE in the bronze age, to the fall of the Roman Empire in 500CE.
Classics refers to a section of ancient history that focuses mainly on the Roman and Greek empires, their mythology, and their continuing philosophical and political influence on the world we live in today.
Ancient history didn't just happen in Europe though, and the study of this topic can take you anywhere around the globe:
- To China, studying the unification of the country and the first Qin empire
- To South America, to study the ancient civilisation of Norte Chico in Peru
- To Australia, to study the indigenous population and their unique methods of sustainable living off the land
- To Africa, to study the ancient Egyptians and pharaohs, or the civilisations of Punt or Sudan
Surviving written historical sources from this era can be rare, meaning that much of the study and research in this area is conducted through archaeology and the architecture of ancient buildings.
If this period of history interests you and you want to start a career in this area, you should aim to choose enough electives throughout your Arts degree to ensure that ancient history or classics will be your major.
The Middle Ages and Medieval History
The next 1000 years after the fall of the Roman Empire are known as the middle ages or Medieval history. This is another huge range of time and brings with it a lot more to study and research around the world.
This time period stands true for European history but depending on which area of the globe you study, the start of the 'Middle Ages' may differ.
This can be seen in Scandinavia, where the end of ancient history is marked by the beginning of the Viking Age around 790CE, as well as in Japan where medieval history began with the Nara period in 709CE.
Again, there are a plethora of topics and areas for you to study within this part of history if you are interested in it. Some key points of study you might come across would be:
- The Vikings - Intrepid explorers and fierce warriors, the first to set foot in North America around 1020 (400 years before Christopher Columbus "discovered" it)
- The Holy Roman Empire - It's spread through Europe and the holy crusades
- The British Monarchy - Endless wars and conquests between the Scots, the English, the French, and the Vikings
- The Japanese Daimyo - Influential families in Japan vying for land, honour, and power, through war and bloodshed
Again this is a very interesting subject to study that will give you a great understanding of the impact of religion throughout history, as well as give you an idea of how far humanity has come.
Modern and Contemporary History
Modern history is the range of time from the 1500s to present day, and is often split into 3 periods by historians.
- Early Modern History - This looks mainly at the Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe, the age of exploration and discovery, and reformation of the church
- Late Modern History - The period is full of revolutions (American, French, Russian, Agricultural, Industrial), World War One and Two, and political change off the back of the Enlightenment
- Contemporary History - Everything from the end of World War Two to present day like the Cold War, American military operations around the globe and the assassination of key figures like JFK and Martin Luther King Jr.
Modern history makes up the content of most high school history courses and is perhaps the easiest to study due to the availability of reliable sources such as historians written accounts and newspapers.
The sheer amount of sources to research does mean that you will need to have strong critical thinking skills to enable you to understand the bias and vested interest of each source you look at, allowing you to come to balanced and fair conclusions in your work.
These skills can be honed through your study of historiography, which will likely make up a set of compulsory units within your undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree if you wish to major in an area of history.
Where Can a History Degree Take Your Career?
One thing that stops a lot of students from choosing to study history at university is the uncertainty of a viable career stemming from a history degree.
Whilst it may be true that there isn't a huge amount of positions available for museum curators or TV historians, the skills you acquire throughout your history degree are very desirable in a number of other professional fields.
That isn't to say that you can't work within history itself, if you are passionate enough you might find yourself working on an archaeological dig - Either excavating yourself or providing expert insight on the items you recover.
You could also join a research team at a university or museum, analysing sources to create theories and write peer-reviewed papers. You could even choose to do this in your own time, maybe writing a series of books about a niche area of history that interests you the most.
Education is another pathway you could take, sharing your passion for history with students at high school or university, or becoming a private tutor yourself! It is an important task to share history with the next generation, and it's very rewarding too!
If you find you do struggle to start up a career as a historian, you can always look into taking a short conversion course to practice law. Many of the skills used in historical studies, like data analysis and critical thinking, relate to methods that lawyers use in their practice.
Your ability to analyse sources for bias and take key information from them might also help you start a career as a journalist, or editor, for a newspaper or media company.
The same goes for a career in economics, or even accounting if you're also good with numbers! Basically, you shouldn't feel put off from studying history due to career prospects.
Thousands of students in Australia and around the world take history degrees each year, and the vast majority of them end up with interesting and well-paid careers, whether this is in history, law, or education.
There are plenty of exciting options for you to choose from, and your education in history will also be of use to you throughout life as well as helping you be more aware of the world in a geopolitical sense.
The platform that connects tutors and students