Why History ?

Skills and Knowledge for Life

The concrete skills cultivated in the study of History are developed through systematic engagement with the past in courses and seminars.  Students learn the course material and engage in their own independent research, and so acquire a great deal of useful knowledge about how and why things happened the way they did, and hence, how and why things are the way they are now.  But the ‘raw material’ of the course—whether the history of the French Revolution, of feminism in Canada, of healthcare in 17th Century England, of witchcraft and magic during the Reformation, or of the experience of violence in the World Wars—functions most importantly as a vehicle for learning how to think critically, read carefully, analyze and argue judiciously, and write and speak effectively.

  • History students learn to think unusually well and to communicate their thoughts with unusual force and clarity.
  • They learn skills of effective research, and are familiar with a variety of e-research techniques.
  • They learn to analyze difficult written material, to evaluate complex arguments, and to assess various forms of evidence, including textual, visual, and material artifacts.
  • They learn to make clear, well organized, soundly reasoned, effectively supported, and persuasive arguments, both in speech and in writing.
  • They learn to work effectively in groups, to appreciate and evaluate the ideas and analyses of others, to articulate their own ideas and analyses, and to cooperate with others in solving problems.
  • They acquire a deep appreciation of the ways in which human beings construct interpretations of the past, and develop the critical skills that allow them to evaluate competing interpretations and create their own.
  • They gain a working knowledge of the history of societies and cultures, of the causes and consequences of conflict, and of mechanisms for social change.  This knowledge provides a basis for understanding contemporary issues and problems.
  • They develop a passion for learning, a hunger for understanding, and the skills needed to pursue these goals throughout their lives.

History and Careers

The skills and sensibilities developed through an education in History are useful, most broadly, for life in general.  Critical thinking, careful analysis, reasoned argument, and the effective expression of the written and spoken word, moreover, are highly valued in the great majority of occupations.  A History BA provides excellent preparation for graduate studies in many disciplines, including History itself, but also in the Law, Museum Studies, Library and Archival Science, Business Administration, Policy Studies, and in Diplomacy and International Relations.  History graduates pursue careers in a wide variety of fields.  These include:

  • activism
  • administration
  • advocacy
  • archival work
  • business
  • diplomacy and the foreign service
  • education
  • heritage and commemorations
  • information management and technology
  • journalism
  • library science
  • management
  • marketing
  • military service
  • museum and curatorial work
  • non-governmental and non-profit work
  • policy development
  • public service and government
  • publishing
  • research services
  • the arts
  • the law
  • writing and editing

UNB History offers liberal education at its best.  That means that it does more than merely provide the vocational training or technical competency that may lead directly to employment.  You will cultivate valuable skills and acquire useful understanding to be sure, but you will also gain in curiosity, confidence, motivation, and critical intelligence.  In an age of narrow specialization, employers increasingly recognize that this kind of broad-based learning is the ideal preparation for jobs that demand communication, cooperation, creativity and innovation (see this article, for example, from the Wall Street Journal).  History graduates, with their deep appreciation for the past and solid expertise in its interpretation, are exceptionally well positioned to lead the way in the making of the future.  A recent American study provides plenty of evidence that there are many rewarding career opportunities for History graduates. (see Perspectives on History, American Historical Association)