The question that has been posed at me – “Why did you study history?” – is often said with a varying degree of (good-natured) scorn evident. This is from people who study subjects considered, by the majority within the academic community anyway, “more important” than history, which includes sciences and the like.
I could respond to that question with any of the previous three entries in this short series, but that would be ignoring one of the most basic reasons that I, or anyone else, study history. I study history because I’m good at it.
That is, it is a subject and a discipline that I excel in. As far back as I can remember, I was always good at history, far more than any other subject. A’s in exams, glowing teacher reports, etc. It was a situation rarely replicated elsewhere, save for occasionally in the realms of geography and English.
So, when the time came to continue my education at Third-Level, it was only natural that I should trump to continue my work in history (and, as well, in Ancient Classics) over some other subject in which I would have been considered, at best, mediocre at the starting point of advanced study.
Why would I, or anyone else in my situation, waste their time being average or worse in some other field when one where we can excel in is available? The answer to that frequently comes in the form of after-college prospects, which are limited in the historical field. But personal happiness must be a consideration, and I know I would not have been happy studying anything other than history in college, and would have been extremely unhappy to be setting myself up for any future career in a subject I had no joy in or excitement over. I choose a more risky course because I love the subject. Besides which, history is a gateway to more than one employment prospect, which many forget.
So if you are good at history, the discipline can use you. It is a subject that needs committed people, who get excited and motivated about researching the past. If this is something you excel at, that you love, you owe it to yourself to go the extra mile in your education, at least at some point in your life. You shouldn’t let any kind of talent, especially academic talent, go to waste.
This has little to do with history directly of course, but it is still something worth saying in answer to the question “Why History?”
If you have the talent, use it. The same as you would/should for any academic subject.