Guided by the exceptional array of dedicated teachers and scholars in McGill History, as a student of history you will learn how to sift evidence, to analyze arguments and to evaluate widely differing interpretations. As a budding historian you will develop and hone your writing skills, your powers of critical thought and your ability to present and defend your ideas verbally and on paper—all attributes that are in high demand in a wide range of professions and careers. Whether you graduate into the historical profession as a teacher or academic or move into other spheres, your historical skills will always prove to be invaluable.
Historians study the past, not because we are cobwebbed, backward-looking nostalgics, but because it is impossible even to begin to understand the present without the aid of historical analysis. How did capitalist societies develop? Why do inequalities of power, wealth, class, gender and race exist? How do we explain the creation of different forms of government across the globe? Of different legal systems and notions of property? Of varying concepts of family structure and ideas about sexuality? How do we account for the geopolitical divisions of the world, and the advent of nation states and empires?
As soon as we begin to ask the most basic questions about ourselves, our society and other people’s societies it becomes clear that we must turn to history in an attempt to explain where we are coming from and the patterns of change and continuity over time. Along with allied disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, the study of history is a window onto the full, glorious diversity of human experience. It teaches us a sense of humility—that this moment in the West is merely one way of organizing a society in one particular era, and that there is nothing special or inevitable about us. Historical study is an exercise in demystification, challenging prejudices and preconceptions—including our own. It enhances self-knowledge. It questions everything, overturning received wisdom, taking nothing as read or for granted. In that sense it is often radically unsettling and liberating. The study of history is fun, exhilarating and life-transforming. We invite you to make the most of everything that McGill History has to offer.