Some Ideas about Teaching



History is important ... for getting a job


‘Everybody loves History. At the cinema, blockbuster films are set in History. Millions tune in to historical TV dramas. Catherine Cookson is one of hundreds of popular authors who write historical novels. And on holiday, we abandon sea and shopping to see Castles and Cathedrals.


History is vital because we can only understand who we are – as individuals or as a nation – if we understand where we have come from. We live as finite specks in an infinite universe; we fill in the future with hopes of heaven, and the past with our study of History. A life that knows only the ‘here and now’ is mundane and trivial.


History is the difference between a trained hand and an educated mind. It deals with those matters which turn us from people who watch events, to people who understand and can influence events. Most of what we term ‘culture’ is either from the past (e.g. Shakespeare) or a development of it (e.g. Rock and Roll). History contains examples of almost everything that is interesting or important to us – Science, Engineering, Medicine, Economics, Art – and if you would understand them, you must understand History.


All those issues which define our role as citizens – politics, religion, morality, philanthropy, the environment, even the education system – can only be properly understood in their historical context.


At its basest, History also contains every scandal, crime and gruesome act of horror and violence imaginable, and is fascinating on that account alone.’

Key Stage 3 Flyer, Greenfield History Department, 1997





In the July 1997 edition of Teaching History, I shared with readers the rapid decline in ‘options’ choices in year 9 at my school, and how the department was seeking a cure.   To make pupils aware of the importance of History, we subjected them for a year to a poster campaign, bombarding them with quotes from famous people saying how important History was.   At the end of the year, however, we had to admit, options choices were little better.




I talked to the pupils.   Why had they chosen Business Studies (which they had never done) rather than History?   The answer was clear; it was the word ‘business’!   All the pupils felt that they would be going into business when they left school, so they had better learn about it.   Other pupils echoed the sentiments. ALL liked History and the History teachers.   But History, they said, is simply no use when it comes to getting a job.   Their thinking was elementary and crass: ‘I want to be an air stewardess, so I chose Geography because I’ll need to know where I’m flying, and German because I’ll need to be able to speak it when I land there.’


It seemed to the Greenfield History department that the young lady needed re-educating (though I sound like a Bolshevik!).   She needed to be told something which would convince HER that doing History would be of use to her in later life; and by ‘later life’, she meant in her chosen career.


Too many of the standard arguments as to how History is useful for a job offer only general and abstract advantages – indeed Heads of Department are warned against a narrow vocationalism, on the grounds that other disciplines offer similar skills.   They emphasise the abstract advantages of History – awareness of the adult world, information about cultural heritage and democratic values, and the development of moral sensitivity.


It seemed to the department that these arguments would have little influence on our wannabee air stewardess at a state comprehensive in a new town.   What she needed to be told was WHAT jobs History helps you to do, and HOW and WHY it helps you to do them.   If we were talking about propaganda, then it needed to be SPECIFIC and CONCRETE.


Now I believe that, if History teaches you anything at all – its KEY benefit – it teaches you to argue persuasively.   Both in its content (e.g. studying the propaganda of the past) and in its nature (extended logical, deductive, fact-supported debate in writing) it teaches its students to manipulate a case.   It was, we decided, time to put that intellectual creativity to use.






The study of people is at the heart of History – their feelings, attitudes, prejudices and motivation. This understanding is very useful in the ‘people professions’, from receptionists, hairdressers and beauticians, to teachers, the Health Service, Social Work and Personnel.

History teaches interviewing and enquiry skills, which fit an historian for jobs which find out information – TV researcher, investigative reporter, market research, police etc.

Historians know how to read documents, ignore irrelevancies, separate propaganda from the truth, and circumstantial from hard evidence. This is essential for people such as lawyers, administrators and politicians.

History requires extended, logical, reasoned debate in writing. It is essential for any job which requires writing reports, the Civil Service, Law, Journalism etc.

Historical knowledge is essential for certain jobs, such as Artist, Architect, Designer, Librarian, Archaeologist, Archivist, Tourist Guide etc.


Historical skills such as cause and consequence, change and continuity etc., are essential in any job which requires analysis and strategy – which includes jobs such as the Army, Teaching, Advertising, Medicine, Banking and Accountancy.

A pupil who has studied the Industrial Revolution will go into Industry aware of its structures and parameters – for instance, accounts, markets, wages and working conditions, health, safety and trade unions.

The study of History teaches information handling, communicating ideas, flexibility and tolerance – skills now regarded as essential in Industry. Historians solve problems and evaluate solutions. often by doing problem-solving group-work; skills essential in management in Industry and the Public Services, and in research and development teams in Science and Engineering.


Did you know that . . .

Famous history graduates include:

●   HRH Prince Charles,

●   Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer,

●   Neil Kinnoch, EEC Transport Commissioner,

●   Robert Gunn, Chairman of Boots,

●   Lord Sainsbury, President of the supermarket chain,

●   Marmaduke Hussey, BBC Chairman of Governors,

●   John Tusa, Managing Director of BBC Worldwide,

●   Brian Walden, TV interviewer,

and that:

34% of History Graduates went into:

Administration, Management, Marketing or Finance.

Key Stage 3 Flyer, Greenfield History Department, 1997


First, we conducted a survey of what jobs the pupils in Years 8 and 9 wanted to do.   Then, taking this as a starting point, we worked out HOW History would be useful in those jobs.   Then we added others, using a Careers Department book of ‘Job Ideas’; we had no difficulty in finding dozens of jobs for which we could argue that History would be valuable.   Where a job had an historical element, that was pointed out as well.


The results of that exercise – for 50-or-so jobs – are listed below.  They formed the basis of a ‘History will get you a Job’ poster-campaign.   They come with a health warning; they are just my ideas, and they are neither comprehensive nor infallible.   They are all arguable; they were aimed at the pupils – more specifically, at the pupils who might be interested in that kind of job.   They are offered here in case you want to use them in your own school.   I am sure that you will be able to correct, add to and improve them, and make them more relevant to your own situation, from your own knowledge and experience.


Almost any word-processor package will allow you to print them out, large, in an attractive font, on a sheet of paper.   Each poster needs to be headed with the sentence: ‘History is [essential/important/useful – as appropriate] if you want to be [a(n)]:’.   Then the job title is printed very large to attract the eye, and this is followed, underneath, by a short explanation.


From the beginning of the September term, in each History room, every week, a new job was stuck on the classroom door.   As old ones were taken down, they were put on the walls round the room.   Pupils DID notice them, although they caused less comment than the ‘History is important’ quotes did.


The department was aware that some of the arguments used in the posters might appear over-drawn or over-simplified.   But they had to communicate their message to children, so they had to communicate at a child’s level.   We had to make the pupils aware that History is relevant to hundreds of jobs, and pertains to the world of work in many ways.   Only when we have made this breakthrough into the pupils’ attitudes will we be able to cultivate a more sophisticated, more abstract appreciation of the value of History.




The high-point of the next options week came when one young lady, a pupil who finds History quite difficult, came to me and asked, very nicely, if I would please allow her to choose History because she wanted to be a Tourist Guide, and that she would need History to do that job!   Now at this point, obligation intervened, and I felt duty bound to tell her that Geography would be just as useful.   But the episode encouraged me that the conceptual barrier had been overcome.   We had already established that History is FUN.   We had advertised that many famous people considered History IMPORTANT.   Pupils were beginning to accept that History is USEFUL – in specific, arguable ways – for their future careers.




History is essential/ important/useful if you want to be a(n):


Accountant/ Bank Manager/ Auditor

      Historians spend much of their time analysing figures, looking for significant statistics. Economic historians have to understand business accounts. And, of course, you will have to spend much of your time with clients, so the historians’ enquiry skills (knowing just what to ask to get the relevant information) are vital.



      Most of the roles you will be playing will be historical roles, so it is vital that you understand the period of the play. And to ‘get into character’, you will need all the empathy/character understanding that History teaches you. You cannot be a good actor without being a good historian too.


Advertising Executive

      Advertising is about thinking up good ideas, and historians have a much wider field of experience to draw on than someone who knows only the modern world – the historian can sift through innumerable civilisations looking for inspiration. The historians’ interview skills will be vital when you talk to your clients, and your historians’ skills of argument and presentation will help you ‘sell’ your ideas to them.


Air Steward/ Stewardess

      ‘Where are we flying over at the moment?’ ‘What is it famous for?’ ‘Where are we going?’ ‘Is there anything worth seeing there?’ ‘Are we safe in this kind of aircraft?’ ‘Where does this food come from?’ All these questions, which you are bound to be asked, will be better answered if you have a good knowledge of History. And the understanding of people you learned in your History lessons will help you deal with passengers who will be, at different times, scared, angry, bored and excited. Whatever the crisis, it has happened sometime in History, and you will be able to cope.


Air Traffic Controller

      How do you organise the flight paths of twenty planes when you have to deal with a problem, listen to instructions from your controller and talk with a pilot about his landing gear? The historian is used to dealing with a mass of facts and information, sorting out the important from the unimportant, working under pressure to organise it all efficiently.


Animal Breeder/ Stud Assistant

      It is said that all English race horses are descended from three Arab stallions which were brought into this country in the 17th century.   Breeding animals such as dogs and horses is one area where history and pedigree is especially important, and you will need your historians’ skills of research and organisation to authenticate the pedigrees of your animals.


Announcer/ Presenter/ DJ

      As an historian, you will have been used to taking large amounts of information, selecting the important and interesting bits, organising it to make sense, and presenting it in an attractive and clear way. Your historian’s skills of explaining, communicating and presenting information will be very valuable.


Antiques Dealer

      To go into the antiques business, you will need to be able to recognise old things. You will need all your historians’ skills to recognise a fake. And – in order to interest your customers and sell the article – you will need an understanding, not only of the historical item you are selling, but of how it was used, and of the period it comes from. You cannot be an antiques dealer unless you are a good historian.



      Strangely, an archaeologist needs to be a good scientist nowadays; you will need to submit the things you dig up to an array of scientific tests! But, of course, you won’t have a clue how to interpret the information you find unless you are a good historian also. History is essential if you want to be an archaeologist.


Architect/ Civil Engineer

      Architecture isn’t just about girders and stress levels! It’s about design. And to design buildings properly, it is essential that you have a good knowledge of the history of architecture, and of how the buildings related to the life-style of the people who used them. Only then will you be able to design a building which meets the needs of today’s users. And you will need your historians’ understanding of continuity and change to know how your buildings must be the same, and how they can be different, to ones already built. Also, all the architecture of history will give you a vast bank of ideas to inspire your designs. And, of course, your historians’ interview skills will help you find out your clients’ needs and expectations.



      This is a fascinating job, which involves all kinds of skills. You will need to be a good scientist, for you will need to properly preserve the old documents in your care. You will need to be a linguist, because many old documents are written in Latin and French. You will need to be a handwriting expert just to read them! But most of all, you will need to be an historian. Your historians’ recording and cataloguing skills will be essential, and you will need to have a good knowledge of history to understand and correctly catalogue these fascinating old records of humanity’s past.


Army Officer

      If you want to be anything more than a ‘grunt’ in the army, you will need to understand history. Soldiers who want to make their way through the ranks are now attending training courses where they are asked to understand the troubles and crises they have to work in (Bosnia, Cyprus, Northern Ireland), and to make recommendations about how they might best police the situation. There is more to being a soldier nowadays than pointing a gun; you will need all your historians’ understanding of cause and consequence, and of how different people in different societies think and feel, so you will be able to react properly in a life or death situation.



      You cannot be an artist unless you have studied the History of Art. You cannot understand any painting unless you understand the civilisation which produced it. Also – particularly if you are asked to restore a particular painting – you will need a thorough knowledge of the techniques and materials of artists in the past. And to find out these essential things, you will need the historian’s ability to investigate and understand the past.



      This seems an unlikely job for an historian, but the Careers Information Database lists it as a job for which historians are well-suited.

            Historians are good at putting a huge muddle of facts into a proper order. They understand people. In the bustle and chaos of an auction ring, a confident historian will be able to sort out the muddle of people and bids, and to conduct affairs in good order.

            If you work at an auction house like Sotheby’s, through your hands will pass some of the most beautiful and valuable historical treasures in the world.


Author/ Journalist

      People usually think that English is the most important subject for this, but many historians end up as writers. History is applied literacy – historians use language to explain a case, or to debate a question, or to narrate a story. They have also studied propaganda, and know all the tricks to make their writing powerful and persuasive.

            CS Lewis, the writer of the children’s Christian Narnia Chronicles, and JRR Tolkein, author of the classic fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, were both historians of medieval literature at Oxford University. The famous comedian, author, traveller and TV personality Michael Palin studied History at Oxford University.



      Do you need History to serve drinks in a bar? It will help. A barperson needs to understand how people feel and react – the very thing that you learned in History. Have you studied the causes of wars? – maybe you can nip that fight in the bud. You will be able to chat to tourists who want to talk about the area as they have a drink. Few customers are brainless drunks; many will be thinking people who want to chat about the latest news. Only people who have studied history can properly understand current affairs, because every event is a product of its history.


Barrister/ Solicitor/ Lawyer

      To be a lawyer, a knowledge of the History of Law is a requirement. But more important still will be the ability you learned in History to argue a case – to assemble the relevant facts and ideas, to organise them into a logical argument, and to present and explain them. It was the Ancient Greeks who invented the lawyer’s question: ‘What if?’ and historians’ ability to defer judgement while they investigate ideas and facts is essential in a courtroom. At the same time, you are working with people, and the understanding of motivation, attitudes and feelings that you learned in History will help you win your courtroom battles.


Beautician/ Hairdresser

      Do you need History to be a hairdresser? It will help. Hairdressers have to chat to people as they work. They are ‘people-engineers’, and they will find very useful the knowledge about how people think and feel that they learned in their History lessons. Hair salons are wonderful places for gossip, and all your customers will want to hear about the scandals of the past. Most of them will want to chat about the historical drama they watched on the telly last night, and they’ll all be interested when you can tell them what the programme got wrong!


Blacksmith/ Baker/ Potter/ Mason/ Wheelwright (Traditional Crafts Demonstrator)

      There is an increasing call nowadays in the Leisure industry for traditional crafts workers who give demonstrations/ displays at heritage centres such as Beamish Museum. These workers do not just do the craft work, they explain it in its historical context. They have to know the history of the period they are demonstrating in great depth, to be able to be interesting and informative, and to answer questions that the tourists ask.


Bookseller/ Librarian

      History books and historical fiction make up a huge proportion of the book market. You will also be asked to find out hundreds of weird and wonderful questions – you will need a good general knowledge (including the whole range of History), and the research skills you learned in your History lessons. Library work is another of those ‘people jobs’, in which you will be greatly helped by the understanding you gained in History about how people think and feel.


Brewery Worker/ Distiller

      Wine, spirits and beer-making are highly skilled jobs where the workers have to be experts. They are often people who have researched into the history of their craft and know everything about it since the times of the Egyptians! In addition, more and more breweries and distilleries are opening up to the public, and you may at any time be required to show visitors round the works. To find out these things, you will need the historians’ ability to investigate and understand the past.


Buyer/ Purchasing Officer

      A ‘Buyer’ buys in the products which retail stores sell in their shops. You will need to understand the world of commerce, but your historians’ understanding of past civilisations will help you to understand and analyse the society of today. Purchasing never stands still; people’s tastes change all the time, and a buyer has to try to buy the things people will want tomorrow. In History, you study how society changes, and why it changes, and these skills will help you to forecast people’s wants.


Cabinet-maker/ French Polisher/ Art Restorer/ Watch and Clock Repairer

      History is mainly about ‘thinking’ and ‘writing’, but there are some jobs which need a practical knowledge of the processes and methods that craftsmen used in the past.

            To be an art restorer, for instance, you will need encyclopaedic knowledge of the materials and techniques used by artists in the past.


Care Assistant

      You will be working with old people – so you ought to know about the world in which they grew up. Different parts of the brain die at different rates; old people often cannot remember what happened this morning, but they can – with a little prompting – talk for hours about their youth. Carers working with geriatrics/ Alzheimer’s sufferers etc., often take a set of old photographs, which they use to stimulate conversation. Here, also, is a situation where your historians’ interview skills will be invaluable.


Chancellor of the Exchequer

      This is not quite as silly as it seems. The Chancellor of the Exchequer – Gordon Brown – is a History graduate! Historians are good at analysing information and looking for significant statistics. They are open-minded, independent thinkers who are good at problem-solving.

            Perhaps you won’t be Chancellor of the Exchequer, but you could become an Economist/ Financial Adviser. Finance is a popular career choice for History graduates.


Childminder/ Mother/ Nursery Nurse

      How a child is treated in the first four years of its life determines how intelligent it is for the rest of it. Small children are always asking the two historians’ questions – ‘How?’ and ‘Why’ – and an historian mother will be able to answer their questions properly. ‘Because I say so’ is not a good enough answer to those ‘Why must I . . . ?’ questions; your training in History lessons always to explain your answers will help you to reason with your children (instead of smacking them). When you go on holiday, you will be able to point out and explain all the things you go to see; and at bedtime, won’t you be able to tell them some wonderful stories!


Civil Service/ Local Government Officer

      Many History graduates go to work for the government. Good government is about knowing people – how they think and feel, and what they want and will do. Historians have studied how people react in different situations, and this fits them well for responsible jobs in the civil service and local government.


Computer Programmer/ Analyst

      Big computer companies have recently started employing History graduates, because they have found that their historians’ training in logical thinking and problem-solving suits them perfectly to track down and solve hardware and software problems in the computer industry.

                The greatest problem now facing computer-using firms is the predicted meltdown in the year 2000, which will cause millions of computers to crash all over the world; how interesting it is that historians should be at the forefront of the work to stop a dates-disaster!


Courier/ Tourist Guide/ Travel Agent

      As an historian, you will be able to present information in an attractive and clear way. An understanding of History is vital for a tour guide, for it will be your job to explain the places and events you are visiting, and you can only do that properly if you know their history. The more you know, the more interesting and informative you will be.


Customer Service Agent/ Receptionist/ Complaints

      Your historians’ skills of argument will help to placate the angriest customer, and your historians’ understanding of people will help you to deal with them appropriately. Also, as an historian, you will have been used to sorting and analysing vast amounts of information; now you will be well-equipped to sort through all the records for the information you need to help this important customer.



      Most dancers have a limited career as dancers – what will you do when you are injured, or too old to dance? You will want to go into teaching dance, or choreography.

            The History of Dance is fascinating, and a knowledge of it will be essential in both these jobs. A thorough knowledge of history will be essential if you are asked to choreograph a period piece or historical musical. History may also provide you with the subject matter for some of the dances you direct.

            Every dancer is an historian at heart; what is dance but a series of steps through time to communicate a story?



      My dentist and I recently had a long talk about pain-killers; he had just written a detailed account of anaesthetics, and was amazed to realise that I knew things about their history that he didn’t.

            Dentistry has a long and bloody history, going back to the beginnings of civilisation; the mummy of one of the Pharaohs shows us that he died from an abscess! And when historians discover an old skeleton, they take it to forensic dentists to find out the age at death – from a study of its teeth.

            As a dentist, as we all know too well from our own experience, you will need your historian’s understanding of people to help you deal with patients who will be scared and in pain.


Designer/ Graphic Designer/ Draughtsman

      ‘What has this to do with History?’ you may ask – ‘I want to design things for the future!’ But how can you re-design things for the future, unless you have studied what was wrong in the designs of the past? And what about those clients who want your design to have an historical ‘feel’ to it – a medieval design for Strongbow cider, or a Napoleonic motif for Scottish Widows, for instance?


Diplomatic Service

      For years, many History graduates left university and went into the Diplomatic Service. They had to have deep knowledge about international affairs. They had to know intimately about the culture and attitudes of other countries. They had to be able to analyse political situations, to understand causes and possible consequences, attitudes and motivations. And it was taken for granted that a History degree was the best training for this job.

            It wasn’t easy to get into the Diplomatic Service. But History trains the mind in logic and deduction, and this helped graduates to pass the exacting tests they were required to take.


Display Dresser/ Visual Merchandiser

      We have come a long way from the days of the ‘window dresser’, who set up a pretty scene in the shop window. Nowadays, many display designs are created at head office. Researchers conduct surveys of how people react to various themes and images. Then a team of designers creates an idea which will have just the right psychological impact to attract people into the shop. Your historians’ skills of research, analysis and presentation of results, together with your deep historians’ understanding of how people react, will make you perfect for this job.


Doctor/ Nurse/ Paramedic/ Ambulance Person

      A key principle of diagnosis is to understand the Natural History of the illness, and your historians’ skills of investigating and analysing conflicting information, to sort out the important from the irrelevant, will be essential. The understanding of people you learned in your History lessons will help you deal with patients who will be scared, worried and in pain. And, as a doctor, you will take an oath to treat your patients properly which dates from the time of Ancient Greece.


Dressmaker/ Fashion Designer

      The history of fashion is one of the most interesting topics of History. It will provide a vast bank of ideas when you come to create your costumes. And you will be able to design truly appropriate dresses for the client who is attending the opening of Parliament, or giving a party in the ancestral home. Like everything else, the best designs grow out of the past, and draw inspiration from it.


Economic Development Officer

      Your first task will be to do a survey of existing industry; so you will need to understand the economic history of the region. You will need to know the historic skills of the workforce, and to analyse the area’s advantages for industry.

            Then you will need all your historian’s ‘people skills’ to convince businessmen from different countries, backgrounds and cultures (all of which you will be able to understand) that YOUR area is the place they want to set up business. A History degree, particularly in Economic History, will be very useful.


Education Welfare Officer/ Field Social Worker

      Education became compulsory in 1870, but certain areas and certain classes have never understood the importance of education, and the British lag behind most European countries in their attitude to education. Understanding how these attitudes developed in history will be important if you are to overcome these deep-rooted societal attitudes and get the children into school.

            In particular, you will find yourself investigating the history of individual families and children to see if you can understand why they are doing what they are doing. A History degree would be most useful for these tasks!


Employment Agency/ Careers Officer

      What do historians do? They investigate about a person’s character and abilities, find out the facts, and then piece everything together to try to suggest what that person did. How similar this is to the work of a good Careers Officer, who finds out about your character and abilities, then investigates the job opportunities available, and then tries to suggest what might be best for you to do. Both jobs require an understanding of people and an ability to do the paperwork.


Entertainments Manager/ Entertainer/ Comedian

      In the TV series Hi-de-Hi, the incompetant Maplins Entertainments Officer, Jeffrey Fairbrother, had an Archaeology degree. If he had had a History degree, perhaps he would have been better at the job! Where Jeffrey Fairbrother couldn’t cope with the programme, or relate to the coarseness of camp life, an historian would have been trained to understand people from different classes and cultures; and he would have been used to organising schedules and presentations!

                Many entertainers – for example Billy Connolly – make their living by telling stories from their past, and Eddie Izzard’s recent show, Glorious, tells the story of history from the Creation to the end of the world! The comedian Ben Elton says: ‘I love British History, I read it a lot.’ These comedians have an historian’s ability to observe common feelings and actions – and then they make us laugh about them.


Environmental Health Officer

      Anybody who has studied the conditions in towns in the Industrial Revolution will realise just how IMPORTANT this job is! A lot of an Environmental Health Officer’s work involves the collection and analysis of scientific data, but your historians’ skills of handling and analysing information will help you do this well. And, in the meantime, you will need your historians’ understanding of people and society to explain to that man why he can’t leave that pile of manure on the pavement in front of his house.


Environmental Ranger/ Forest Ranger

      History is essential to the work of an Environmental Ranger.

            Great Aycliffe Town Council has just appointed an Environmental Ranger. He will have to do a habitat survey of the town, but first, he writes: ‘I intend to research the history of our area through maps and consultation with residents’ – he knows he can only restore the land to its natural state when he has done an historical investigation to find out what it used to be like.

            As he implements his plan, he will have to write reports and consult with local groups – tasks for which an historian’s skills of communicating and presenting things in writing would be very useful!


Estate Agent

      A thorough working knowledge of History is essential for this job. You will need to know enough History to describe everything from the type of brickwork to the style of the fireplace. History is a selling point, and you will need to talk to potential buyers about the age of the house, the history of the area and any other points of historical interest you can find. A good history will give a better price!


Farm Manager

      For most of history, people were farmers. Slowly, over the years, they developed new crops, crop rotations, fertilisers, selective breeding, machinery and buildings. Current best farm management practice is built upon millennia of history – and experimental farms preserve all the old crops and practices, just in case some disaster destroys all our modern farming strains and methods.

            A good farm manager learns as much about the history of his farm as about its current practices; he builds his plans for the future firmly on its history.


Floor Manager (TV and film)

      History is a MASS of facts. Historians have to be clear-thinking. They have to learn how to sort out the important from the unimportant and the urgent from the unnecessary. They have to be able to work out chronologies. They have to organise and deploy the relevant facts to meet the needs and deadlines of a presentation.

            TV floor managers have a MASS of information to sort out. They need to be able to concentrate on the important matters and ignore the irrelevant. They need to work out a timetable and work to deadlines. They need to handle people efficiently and gently.

            Historians would make excellent floor managers.



      ‘We wish you to create a flower display, appropriate to the place and the occasion.’ This will be your task as a florist – it isn’t just about shoving flowers in a vase! But what kind of flowers and display would be appropriate for:

•     a bi-centenary anniversary service in St Andrew’s church;

•     a miner’s golden wedding celebration in the Mechanics’ Institute;

•     a prize-giving at King Edward VI School;

•     a ‘medieval feast’ at the local castle?

      Unless you know your history, you won’t get very far as a florist.


Funeral Director

      Historians are not scared of death; they spend their life studying dead people!

            You will need all the understanding of people that your study of History has given you to comfort and deal with people who have been bereaved. And you will need all your understanding of different cultures and beliefs to cope with the different kinds of families and funerals you will have to look after.


Gardener/ Landscape gardener/ Horticultural Worker

      There was a time when this involved nothing more than a knowledge of flowers. No longer. Garden design has become a sophisticated skill, and landscape gardeners are studying old books and creating authentic historical landscapes such as medieval meadows and Victorian walled gardens.

            Gardening is a form of presentation; it takes it materials and arranges them to make a statement – in this, it is rather like a history essay, which arranges its facts to make a point. Plants grow, and a good gardener needs to plan a garden which will mature over time. These are subtle advantages, but a gardener who understands history will be a better gardener.



      This is another job recommended for historians in the Careers Information Database.

            Geology, of course, needs scientific and practical skills, but it also involves historians’ concepts such as chronology and development through time. History teaches you the ability to deduce, from incomplete evidence, how things developed – a skill which is essential for the geologist.



      We are learning to appreciate that modern civilisation has lost some of the skills and knowledge that enriched the lives of people in the past.

             Now, experts are trying to see if they can rediscover ‘the world we have lost’. As a herbalist, you will spend your time reading ancient and medieval Latin herbals, growing plants which are no longer used, researching historic methods and materials – and using your skills to help people who are ill or distressed (which is where your historian’s ‘people skills’ will be needed).


Mechanic/ Fitter/ Mechanical Engineer

      Your historians’ skills of asking and answering will help you find out the fault from the customer. A knowledge of how the particular machine or engine has developed through time will help you locate the problem. And your historians’ skills of analysing and testing will help you tweak that engine so that it’s purrfect!


Prince of Wales

      Well – not really! The job of Prince of Wales doesn’t need many new recruits, and the current holder doesn’t look like losing his position!

            But it is interesting that the Royal Family regard History as so important to do their job properly that both Prince Charles and Prince Edward studied History at university.


Therapist/ Psychiatrist/ Physiotherapist/ Osteopath

      Therapy is nine-tenths understanding the patient’s mind. You have to know who you are working with and how far you can push them. They will be scared, worried and in pain. Your historians’ understanding of people and their feelings will be essential for you to do the job properly.

            An understanding of the history of psychology – how we have developed our understanding of the human personality and how it works – is vital for all these jobs.


Written in c.1998 for Teaching History BUT - it is only fair to warn you - not published.




To cite this page, use:   CLARE, JOHN D. (1998/2006), 'History IS Important ... for getting a job',  at Greenfield History Site (