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Why Study History?

By Yann, published on 14/12/2018 We Love Prof - AU > Academia > History > Everything You Need To Know About Taking History Courses

We live in the present and we plan for the future. It somehow goes against our human instincts to worry about the past.  This is why History was invented: to study the past (not to dwell on it). Given all our daily worries about university, family, money and so on,  why bother with what is done and gone?

Any field of study needs a reason: every scholar studying historiography must explain why it is worth the attention as audiences that are less instinctively drawn to this particular subject and are more sceptical about why to bother need to know what the purpose is.

Studying History does not save lives, it does not improve your commute to work or catch criminals. But there are a few reasons why studying history has remained one of the pillars of any well-rounded education:

  • History Helps Us Understand People and Societies
  • History Contributes to Moral Understanding
  • History Provides Identity
  • Studying History Is Essential for Good Citizenship

Studying History starts in primary school and usually continues until you reached university and through this education, your perception of the world and thus your interaction with it, is shaped, often for the better.

Superprof will give you a guide to better your History education, either by yourself or with a private tutor.


“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”
― Julian Barnes, English writer in The Sense of an Ending


How to Find a History Tutor?

The simplest and easiest way for you to find a History tutor would be to look on Superprof’s online platform where hundreds of private tutors are registered and ready to help you.

It could be to give you handwriting an essay or studying for your GCSEs or A-levels or anything in between.

You could also ask around you, at school or at your community centre if anyone knows about a private tutor specialising in History. Chances are you are not the first one to need a hand studying Ancient Rome or the early ages of England and it is always better to get someone that comes recommended.

Also, check posting boards, many university students will offer their service to help you study History. It is a great way for you to learn from someone that is passionate enough about this subject to study it at university and it is also a great way for them to earn a little bit of cash.


“People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.”
― Milan Kundera, Czech-born French writer.


The Different Types of History

Just like any science, History isn’t a single field but it covers many different subjects from ancient history to modern history and art history. All are related but none are the same. So let’s take a look at the different type of History you could be studying.

Ancient History

Ancient history is commonly defined to covers everything from the beginning of humanity to the end of the Western Roman Empire around 500CE. This includes all eras of Prehistory namely the Bronze ages, the Iron Age and the Axial Age.

For the study of Ancient History, archaeology has played a huge role in our understanding of early civilizations, from the excavation of the Terracotta Army of the First Qin Emperor in ancient China to the exploration of the Egyptian Pyramids.

Although most of our knowledge of the Ancient times relies on the accounts of antiquity historiansHerodotusThucydidesArrianPlutarchPolybiusSima QianSallustLivyJosephusSuetonius, and Tacitus), those writings often occurred decades if not centuries after the events they described and they are always to take with a pinch of salt.

The study of ancient texts and the archaeological work that confirmed or not those writings have been the cornerstone of the study of Ancient History.

Stonehenge in the UK. Stonehenge is one of the most iconic historical sites in the UK. Yet, historians know very little about the monuments and its architects.


“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” 
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark


 

Medieval History

Between Ancient and Modern History stands a whole 1000 years of civilization called the Postclassical Era. This refers to the Middles Ages in Europe and often described as starting in 500CE when the Western Roman Empire drew its last breath.

Of course, this period is not the same for every civilisation, for example in Scandinavia, Ancient History only ended in 793 which is commonly known as the start of the Viking Age (ending in 1066 with the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy and descendant of Vikings himself).

In Japan’s History that the Medieval Period stretched from the beginning of the Nara period in 709 to the end of the Sengoku period and the unification of the country in 1605.

That period was marked by the geographical expansion of civilisation:

  • China established itself as a centre of influence and power in Asia and the East,
  • the spread of Islam and the Muslim conquests in the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula
  • The Christian Church of the Roman Empire‘ s power continued to grow in Northern and Eastern Europe

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” 
― Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher.


Modern History

Modern History covers everything from the 1500s to our times. Academics have marked its beginning to coincide with major events in a Western civilisation such as the discovery of the Americas, the invention of the printing press and more broadly the globalisation of the world.

It is often divided into several smaller periods:

  • The early modern period from approximately the early 16th century and includes the European Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, and the Protestant Reformation.
  • The late modern period began in the mid-18th century and covers the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Great Divergence, and the Russian Revolution. It was in 1807 the first time in Humanity’s history that the population reach over one billion people
  • Contemporary history covers all events following 1945 and the end of World War II, events which have had a direct impact in today’s geopolitical climate.

    The queen has been part of most of British modern History. Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch in British history (by Commonwealth Secretariat).


“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

– Marcus Garvey, Jamaican-born political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator.


Art History

At a crossroad between to seemingly opposite fields, Art and History, stand the History of Art. While History as a scientific field has been focusing on the depictions and analysis of historical, political, religious and social events through the ages, Art History’s focus has been different.

Art History is the study of human visual, aural and oral expression. Academics studying Art History have been trying to translate visual art, music and fictional writings through a thorough analysis using different approaches and methodologies.

The earliest example of Art Historians whose work have survived to this day is Pliny the Elder, a famous Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher (as well as a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire).

How Much Does History Tuition Cost?

Like any type of private tuition, the hourly cost of private History courses is highly related to where you live or study.

If you live in London it is very likely that you will have to pay more to hire a private tutor (average price per hour being around £21) as everything in the capital, from rent to commuting, costs more than anywhere else in the UK.

If you live outside the capital of England, you will be lucky to pay a few pounds less. For example, Bristol tutors usually charge about £18 an hour while their colleagues in Newcastle will cost you about £15 per hourly lesson.

It also depends on the experience of your tutor. University undergraduates who tutor students and pupils will usually charge less as they are not qualified teachers. If you are hiring a 15 years veteran teacher, you will most likely pay more than the average price but in all logic, you should also be receiving a better value for money.

Humanities private lessons are usually cheaper than science ones, but if you need help on a specific curriculum such as American history or European history, you may have to find a doctoral history major to help you.


“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?” ”
― Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code


What Can You Do With a History Degree?

A lot of people go into studying History during their University years without knowing what they will want to do later. However, a History degree is a great career start.

Many universities offering History bachelor and master degrees have come to realise that their alumni have gone on to become lawyers. Thanks to their historical data analysis skills, Historian majors have an advantage when it comes to reviewing a huge amount of judicial information.

You could also become a Museum Conservator. As such you would be a key contributor to the preservation of the history of mankind.  Your main duties will be to document, restore, and safeguard artefacts, specimens, and other items of historical, archaeological, or scientific significance.

Along with helping create temporary and permanent exhibits, you’ll be accountable for ensuring that everything is accounted for and correctly stored when exhibits are taken down. You’ll ensure that the storage conditions are appropriate (artefacts are very sensitive to humidity, heat, light exposure and so on). You will also handle the preservation and repair methods for objects.

As a curator, you will more often than not be responsible for the training and education of museum staffs and guide and you might even conduct special tours for the public or special guests yourself.

With a degree in History, you could also choose to become a Journalist (or Editor or Writer). You would not be the first history graduate to work in the media and information sector. Writers and journalists are responsible for researching, gathering information from a wide range of sources, checking those sources, and ensuring that their information is complete and accurate.

becoming a journalist Journalism is a popular career choice for those who were previously studied History. (Source: Visual Hunt)

In addition to writing well, they also need to have a good analytical and critical mind. Such skills are perfectly in line with the abilities of history degree graduates. You could write for all types of publications, including academic journals, magazines, newspapers and textbooks.

You could work on feature pieces, conduct investigative journalism, or even write screenplays or your own books. If you become an editor, you’ll also need to have excellent communication abilities and organizational skills as you will be in charge of a whole team of journalists.

Whatever field of History you wish to study, History is a great asset for most career and one of the bases of any complete education. But with Humanity’s history spanning for so long and across so many different regions and civilisation, it is hard to study ALL History and you will have to make a choice sooner or later on what you would rather focus on.

In any case, taking a tutor might be necessary sometimes if you are struggling with certain key concepts or simply if you need some help to prepare yourself for important exams. What is certain is that studying History is never a loss of time.


“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton, American author, screenwriter, film director and producer.


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