Ever wondered about the benefits of studying a History degree? In this blog post, you will find an interview I conducted with Dr Michael Rowe, who is a Lecturer and Reader in European History here at King’s College London. His insights will hopefully shed some light on the significant elements of studying History, and especially the perks of studying it here at King’s!
What prompted you to undertake a History based career?
I have always been interested in History, ever since I can remember. I guess I never held up much hope of becoming a professional historian until I was an undergraduate (at KCL, from 1989-1992 – the years that witnessed the end of the Cold War and Europes division between East and West). I always had plenty of plan Bs but wasn’t much gripped by any of them – may be apart from becoming a location scout for a major film company. Yes, history for me is a career, and hence pays the bills, but beyond this, it enriches so much more beyond the world of work. Historical understanding allows me to contextualise and hence better appreciate all sorts of other things, be it watching dystopian films or travelling (two of my favourite extra-curricular activities)!
What skills does one gain from a degree in History?
One of the more important is the ability to divide the wheat from the chaff when it comes to processing the mass of information everyone is now overwhelmed with. What is plausible? And what is basically fake? A second, I argue, is understanding cultures distant from our own, certainly in terms of time but also space. The nineteenth-century German historian Ranke wrote that it is not for a historian to pass judgement, by which he meant that we should be careful about applying our own value judgements to cultures distant from our own. I think this implies a kind of modesty based upon a deep understanding of where others are coming from. History graduates should have this, making them the kind of savvy global citizens that are needed now more than ever.
What makes the King’s History Department unique?
Kings is a very large department, having – I think – tripled in size since I joined as a lecturer in 2004. This allows it to specialise in a bigger range of periods and areas than most other departments. At the same time, and this is more easily over-looked, it accommodates in a positive way a whole range of different approaches to the discipline. There has never been a drive to impose a particular school or ideological direction, though everyone is eager to fight their corner! Finally, and this makes the KCL Department close to unique (everyone will know the close competitors this also applies to), it is located in the centre of London, a city that combines the cosmopolitanism of a globalised city with the rootedness provided by a 2,000-year history.
I hope this blog spoke to any curiosities you may hold surrounding a History degree!