How and why I decided to study history
I always enjoyed history at school, but I never imagined myself studying it beyond GCSE level, let alone at university. At the start of Year 12, I actually had my heart set on studying linguistics and Spanish at university.
Yet as I write, I am a second year history student. So what happened?
My GCSE teacher convinced me to take history at A Level because she thought I’d enjoy it, and I agreed to give it a go. I took it as a fourth subject, expecting to drop it within the first half term of Year 12. About a month into the course, I reluctantly admitted that my teacher had been right. I did enjoy history, a lot.
But I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to study it at university. Even at the various open days that I attended in the summer of Year 12, I was looking at multiple courses; history, modern languages, linguistics, joint honours, and I didn’t know which subject I was going to choose or how to choose it.
There wasn’t a chain of reasoning that led me to choosing history over the other subjects I was looking at. I just thought it sounded the most interesting.
And it is interesting. I didn’t really know what to expect before I started at Warwick, but I’ve found that I love being able to study such a range of topics at the same time. I bounce from reading about early modern witchcraft to the British Empire to the Black Death just doing the weekly seminar reading. I love that things can look unrelated until you take a step back and see the overarching themes and links between so many topics. I love the idea of taking what we think of as historical fact and playing with it until a different version of events is found.
Even though I study straight history, I don’t feel like I’ve completely abandoned the other subjects that I was interested in. I realised I like learning languages more than studying, for example, a piece of literature in a foreign language. At Warwick, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a language in place of a history module, so I’ve been learning Italian for the whole time I’ve been at university so far. Since I’ve been at university, I’ve found that I love looking beyond specific events and focusing on wider concepts, for example analysing how language has been used to maintain or undermine power structures. Let me assure you, studying history at university is no longer about being able to recite exactly what happened when.
I don’t love studying history every day. There’s a lot of course reading to do, and referencing in my essays can become very tedious. But actually doing history? Deconstructing concepts, looking at how and why things have changed over time? It’s one of the most wide-ranging, interesting university courses that I can think of.
I’m just glad my GCSE teacher convinced me to try it.