Importance of History: Crushing Societal Narratives

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Written by Andrew Swisher

When it comes to pursuing a college major, it can be very easy to start believing other people’s narratives about what potential careers (or perceived lack thereof) particular majors may offer. The narrative I found myself starting to believe was that my major of history would make it harder for me to succeed upon graduation. I started to think “I’m just a history major.” But the more I actually reflected on this paradigm and the associated assumptions, I realized that contrary to prevailing narratives, history is not a limiting factor in a successful future for me, rather it sets me free. How? The study and understanding of history puts every aspect of life into perspective. History has given me the tools to interpret how the past informs the now, how patterns influence current and future scenarios, and the importance of context in every situation and scenario life throws at you.

History unlocked my potential and gave me the skills to be a successful communicator, problem solver, and writer. I wouldn't have gotten a job at a fortune 500 company like 3M or write amazing stories for the College of Liberal Arts through CLAgency without majoring in history.

Even Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, in an interview, illustrates how understanding and studying history is one of the most important factors for young professionals entering the workforce. “I think that [history] is better than studying economics in a lot of ways, or studying markets when you’re young. You can read about people’s lives and you can see all these people who did great things and see all the frustrations, the detours, the disappointments. With people trying to make predictions in business, politics, or whatever, you are essentially extrapolating yesterday. History is important because you become much more aware of the cyclicality of things.”

By understanding the cycles of human society, history gives us a foundational blueprint for life. History gives us the means to dissect problems and present contextual solutions.

Understanding the “Whys” and the “Hows” of life are the most important fundamentals of understanding the “What.”

Without history, without context, without that understanding, people would struggle to make sense of the world around them. As a history major I am trained to provide the context and tell the stories of how patterns from the past connect to us as a society now and into the future. As a history major I provide the context and tell the stories that society needs to hear.