As one of the core disciplines of the liberal arts, history provides a classic mode of learning that has been around for more than 2,000 years. By studying the past, history majors learn to think rigorously and creatively, analyze problems carefully and completely, interpret complex events, write with clarity and precision, and organize and assess evidence. In short, they learn to read, write, and think!
Second, history is interesting. It deals with real people and events. Studying history provides access to the whole world – and not just to the past, but to the present that grew out of the past. It offers unlimited variety for selecting topics and pursuing personal interests. Everything has a history: nations, wars, ethnic groups, sexuality, music, food, even postage stamps. History is also visible everywhere: at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm; on television; in film; and in public debates (about school curriculum, about health care, even about the very principles upon which the United States was founded). One of the best reasons to major in history is because you enjoy it and can continue to enjoy it after you graduate. History combines the excitement of exploration and discovery with the sense of reward born of successfully confronting and making sense of complex and challenging problems.
Third, historical knowledge is important and historical ignorance is dangerous. As George Orwell famously wrote in 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” While it may not be true that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," as George Santayana observed, if we don't know where we’ve come from, we can't know who we are or where we should be going. There are numerous examples of historical ignorance or willful distortion of the past being closely linked to wars and catastrophic miscalculations. Ironically, studying history can also free us from its grip, which explains why many modern social movements demanding change – racial and ethnic minorities, women, gays and lesbians – have turned to history to find a usable past.