Study History at university

What is history?

History is the study of the past. It explores everything from ancient civilisations to 21st century events. Historians analyse and interpret the past using sources of evidence, such as books, records and photographs. They also examine artefacts and sites, such as weapons, jewellery, castles, battlefields.

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, or to understand how our attitudes and social structures have been defined by the past.

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.

Why study history?

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

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.

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.

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.

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 3, and in 2019 ranked 2nd in the Guardian University Guide. An inspiring place to study, the Department is located next to the medieval World Heritage Site of Durham Castle and Cathedral.

Research and teaching span late antiquity to contemporary history. 81% of the Department’s research is considered internationally excellent and world-leading by the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014). 

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. 89% of 2017 graduates are in graduate-level employment with a median salary £23,000. The Department also achieved the Athena Swan Bronze Award in October 2018, which recognises its commitment to advancing women's careers in academia.

World top 50 for History

(QS World Subject Rankings 2019)

3rd in the UK for History

(The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020)

81% of research considered internationally excellent

(Research Excellence Framework 2014)

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. 

History career opportunities

There are many different careers and further study options 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.

An introduction to the Department of History at Durham University

Two students workign together