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Head of School, Professor Geoffrey Roberts provides a personal view to the frequently asked question: "Why study history?"
The skills essential to being a good historian are the skills essential to being a good citizen, a good employee or a good entrepreneur -- starting with the all-important ability to think for yourself.
The School of History trains students to gather and interpret information and evidence, to analyse the data available to you and to interrogate points of view. All these skills are work and life skills that should help you to make a contribution in the world – whether to the academic community, in the workplace or in the wider world.
Many students want to study history because they have enjoyed it at secondary school or have been inspired by good teachers or their own reading about a particular event or period. You are not, however, required to have studied history before becoming a student here.
The School of History offers students a varied choice of approaches to history — social and economic history, modern diplomacy, political ideologies, the history of law, art, religion, women, government, business and much else besides – all based on the specialist knowledge gained by our academic staff through their own research.
It is particularly important for young people or migrants to be able to place the history of their own and neighbouring countries in comparative perspective; to evaluate the extent to which Irish experience reflects -- or does not -- European or global developments.
We approach history by looking at themes and structures, arguments, interpretations and analyses — emphasising comparative approaches wherever appropriate -- to equip students with the skills needed to be effective at work and in life whether as a diplomat, journalist, political commentator, administrator, academic, researcher, heritage expert, manager, consultant, or business strategist.
UCC history graduates have a good employment record and many have been highly successful in both the public and private sectors at home and abroad. Our graduates have also been highly successful in competing for grants, scholarships and fellowships at international level. We aim to help students learn to be flexible, innovative, imaginative, able to take initiative and work in teams and, above all, to be able to relate well and respectfully to other people.
Teaching takes place in lectures, seminars and small groups. Lectures give you the foundations of knowledge and guidance in interpretation. Small group teaching enables you to discuss historical topics in detail and to develop your skills in writing and analysis. Seminars are used to teach you to look more closely at evidence and arguments, and to refine your thinking and communication skills at an advanced level.
WHAT OUR GRADUATES SAY
Ms Helen Callanan, former Sunday Tribune editor: ‘Studying history is like watching a movie on a wide screen -- you get a bigger picture. You see what others miss and you can put present day events and personalities in context -- whether it’s the break-up of former Yugoslavia, the stumbling of Boris Yeltsin, or even the Moriarity Tribunal. Your perspective is altered by the knowledge that only history can supply. In UCC, studying history was even more special -- world-class historians on your doorstep who want not just to teach, but also to hear your opinions. And if people ask you “What job does history qualify you for?” the answer is obvious: what job doesn’t it prepare you for?”. History isn’t just for historians, even journalism has been described as “history on the run”’.
Ms Sheana O’Sullivan : ‘I read for an MPhil in 1920s Irish history. These two years represented a great learning experience for me both personally and academically. Not only did I develop an interesting insight into Irish politics but I also acquired good communication skills, strong writing skills, and a high level of literacy. These skills have been utterly transferable to my career in sales and marketing with a management consultancy firm.’
Mr Finbarr O’Shea, freelance editor: ‘As a freelance editor I work for a number of leading Irish publishers, mainly on academic texts. I would say that the key attributes of a good editor -- a questioning mind, attention to detail and accuracy, and strong compositional skills -- are precisely the attributes that are fostered by the study of history’.