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My experience of studying History
History in general
Member Name: jennikitten
History in general
Date: 15/12/09, updated on 15/12/09 (41 review reads)
Disadvantages: Could make more of it than they do
Having studied both GCSE and A level History, my review is mainly going to be based on how history is taught in schools and sixth form colleges.
As much as I love History, it's not my favourite subject, and I think for a lot of people it depends on how good your teacher is to a large extent. Though schools teach history from a variety of different eras and countries, I think the same subjects are repeated over and over again, for example Nazi Germany. Which in itself is of course fascinating, but by the fourth time you've studied it, there are only so many new things to discover, and it becomes more comparison-based rather than information-based. Another repeated topic is English monarchs, quite common at younger ages such as example primary school - a shame because it ends up being a very diluted version of events!
I was quite lucky because my school chose a rather obscure syllabus, which meant that we studied things like slavery and America in addition to the more typical topics. This continued through to GCSE level, where we studied 'Medicine Through Time'. This was an absolutely massive area (obviously), covering everything from the Greeks and ancient Chinese medicine right through to the NHS, which was really interesting. At college, we studied things like the unification of Italy and the Spanish civil war alongside the typical Nazi Germany, which was interesting for a more developed view of Europe. However, I still think that there's a lot of scope to cover much boarder and uncommon areas, for example rich Asian and South American cultures and even more modern history relating to Australia and New Zealand.
Lots of history study courses are essay-based, although you do get the occasional exam which relies on you knowing extensive background knowledge. Memorising dates isn't as important as it used to be in some respects; however you're expected to apply detailed knowledge to your essay. So learning dates is needed for that, but you can often blag your way out of it by writing around it if necessary! More advanced history courses teach things like Historiography, and comparing historians' views becomes more of a focus as you go on (in my experience). Because of this, some courses and areas can become quite dry, which is a shame because history can be such a fascinating thing. But it is important to make that transition from being spoon fed information to constructing arguments and coming up with your own views, which I think needs to be encouraged more from an earlier stage.
I still find History very interesting, but in terms of formal study and courses, I was right to stop at A level, and I now prefer to dip in and out of historical books about things I'm particularly interested in (both fiction and non-fiction), and experience more hands-on history through visiting sites and museums. A couple of years back I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and that held my interest and had much more meaning for me than any book or exam.
Summary: Great, but still room for improvement
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