Understand the past, shape the future.
Understanding the past provides a compass that helps you navigate the present and shape the future. Regardless of geographic area or time period, studying history provides an unrivalled basis for making sense of an increasingly complex and unstable world.
The analytical and communication skills that history teaches are also keys for entry to a wide range of rewarding careers. Many of these – such as research, teaching, journalism, public policy, diplomacy, and the heritage and museum sectors – are also among those least likely to be overtaken by historical change themselves, in the form of automation or artificial intelligence.
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Why study History?
Above all, History investigates human societies across time and space – few things are more fascinating. Studying History is about questioning the past imaginatively. Historians take nothing for granted: they search behind the façade of the present to uncover multiple ‘truths’ about the past.
Yet History is also firmly grounded in the realities of daily life, and studying History helps prepare you for almost any conceivable career. In the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, it is more important than ever to understand human diversity and the complexity of social structures, and to understand why they change. Because of its broad-ranging nature, no discipline is better suited to this task than History.
The historian’s skills of research, analysis, synthesis and communication are also essential in the modern job market. History graduates work in a range of exciting fields that are as diverse as history itself.
All students are welcome to study history at Otago. No prior knowledge is needed – all you need is curiosity about the past. Even if you don’t choose it as a major, doing some history papers will help you understand the world, and complements virtually any other major.
You may be able to do part of your study overseas through the University’s extensive exchange programme or as a postgraduate student. Even if you do not, chances are that your degree in history will significantly enrich any travelling you do in later life.
Employers value History graduates for their ability to research, analyse and communicate. History graduates know how to deal with large amounts of information and sift out the essential. As well as becoming teachers and researchers, historians find jobs in areas ranging from journalism and public affairs to management and finance.
Examples of positions held by Otago history graduates include: Analyst, Wigram Capital Advisors; Diplomat, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Community Engagement Executive, Movember Foundation; History curator, Te Papa Tongarewa; Curator, Human History, Canterbury Museum; Digital Content Analyst, University of Canterbury; Historian, Waitangi Tribunal; Data Analyst, AgResearch; Event and Marketing Manager, Southland Chamber of Commerce; Social Media and Content Analyst, Bank of New Zealand; Freelance Book Publicist; Heritage Advisor, Heritage New Zealand, etc.
Work experience in the professional environment will help you stand out from the crowd in a competitive employment market. The History Programme offers a range of internships at many of Dunedin’s most interesting local institutions. These papers are known as HUMS 301 and HUMS 401 and entry to them is competitive.
History at Otago
Consistently ranking among the top 100 departments worldwide, at Otago you will be taught by lecturers who are at the forefront of their research fields internationally. We are very committed to our students and are well-loved for the high levels of support we provide. We put a great deal of effort into preparing students for their working lives after university, and regularly offer career- oriented talks and social gatherings.
Add to this the historically rich city of Dunedin, boasting an unparalleled range of museums, archives, libraries and other cultural facilities, all in one compact, accessible, affordable, and extremely attractive city – and you can see why History at Otago is an unbeatable combination.
The Programme includes over 30 courses at the undergraduate level, covering diverse geographical regions and historical themes. At first-year level, the Programme offers broad courses which serve as an introduction to more specialised study at higher levels.
Possible areas of focus include:
- New Zealand, Māori and Pacific history
- European history (including Italy, Germany and Russia)
- British, Scottish and Irish history
- Asian history (especially Japan and China)
We also offer thematic papers in the following areas:
- indigenous history
- migration and the movement of peoples
- social history
- political history, including revolutions
- intellectual and cultural history
- patriotism, nationalism and war
- crime and punishment
- imperial and colonial history
- historical method (including comparative history and historiography)
- history of science
- religious history
Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom)
- Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc)
- Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons))
- Diploma for Graduates (DipGrad)
- Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts)
- Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework))
- Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis))
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in History
Two 100-level HIST papers
Three 200-level HIST papers
CHIN 244 Writing China: Texts, Ideas and History, CHTH 206, The Reformation, ENVI 211 Environmental History of New Zealand, or MAOR 207 Ngā Kōrero Nehe - Tribal Histories, may be substituted for one 200-level HIST paper.
Four 300-level HIST papers
198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.
Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts
Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)) in History
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in History
The Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) programme in History is the same as the programme for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)).
Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework)) in History
Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) in History
Note: Students who have not completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA(Hons)) in History or a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in History must complete the required papers for the BA(Hons) in History prior to undertaking the thesis.
Minor subject requirements
History as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree
Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree
|100-level||Two 100-level HIST papers||36|
|200-level||Two 200-level HIST papers||36|
|300-level||One 300-level HIST paper||18|
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website