Why major in history?
There are so many answers to this question that we could not possibly list them all.
But here are a few for starters.
Our capacity to imagine the future stems from our understanding of the past. By explaining how we got to be where we are today, History teaches us the perspective necessary to effect positive change.
Since the scope of the field is so large, History has a niche for everyone with the least bit of curiosity. And if you are vastly, passionately, insatiably curious – the kind of person who wants to know why and how as well as who, what, when, and where -- then History is definitely for you.
At the college level, History is not so much about memorizing information as it is about evaluating it. This makes it a useful major for our times. In a world in which we have instant access to more information than we could possibly digest, the challenge that arises is how to sift and sort, to weigh and assess; to make sense of it all. History teaches these skills and many more besides: skepticism, judiciousness, empathy, contextual awareness, broadmindedness, and the capacity to think critically about fundamental issues such as justice and power.
By studying History in college, you will follow in the footsteps of generations of leaders who have regarded the study of History as essential to informed participation in politics and public life. But be forewarned: our majors also confess that they find History to be irresistibly interesting and fun.
In History classes, you will learn how to locate evidence, read between the lines, assess causation, and build a persuasive case. You will gain a deeper understanding of motives, mindsets, and manipulative claims. You will be shocked and awed.
Why major in history at Illinois?
As a History major at the University of Illinois, you will have the best of both worlds: access to all the resources of a major research university – including its amazing library – and the small-scale feel of a liberal arts college within the History department. You will learn from globally renowned scholars and prize winning teachers as well as from smart and lively classmates who care about the world around them.
Whatever your reason for studying History, you will find that it will equip you with a range of essential, life-enriching skills that will prepare you for many different career paths. In particular, the requirement that every Illinois History major successfully completes a work of original independent historical research means that our graduates can be trusted to contextualize complex problems, assemble and analyze data, assess competing arguments, and offer new interpretations of – and solutions to – problems old and new. In recent years, our alumni have accordingly gone on to careers in the media, government, public policy, business, film-making, advertising, social work, teaching, publishing, law, law enforcement, diplomacy, and military intelligence. Many have also gone on to graduate school in history and related disciplines; in fact, our own Professor James Brennan was an Illinois undergraduate.