Why History?

The study of history encompasses every dimension of human interaction, from social life to economy, from religious experience to artistic expression, from culture to family, from ideas to politics, etc., in their complex inter-relations over time. Students of history learn about individuals, groups, communities, nations, or empires from every perspective, employing a variety of approaches and techniques to raise questions and search for answers. The study of history is thus one of the best ways to challenge our ideas and assumptions about the world, because it leads us to question the simplified accounts of the world and of its problems that we all encounter in our daily lives. Because of the integrative approach that is at the core of historical study, knowledge of history moreover expands our ability to engage with complex causal analysis and gives us the opportunity to explore changes and continuities in all spheres of human endeavor, and to understand the human experience as a process of dynamic evolution. In doing so, history also teaches us empathy (a value of special importance within Georgetown’s Jesuit educational and spiritual tradition) and global understanding.  Thus, knowledge of history is central to becoming an engaged and informed citizen, attuned to the complexities of the modern world and prepared to play a constructive role in it.

Moreover, the effective study of history necessitates awareness of the limits and challenges of our evidence and of all knowledge claims.  History as a discipline is fundamentally committed to dialogue and to skepticism about dogmatic or authoritarian interpretations.  All students who take history courses will engage in research, at various levels, thereby gaining practice with the challenges of formulating analytical questions and arguments, identifying pertinent evidence, and engaging with the ideas and interpretations of others.  Thus, the study of history is inherently linked with the development of one’s intellectual humility and open-minded sensibility.

History majors pursue all sorts of career paths: from medicine or law to education, from work as professional historians (in academia, museums, or other research institutions) to consulting or investment banking, from the military or security field to a variety of other public-service careers, from the media to international agencies, from artists to engineers, and so on. History does not give you a specialized skill set that automatically qualifies you for a specific job, but History teaches you creatively to process large amounts of evidence and information, to think, research, write, and analyze, and to engage the world we live in with confidence, subtlety, and a spirit of active service.  

History majors have excelled in all sorts of different ways. Our majors have pursued successfully a wide variety of career paths. While many go on to professional schools (law, medicine, engineering, etc.), many others have gone into finance, education at all levels, the performing arts, the military, the media, public policy and government or international organizations, and so on.  See for instance the interesting career path of Georgetown’s COO. The widely believed cliché that a history major (or all humanities majors) limits one to teaching or teaching-related work could not be more wrong!

Check out what the nation’s biggest historical associations and the news media have to say about the History major’s real-world value: