Why study history?

History students in the library

History is the study of the past. It explores everything from ancient civilisations to 21st century events. But history is also about the present. By understanding events, such as wars or financial crises, historians gain an insight into processes that are happening today. We can use this insight to influence our decisions and avoid past mistakes. If you study history at university, you’ll be gaining the skills to help shape our future, whilst also developing other transferable skills that will equip for you a range of new and exciting careers.

Fields of history

History is a broad subject with many different themes and specialisms. These can be categorised by specific events, eras or themes. For example:

  • Medieval – the history of Europe from the 5th to 15th century.
  • Late modern – history from 1900 to the present day.
  • Political history – a focus on political events and rulers.
  • Gender history – history from the perspective of gender.

Benefits of studying history

There are a number of benefits to studying history at undergraduate level:

Become independent

A history degree teaches you how to work independently and develop your own opinions. You will learn how to lead your own inquiry into the past, and defend your point of view. You will also gain skills in teamwork and collaboration, as you will be sharing evidence, and listening to other opinions with an open mind.

Study your interests

History is a vast subject that appeals to many different interests. Most history degrees include compulsory modules that cover key themes, as well as optional modules that span a huge range of eras and topics. You could, for example, study everything from Medieval England, to American Capitalism and Post-Colonial Africa.

Cultural awareness

History explores many different cultures and perspectives, and it looks at sensitive issues such as slavery, conflict, racial tensions and persecution. This knowledge helps you to develop cultural awareness that you can draw on for the rest of your life.

Career flexibility

A history degree prepares you for a wide range of careers. You will be an expert in research and analysis, and become confident in presenting your point of view. You could enter a career in law, business, politics or journalism, as well as management, teaching, accountancy or many other options.

Why study history at Durham University?

At Durham, you will join one of the best history departments in the UK. Durham’s Department of History regularly ranks in the UK’s top 5, and in 2022 ranked in the world top 50 (QS World Rankings). An inspiring place to study, the Department is located next to the medieval World Heritage Site of Durham Castle and Cathedral.

Learning is enhanced by supportive staff, excellent resources, and an on-going programme of public lectures and research seminars. Students can also apply for work placement and study abroad programmes.

Additionally, career prospects are excellent for Durham’s history graduates. 90% of students who graduated in 2018 are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation. The Department also achieved the Athena Swan Bronze Award in October 2018, which recognises its commitment to advancing women's careers in academia.

Key skills from studying history

Studying history gives you diverse skills that will help you to succeed throughout your degree and future career. These include:

  • Independent research
  • Evidence evaluation
  • Debating
  • Critical analysis
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Presentation skills
  • Teamwork
  • Understanding of culture and society
  • In-depth knowledge of world history.

What history degrees can I study at Durham University?

If you are looking to pursue history after a foundation year, Durham’s BA (Hons) History leads to a wide choice of careers. This three-year degree course covers a range of periods and approaches to history. In your third year, you can specialise, with a triple-module Special Subject that is taught through seminars and involves the close study of primary sources.

Degree preparation at the International Study Centre

Our International Foundation Year in Humanities, Law and Social Science prepares you for a degree in history at Durham.

You will develop your English language skills, academic skills, and study history-focused modules that give you the knowledge you need to succeed in your degree.

An introduction to the Department of History at Durham University

History degree jobs

There are many different careers and further study options you can pursue with a history degree.

Jobs you can pursue with a history degree

Some of the jobs you could follow include:

  • Lawyer
  • Journalist
  • Archivist
  • Heritage manager
  • Museum curator
  • Conservation officer
  • Historic buildings inspector
  • Marketing executive
  • Librarian
  • Investment banker
  • School teacher
  • Publisher
  • University lecturer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is history a hard subject to study?

The difficulty of studying history depends on individual interests and learning styles, but it generally requires critical thinking, research skills, and a willingness to analyse and interpret historical events and sources.

Which career is best for someone with a history degree?

A history degree can lead to careers in fields such as education, research, museum curation, archival work, journalism, law, and lecturing.

Is history a good career?

A career in history can be fulfilling for those passionate about the subject, as it offers opportunities to contribute to knowledge, preserve heritage, and engage with the past.