Why do people study history

Study history

History studies in check

Description and content

Even at school, the history course shouldn't have been about what happened in the world and when. Likewise, studying history is not about just memorizing facts and historical data and then being able to recite them. If you are studying history, the main thing in the course is that you learnRecognize connections and critically assess events in a historical context.

The content of the course depends on the chosen focus. In most cases, the historical faculties first roughly subdivide into the following three time epochs:

  • Old story: The section "Ancient History" mainly deals with Greek and Roman history between the 2nd millennium BC. BC and the end of the 6th century AD. However, this definition of a periodization is not without controversy, so the demarcation can be different depending on the historian. As a common feature of all delimitations events related to the fall of ancient pagan culture and the emergence of Christianity or Islamic expansion are used. The focus of "Ancient History" is primarily on developments in the Greek and Latin-speaking Mediterranean region and the provinces of the Roman Empire in the Rhine and Danube regions. However, the research interest shifted away from the history of events and constitutional history to the history of culture, mentality, social and economic as well as historical regional studies.
  • Medieval history: The study and teaching of "medieval history" deals with the period between the 6th century AD and the 15th century. Here, too, it is not possible to give an exact year for the end of the Middle Ages. The invention of the printing press around 1450, the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492 or the Reformation of the Church initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 serve as points of reference. The focus is mainly on the investigation of political and economic issues; a close connection with church history cannot be dismissed out of hand. At the beginning of the course in the Middle Ages, the main aim is to learn historical working techniques. First and foremost are the courses in source reading. There you will learn how to analyze documents from the Middle Ages. However, this requires a certain linguistic knowledge.
  • Modern times: The third temporal epoch is the "modern times", which at some universities is divided into the phases "early modern times" and "recent history and contemporary history". The "early modern era" extends roughly until 1800. The time limit is established by the political-industrial "double revolution", which is largely characterized by American independence, the French revolution and the beginning industrial "revolution". The interest of the "early modern age" is directed towards humanism, the dawn of science, technology, European "discovery" and the conquest of new continents. However, the Reformation, the formation of state authorities, the incipient competition between European nations and the resulting armed conflicts also play a major role. Here, too, we work with sources or their traditions. As part of the study of "Modern History and Contemporary History", it goes alongside theConsequences of the political-industrial revolutions around the great catastrophes of the 20th century: the 1st and 2nd world wars and their consequences. Due to the intervention of the USA in the First World War in 1917, European history is developing more and more into (trans) Atlantic world history. In addition to the source work that was always relevant anyway since the 1960s the "oral history", the questioning of contemporary witnesses, has increasingly come to the fore. Technological progress brought new forms of sources for both the historian and the history student. Particularly noteworthy are film and sound recordings. in the Education the critical handling of these types of sources is conveyed.

Previous knowledge

The previous knowledge from school is usually sufficient to be able to have a say at the beginning of the course. Of course, you benefit from it if you already have knowledge of the epoch and don't have to start from scratch. Often, however, thematically coordinated lectures are offered for the seminars, which give you an overview. It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with the reading before the start of the semester. The professors often give literature tips on their courses. If you want to study history, you have to be willing to read a lot. You shouldn't underestimate the complexity of specialist literature. However, at the beginning of the course you will also learn how to work with specialist literature and sources.

Depending on the course of study, you have to demonstrate knowledge of a foreign language in order to study history. Anyone interested in modern history, for example, will not be able to avoid knowledge of French and Latin, as many sources from the 17th and 18th centuries are available in one of the two languages.Therefore, most universities require proof of at least three years of English teaching in school and often another modern foreign language for the Bachelor's degree. If the Latinum is required, but you do not have it, there is the possibility of doing it in university courses. In any case, you should find out in good time which university requires which language skills.

Studying history at German universities

The majority of German universities offer history as a two-subject bachelor's degree and various master's degrees. The bachelor's degree is usually designed in such a way that it is both professional and enables the advanced specialist master’s degree. To become a teacher after graduation, you can take a Master of Education at some universities. At other universities, on the other hand, you have to enroll for a "classic" teacher training course.

History is not one of the subjects with the toughest NC hurdles. In fact, you rarely need an A-1, sometimes the course is open to admission. Of course, this also varies greatly depending on the university and the number of people. The duration of the Bachelor’s course is set at six semesters, and the Master’s program has four more semesters. Most universities offer history courses at the beginning of the winter semester.


According to surveys by the Federal Statistical Office, 24,185 men and 19,936 women studied history in Germany in the 2014/15 winter semester. The subject did not make it into the top ten most popular courses for either gender.

Career prospects for history graduates

The majority of history students go to teaching. But you can also with a history degree aspire to a scientific career at the university or find work at research institutes.

If you are studying history to become a teacher, you should think carefully about the second (or third) subject. With a combination like German studies/ History you will have a harder time finding a job, as there are enough applicants with these combinations and less demand in the subjects. So a combination with popular subjects like Latin is wise.

History graduates find employment in many professional areas. Typical places are museums, archives or in areas such as monument protection in the city. Many historians later work across industries, so they bring their knowledge to man in other areas. These include, above all, jobs in the media or culture. However, you have to be aware that in these areas the competition with graduates of other degree programs is fierce.


Are you looking for your first full-time job? Or do you want to start a part-time job alongside your studies?

in theUNICUM career center offer attractive employers across Germany and from home and abroad numerous exciting job offers - As a history student, you are guaranteed to find what you are looking for here. Not least because you are looking for, for exampleOccupational fields orCompanies can filter.