by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jacob Bruggeman writes for the Martin Center about the continuing value of a history major in college.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, the history field has seen a precipitous decline in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in American colleges. As Benjamin Schmidt, a historian at Northeastern University, reported in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives, the number of history degrees awarded fell by 30 percent—from 34,642 to 24,266 in just nine years from 2008 to 2017.
History’s steep decline is not an anomaly, but part and parcel of a broader “crisis” in the humanities. STEM has steamrolled these disciplines on college campuses: Computer science has more than doubled its students between 2013 and 2017. Moreover, critics have made punching bags out of history, humanities, and social sciences writ large.
However, from the perspective of a freshly minted history graduate like myself, history departments are uniquely inspiring homes for an undergraduate education.
Indeed, history as a discipline is constantly engaging with the public, critiquing itself, and evolving through contemporary debate. Just as important, majoring in history prepares students for fulfilling and financially rewarding careers.
I studied history and political science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and am continuing my studies in history at the University of Cambridge. Had you told me five years ago that today I would be preparing for a career as a professional historian, I would have burst into laughter. It was only after the first session of my first class at Miami—“The History of the Graphic Novel”—that I decided to lean into my interest in history as a major.
I then discovered a department full of passionate professors dedicated to teaching and presenting historical topics in innovative ways.