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History - Overview


History is the study of the events and people of the past. Students learn to gather, record, and analyze evidence to explain past events. They learn about specific periods, issues, and cultures. They can specialize in the history of a country or region.

The peasants of France were starving and their pockets were empty. No bread was available in the bakeries. The peasants crowded outside the massive castle of Versailles, shouting to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette that they needed bread. Seeing the riches of the royalty, the peasants got even angrier. Some even shouted for the king and queen to die. When Marie Antoinette heard the cries of the peasants, she thought for a moment and said, "Let them eat cake."

Or, did she?

This is one of many debates about Marie Antoinette and her role in the French Revolution. Did she really utter such an insult? Or, did someone else? And, does it matter? Absolutely! Marie Antoinette and several members of her family were executed for treason. Even today, historians debate about what Marie Antoinette was really like. Did she care more about the sufferings of her people than historians originally thought? Did she really commit treason? Was she wrongly executed? It is important to know what Marie Antoinette was really like because it affects how we think about related events.

Historians are detectives, storytellers, and researchers. In a history program, you learn about both famous people and everyday folks and how they lived. You develop skills in reading, writing, and researching. You learn how to gather, organize, and assess evidence. Often you must learn a second language so that you can analyze original texts and artifacts more accurately.

In a history program, you take courses in ancient history, medieval history, American history, 20th century history, and historical research methods. You can also take courses about Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and about different revolutions and wars. You can find a history course about almost any time period or group of people. For example, you may focus on the history of Islam while another student may focus on Native American history.

Most four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in history. Most community colleges offer two-year programs that can be transferred to a four-year school. Many schools offer graduate degree programs in history. These programs take from two to five years after you finish your bachelor's degree. Most people who earn graduate degrees in history become professors.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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