If you are interested in pursuing a degree or finding a job in the field of history, everything you need is here. Find the best schools, career information, history of the discipline, influential people in the field, great books, and more.
What is history?
History is an interdisciplinary field that brings together various areas of academic inquiry such as literature, archeology, political science, and philosophy to provide a better understanding of how the events in our past have shaped present-day realities. In addition to providing a narrative window into human history, the history serves as a pathway into understanding the evolution of scientific inquiry, the emergence of important philosophical movements, breakthroughs in civic governance and so much more. History is an encompassing field that can lead to a wide range of careers in education, law, civics, public service, and much more.
The Best Colleges and Universities for History Degrees
Best History Major Research Universities
- Harvard University
- Yale University
- Columbia University
- Stanford University
- Princeton University
Best History Major Liberal Arts Colleges
- Williams College
- Swarthmore College
- Amherst College
- Wesleyan University
- Pomona College
Best History Major Online Colleges
- University of Arizona
- University of Memphis
- University of Central Florida
- University of Nebraska–Lincoln
- University of Idaho
The Best Online History Degrees
A large number of fully accredited colleges and universities offer excellent online degrees in history at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels. Read on for a look at our growing list of best online history degrees.
Still not sure? We have a comprehensive resource that can help you to identify what to study in college. Our guide is a round-up of some of the most popular college majors and programs.
What will I study as a history major?
Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a history major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Eastern Civilization and American History. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses that most interest you. As a history major, you’ll have the chance to build a course of education around the periods, places, and topics that most interest you. Common history courses include: State, Society and the Individual in the Non-western World; Rome to Renaissance: Introduction to the Middle Ages; Conflict and Identity in Modern Europe; Ancient Greek History; Intro to East Asian Civilization; Early Russian History; Political History of Contemporary Africa; Colonial Cities of the Americas, and more.
What can I do with a degree in history?
History majors not only qualify for highly specialized roles in education, publishing and academia, but majoring in history will provide you with a number of valuable workplace skills. As such, history majors will qualify to work as Postsecondary History Teachers; Historians; Archivists, Curators, Museum Workers, News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists; and more.
How To Get a Degree in History
Who are the top history influencers of all time?
The following are the top history influencers in history (1200-2020) according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.
- Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary, whose 1848 pamphlet The Communist Manifesto and the three-volume Das Kapital had enormous influence on subsequent intellectual, economic and political history.
- David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, librarian and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism.
- Leon Trotsky was a Ukrainian-Russian Marxist revolutionary, political theorist and politician who developed a variant of Marxism which has become known as Trotskyism.
- Edward Gibbon was an English historian, writer, and Member of Parliament whose most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire—published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788—is known for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its polemical criticism of organised religion.
- Max Weber was a German sociologist, historian, jurist, and political economist, whose ideas profoundly influenced social theory and research, and who though recognized as one of the fathers of sociology along with Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim, generally saw himself as a historian.
- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German mathematician, philosopher, scientist, and diplomat, as well as a prominent figure in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathematics,.
- C. S. Lewis was a British writer and lay theologian who held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University and Cambridge University, and is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.
- Ibn Khaldun was an Arab sociologist, philosopher and historian who has been described as the precursive founder of the proto-disciplines that would become historiography, sociology, economics, and demography.
- Eric Hobsbawm was a British historian who studied the rise of industrial capitalism, socialism and nationalism and whose life-long identification as a Marxist influenced the character of his work, including his most noted text, The Age of Extremes.
- J. R. R. Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, best known as the author of the high fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but who also served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford from 1925 to 1945 and the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford from 1945 to 1959.
Now that you have a bird’s eye view of some of the most influential historians of all time, explore these pioneers and others in more depth.
Who are the top historians today?
The following are the top historians in the field today according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.
- David Christian formed the field of study called Big History by integrating his research of human history with astronomy, anthropology, biology, and cosmology, and created the Bill Gates-funded Big History Project, which teaches high school students throughout the United States and Australia to examine human history through an anthropological and biological lens.
- Yuval Noah Harari ’s early works focused on the role of military engagement in human history, but he is best known for his more recent works, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, which explore all of human history through a macro-historical lens.
- Niall Ferguson has taught at institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, from Jesus College in Oxford to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as having authored several books and produced numerous documentaries including the Emmy-winning The Ascent of Money in 2009.
- Simon Schama is currently a Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University and a prolific author of nearly 20 books, but he is best known as the host of a BBC series titled, “A History of Britain,” which aired from 2000 to 2002.
- Timothy D. Snyder ’s research has focused on the history of Eastern Europe, a study for which he was uniquely suited due to his ability to read and/or speak eleven different European languages, including German, Slovak and Russian.
- Henry Reynolds has studied the history of violence against Aboriginal Australian peoples and has been honored with the Ernest Scott Historical Prize, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Arts Award, and an Australian Book Council Award.
- Anthony Grafton has focused his scholarship on the study of history from the classical era to the Renaissance, taking a unique approach not just to the study of chronological history, but also the study of how history has been recorded and understood.
- Marnie Hughes-Warrington spent her early academic career teaching and has taught at institutions such as the University of Oxford, Macquarie University, University of Washington, Leipzig University and Harvard University and has also held a number of academic leadership roles, serving as the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Learning and Teaching for Monash University and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academics for Australian National University.
- Eric Foner is known as an expert in the study of the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, and is recognized for his widely acclaimed writing, most notably The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, which won the Lincoln Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for history.
- Dipesh Chakrabarty has made substantial contributions to postcolonial theory and subaltern studies, focusing on intersections between history, colonialism, postcolonialism, historicism and nationalism.
Interviews with Top Thinkers in History
- Dr. Dipesh Chakrabarty discusses changing majors and using science to help understand history in our interview, What can science and history tell us about the other?
- Dr. Dipesh Chakrabarty discusses the role of historians in demolishing historical myths and applying history to climate change in our interview, How historians demolish myths and create new ways to think.
- Dr. Niall Ferguson discusses the historic and financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in our interview, How to Think About the Pandemic Historically and Financially.
- Dr. Eric Foner discusses the evolution of the Republican Party, voter suppression, and civil wars in our interview, How American History and Politics Converge.
- Dr. Eric Foner discusses the forgotten figures of history, growing up during the Civil Rights movement, and the need for more diverse and accurate history textbooks in our interview, How Have History Classes Changes?.
- Dr. Henry Reynolds discusses how the past informs the present as well as the synergy of narrative and history in our interview, How Storytelling Brings History to Life.
Great Books About History
The following are the most influential books in the field of history today according to our backstage Ranking Analytics tool, which calculates the influence of various sources in both academics and popular culture using a numerical scoring of citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.
- Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Tan and Sima Qian , known as The Shiji in Chinese, is the earliest known historical narrative of ancient Chinese civilization and was composed by Sima Qian in the second half of the first century BC on the basis of research carried out by his father, Sima Tan, indexing a detailed account of the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) and the early part of the Han.
- The Life of Falvius Josephus by Josephus is an autobiography written by a very important Jewish historian of the early Roman empire, Titus Flavius Josephus (c. 30–c. 100 AD), who was born in Jerusalem into a priestly Jewish family and fought against the Romans in the early stages of the Jewish War (66–73 AD) before going over to the Roman side led by the general and future emperor Vespasian and earning status as a trusted aide of Vespasian’s son (and future-emperor in his own right), Titus.
- The Secret History of the Mongols: The Origin of Chinghis Khan is an anonymous text that traces the ancestry and career of Genghis Khan (c. 1158–1227), the founder of the Mongol Empire, which at its greatest extent stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the edge of Europe.
- The Oxford History of the British Empire is a state-of-the-art collection of essays, in three volumes, detailing the manifold ways in which England became one of the world’s foremost naval powers, allowing it to mount voyages of exploration, to establish trade relations, and ultimately to plant colonial administrations and/or settler states in foreign lands all around the globe.
- The Alexandrian War is an anonymous Latin account of this major episode in the Roman civil war, and details the famous moment when popular military leader Julius Caesar “crossed the rubicon” by marching his legions into Rome to face down the Roman Senate.
- The Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus is a vast history of the Jewish people in 20 volumes written by the Hellenized and Romanized Jewish author known as Titus Flavius Josephus.
- The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History by Ibn Khaldun is a world history in outline, but with a methodological emphasis on the social, economic, and demographic aspects of the peoples and empires it discussed.
- The Jewish War by Josephus is the author’s account in seven books of the struggles of the Jews against the Romans from the Maccabean Revolt (167–160 BC) to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD and the dramatic siege of Masada in 74.
- A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich is an effort to convey the basic facts of world history to an audience of young readers in a sprightly and accessible manner, emphasizing the most personal and colorful aspects of the places and time periods covered in his book, which provided a full sweep of world history from prehistoric times to the twentieth century.
- The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson is considered by many to be one of the last century’s outstanding contributions to historiography and details the social, economic, and intellectual developments over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which ultimately led to the formation of a self-conscious working class in England.
History Controversial Topics
World history is inevitably formed by conflicts both historical and ongoing as nations have battled one another and people have struggled for basic freedoms in their own countries. These conflicts inform many of the controversial topics that we still grapple with today. Read on for a look at some of the top controversies connected to the history discipline.
Feature Topics in History
History is a dynamic field shaped by numerous overlapping disciplines including literature, philosophy, psychology, and more. The features below focus on many of the ideas, influencers, and events from these intersecting disciplines which have shaped the history of the world.
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