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Learn history with online courses and programs

Studying history teaches us about our past, helps us understand the present, and gives us insight into the future. Learn how significant events have shaped our world with online history courses delivered through edX.

Why learn history?

Learning history can be an enriching experience for many reasons. It allows learners to better understand the world around them and the people who have shaped it. When we explore the past, we gain insight into the cultural values, beliefs, and motivations that have formed societies over time. 

Beyond that, history has a profound impact on decision making in modern society. By understanding the repercussions of past decisions, we can use the lessons learned to make more informed decisions in the present. And, by examining historical trends and patterns, we can better anticipate and prepare for the future. History helps explain how and why certain policies, laws, and regulations were created and the  consequences of those choices, providing guidance for how to approach similar issues in the present. 

Learning history can also improve and refine critical thinking skills. Reviewing historical sources such as documents, photographs, artifacts, and oral histories allows us to form independent opinions and theories across disciplines.

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History course curriculum

From psychology to communication to law, history forms the foundation of practice and knowledge building in many professional fields. There are multiple ways to learn about our past. Some people opt for weeks-long courses, while others prefer to earn a degree in the subject.

When pursuing a degree in history, learners can take classes that cover a wide range of topics, spanning periods and regions. History courses that can be included in a curriculum include, but are not limited to:

  • World History: A broad overview of world history from ancient times to the present day. This history course covers major historical events, political movements, social changes, and technological advancements across the globe.

  • European History: An in-depth look at European history, from ancient Greece to modern-day Europe. This course explores topics such as the rise and fall of empires, art, literature, religion, and more.

  • American History: An examination of American history from pre-colonial times to the present. This history class will focus on key events, such as the founding of the United States, industrialization, and civil rights.

  • African History: A comprehensive overview of African history from early civilizations to current times. The course dives deep into such topics as colonization, civil wars, religious movements, and economics.

  • Ancient History: A snapshot of ancient history including the development of societies and cultures from the beginning of civilization to the fall of Rome. Topics may include art, literature, philosophy, and political systems, as well as the historical context in which these developed.

  • Medieval History: An exploration of the Middle Ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the rise of the Renaissance. Topics covered include feudalism, kings and queens, wars and battles, culture, and more.

  • Military History: An academic look at military tactics and strategies throughout history. This history course will examine the development of warfare overtime, from ancient times to the modern day.

  • Historical Literature: A study of culture and society throughout time using storytelling. Historical literature classes are designed to help learners understand how literature from different eras reflects the changing values and beliefs of its respective culture and people. Through reading, analyzing, and discussing historical texts, learners gain insight into the values, ideologies, and influences that shaped each time period.

  • Introduction to Historical Research: A foundational course covering the basics of conducting and presenting research in a historical context. Learners develop skills to locate and evaluate primary sources, form research questions, and craft historical arguments. They also learn how to present research results in both written and oral formats.

These are just a few examples of history courses. Everything that we learn about has some historical context that can be studied, so this general subject is rich with variety.

Explore jobs in history

History is an important subject that can open the door to a variety of careers. There are a number of jobs that require knowledge of history in order to perform optimally, including:

  • Historian: Historians study the past by researching and analyzing primary sources, like historical documents and artifacts, as well as secondary sources, like books and articles of other historians who came before them. Through their analysis, they help explain and interpret how events have shaped the present. 

  • Diplomat: Diplomats represent their countries on the global stage and act as mediators between governments. Professionals rely on a deep understanding of history, both domestically and internationally, to properly interpret complex political issues.

  • Teacher: History teachers have a thorough understanding of the subject which allows them to educate learners from a variety of backgrounds. They are able to interpret and explain the significance of historical events in a clear and engaging way.

  • Politician: Politicians draw from the lessons of history to create policies that will benefit the nation as a whole. History and political science are intrinsically linked, and help to sustain democratic institutions and advance public diplomacy.

  • Librarian: Librarians understand the historical contexts concerning a variety of topics, allowing them to help people locate the information they need. A background in history is useful when helping patrons find books, articles, and other sources.

  • Archivist: Archivists learn history so they can properly preserve and organize historical documents, artifacts, and photographs. Their work is essential for maintaining an accurate historical record.

  • Lawyer: Lawyers build a solid understanding of history by exploring precedents and other landmark moments in the legal world. This helps them build compelling cases for their clients and develop effective arguments in court.

  • Anthropologist: Anthropologists study the cultural and social behavior of human beings and their history. They need to learn history to better understand how cultures have evolved overtime and the impact they’ve had on today's societies.

How to start a career in history online

If you’re interested in pursuing one of the many history careers available, there are different learning options to consider. A bachelor’s degree in history is one option. Depending on the particular job you are interested in, you may need to pursue a master's degree as well. 

In addition to taking history classes, it may be useful to seek out supplementary courses in related fields. This may give you the well-rounded background that employers look for when hiring for specialized roles. For example, if you’re interested in a career involving archival work, you may consider taking classes related to library science, information systems, archival management, or historical preservation. If you have plans to work as a diplomat, you may choose to take classes in political science, international relations, or foreign policy. If your goal is to write about history, you may consider enrolling in journalism or creative writing classes.

With a combination of classes and experience, you can take the steps to prepare for your preferred position.

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