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infosheethistory-226pxUnderstand the past, shape the future

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Why study History?

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 very human 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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History at Otago

The Department teaches over forty courses at the undergraduate level, covering diverse geographical regions and historical themes.

At first-year level the Department offers broad courses which serve as an introduction to more specialised study at higher levels.

Possible areas of focus include:

  • New Zealand and Māori and Pacific history
  • European history (including Italy, Germany and Russia)
  • British, Scottish and Irish history
  • Asian history (especially India and China)

We also offer thematic papers in the following areas:

  • indigenous history
  • migration and the movement of peoples
  • social history
  • environmental history
  • political, intellectual and cultural history
  •  history of gender and sexuality
  • imperial and colonial history
  • medical history
  • historical method (including comparative history and historiography)

The Department also offers a programme in Art History and Visual Culture. History students are welcome to include Art History and Visual Culture papers in their degree.

See detailed information about History papers.

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Background required

All students are welcome to study history at Otago. No prior knowledge is needed – all you need is curiosity about the past.

Career Opportunities

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 High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa; 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.

Student Exchange

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, the chances are that your degree in history will significantly enrich any travelling you do in later life.