Unveiling the Past: Reflections on the Riches of Studying History in the UK

15/02/202411 minute read
Unveiling the Past: Reflections on the Riches of Studying History in the UK

Are you intrigued by liberal arts disciplines, but unsure of the value they confer, or feel pressed to study something more ‘practical’? The fact is liberal arts disciplines, such as history, law, philosophy, and literature, open doors to intricate forms of learning and speculation.

With the right academic approach, the study of history rewards students with priceless insights into human behaviors and social dynamics, providing a rich terrain for deepening and honing evidence-based research, analysis, and writing skillsskills applicable for a lifetime across a wide range of endeavors.

In this blog post a Crimson Global Academy student offers a fresh perspective on how the study of history at an elite university can become a transformative experience. Studying history in the UK, you could quickly find yourself probing the human condition and building awesome critical thinking abilities, equipping yourself with a very solid foundation for a range of future endeavors.

History That Fascinates

Oftentimes, studying history at university level can be viewed with skepticism, as something mistakenly construed to be a laborious task of learning names, dates, and events, and with limited practical value.

However, there is very little truth to that. History degrees in the UK offer a multifaceted exploration of the past, emphasizing enduring and consequential themes over chronology, and critical analysis over rote memorization. Studying history at a top UK university enables you to traverse the annals of time, dissecting the interplay of human experiences, emotions, and ideas through interwoven narratives.

History, here, fascinates us with its depth and significance.

It encourages us to engage with diverse sources, methodologies, interdisciplinary perspectives, and concepts that connect history with contemporary trends. And we can do all that by studying history at universities in the UK.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

There Would Be No History Without Diverse Histories and Sources

Within the vast scope of historical research, you quickly discover, as you delve into the avenues of study illuminating particular historical periods, that the thing we all think of as History is actually a product of historians’ labor — constructed (and sometimes deconstructed as we will see) from many histories and historical artifacts.

Going beyond simple textual sources, university-level history immerses you in oral histories or visual histories yielding insights into a unique understanding of cultural nuances, societal norms, and artistic sensibilities.

An interesting example would be the study of material culture through sources like Chinese wallpaper and the chinoiserie style. Investigating the consumption of these patterns, motifs, and symbols in 18th century England unearths valuable insights into the consumer society, commercial activity, and class boundaries of the time. This type of learning transcends conventional textbook learning and is a staple at UK universities.

Other forms of methodologies may include perceiving social history through the nature of commodities or examining historical cartography. Looking at maps often involves analyzing spatial uses and representations as well as picking out defining boundaries.

This way of trying to glean understanding of a past society enables you to comprehend a lot more than simple geography. Instead, UK universities will push you to infer consequential cultural perspectives, thought processes, biases, and power dynamics, transforming your insights into the historical setting and illuminating your perspectives on the present as well.

Historical study, beyond memorization, is revealed as the art and science of transforming seemingly mundane objects into multidimensional windows that allow us to explore historical narratives and reconsider them too, as we investigate the complexities that fueled them with fresh eyes, new sources, and through the lens of our own time period and culture.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

From Learning History to Interpreting It

Another compelling reason why studying at the university level exposes you to a plethora of sources stems from a broader effort to ‘decolonize’ the study of history.

UK universities have recognized that mainstream historical narratives largely stem from imperialist and racialised schools of thought. Thus, by enlarging the scope of archival research to consider non-Western sources, you can go beyond passively ‘learning’ history — thoughtfully examining and even challenging Eurocentric perspectives that have long dominated our interpretation of the past.

These steps taken to diversify the curriculum are particularly important, as it brings into focus previously overlooked, marginalized, and silenced communities.

Thus, as one journeys from learning about history to interpreting it, and re-interpreting it, the study of history can take on new meaning with lessons and reflections that can be applied in new and significant ways.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Amplifying Marginalized Histories

Universities even provide students with the opportunity to amplify indigenous voices, by sifting through physical materials in their archival collections, like local manuscripts and records. By integrating this into modern academia, UK universities encourage students to develop a more thorough, inclusive, and nuanced grasp of historical subject matters.

This is particularly important as such an understanding can be very relevant to the contemporary climate. It contributes to the conversation, or rather the broader discourse, of social justice, including thoughtful reevaluation of traditional power structures.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Critical Insights and Critical Thinking

When critically assessing historical accounts, historiography naturally becomes a large part of your study

At UK universities, a pronounced focus on academic methods and practices enables students to acknowledge the inherent limitations of historical sources, due to the writers’ background and political, social, or cultural affiliations.

You will also explore distinct schools of thought, like orthodox, revisionist and post-revisionist, and ponder the reliability and differences between primary and secondary sources.

More importantly, a history degree will impart a greater awareness of the layers of meaning and complexity hidden beneath seemingly straightforward pieces of information.

These analytic and interpretive skills help you see more of the complexities of human experience as you also become more confident synthesizing sources, marshaling evidence, and expressing complex ideas with precision.

This discussion of nuances in history feeds into the realization that the majority of modern-day structures, if not all, can be traced back through varying periods of time. UK universities frequently home in on these links — for example, connecting the recent dialogue on human rights to the legacies left by Rome, Greece, and the political thought of the High Middle Ages.

The fact that such concepts are recognized as being products of long-standing intellectual debates and historical struggles makes the value of reading history at UK universities immeasurable, with insights you can apply across a range of disciplines.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Interdisciplinary Learning and Inquiry

The last point to touch on is the great potential of interdisciplinary learning in History. Your history degree can be quite easily paired with fields such as Economics or Politics to create dual degrees, and there is also a lot of scope within the singular realm of history itself.

For example, you will frequently find yourself examining the economic and cultural factors behind societal change. Or perhaps, you will spend your time scrutinizing the political ideologies shaping evolutions or shifts in governance and rulership.

This will undoubtedly broaden your perspective and enrich your academic experience.

What is more essential, however, is that these interdisciplinary skills will better prepare you to readily and steadily discern and evaluate the layers of the dynamic, intricate, and interconnected world we live in.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Final Thoughts

To round-off, studying history at a UK university is an exhilarating and enlightening experience that pushes you to dig into the richness of the past. It enables you to grasp the significance of historical narratives in informing present day trends, and equips you with invaluable interdisciplinary viewpoints.

By providing you the freedom to search through multiple types of sources, each with tangible links to past ideas and systems, while pushing you to evaluate them through historiographical lenses, UK universities also play a crucial role in informing the overall decolonization of history studies, infusing the study of history with deeper relevance and the potential for the past to open new windows on the present.

Written by Khushi Nagpal

Khushi is a student at Crimson Global Academy.

What Makes Crimson Different