Is English or History a more valuable degree? Watch

Confused12341
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Hello everyone

I'm looking at university courses courses now and I'm stuck between English and History. I feel both are quite similar and both develop analytical skills and so on, however feel both areas are too broad to study together. So, is one more valuable than the other?

Thanks for any tips or advice you may have!
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Forumfinder
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I've done English at A-level and it's the most popular subject. I think you will use English every day in the work place, like in emails or to use formal language in meetings in the future. History is useful if you want to be an archaeologist or something like that. Although if you wanted to be a teacher either are good. What would you like to do as a career? That might be helpful.
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Confused12341
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(Original post by Forumfinder)
I've done English at A-level and it's the most popular subject. I think you will use English every day in the work place, like in emails or to use formal language in meetings in the future. History is useful if you want to be an archaeologist or something like that. Although if you wanted to be a teacher either are good. What would you like to do as a career? That might be helpful.
I understand what you mean about using English everyday, but History is still a writing subject so will still develop my English language! It is English Literature that I would study!

Employability is the thing- I'm not too sure what I want to do yet. I find publishing interesting, or documentary making, but then I'm thinking maybe law as well?
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roh
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(Original post by Confused12341)
Hello everyone

I'm looking at university courses courses now and I'm stuck between English and History. I feel both are quite similar and both develop analytical skills and so on, however feel both areas are too broad to study together. So, is one more valuable than the other?

Thanks for any tips or advice you may have!
Joint degree?
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hobbit_
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It's worth considering that at the moment, certainly in most of the top UK universities, the dominant methodology for looking at texts is a very contextualist one (historicist). This means that the criticism you'll read will often be very historical in its nature -- very cultural. In studies like these, texts will be considered as part of a network of cultural practices, inseparable from the time and place in which it was produced. Some of these studies read like some of the older history books.

Thinking about English, it is also worth considering that a wide variety of theoretical frameworks are invited when doing assessments. These include ones drawn from psychology, philosophy, sociology, political theory, and so on. While some people may lament the invasion of English by the social sciences and history, it does mean that for students wavering between English and History (as conceived by A-Level subjects), studying English will invite more opportunity for historical and archival study than History will invite recourse to fiction, poetry, and drama, for instance.

Hope that helps, anyhow.

P.S. -- about employability: I shouldn't worry too much about the vague discrepancies between History and English. Any employer who is good for anything will know that English requires a great deal of research skills and analytic ability. It requires you to pay attention to language, and, as I have indicated above, to view culture and society more broadly as textual, paying attention to the way language is used politically and socially. It's very useful, I think .
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Confused12341
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(Original post by hobbit_)
It's worth considering that at the moment, certainly in most of the top UK universities, the dominant methodology for looking at texts is a very contextualist one (historicist). This means that the criticism you'll read will often be very historical in its nature -- very cultural. In studies like these, texts will be considered as part of a network of cultural practices, inseparable from the time and place in which it was produced. Some of these studies read like some of the older history books.

Thinking about English, it is also worth considering that a wide variety of theoretical frameworks are invited when doing assessments. These include ones drawn from psychology, philosophy, sociology, political theory, and so on. While some people may lament the invasion of English by the social sciences and history, it does mean that for students wavering between English and History (as conceived by A-Level subjects), studying English will invite more opportunity for historical and archival study than History will invite recourse to fiction, poetry, and drama, for instance.

Hope that helps, anyhow.

P.S. -- about employability: I shouldn't worry too much about the vague discrepancies between History and English. Any employer who is good for anything will know that English requires a great deal of research skills and analytic ability. It requires you to pay attention to language, and, as I have indicated above, to view culture and society more broadly as textual, paying attention to the way language is used politically and socially. It's very useful, I think .
Ohhhh, convincing argument, haha! Do you study Engliah?

i agree with all that you have said there, but would History not be a more varied degree? Obviously there is a very wide range of literature, but history can be found in anything!

I don't know, I can't decide what interests me more! I think I'm more fussy with literature than History... I don't know, I'm finding it such a hard decision, haha!
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hobbit_
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(Original post by Confused12341)
Ohhhh, convincing argument, haha! Do you study Engliah?

i agree with all that you have said there, but would History not be a more varied degree? Obviously there is a very wide range of literature, but history can be found in anything!

I don't know, I can't decide what interests me more! I think I'm more fussy with literature than History... I don't know, I'm finding it such a hard decision, haha!
Hehe, well I can speak from many different camps. My BA was in History and Sociology (Exeter), but I did modules in Theology, Politics, and Philosophy as well. To be honest, I found the History rather dull. The modules just didn't interest me that much, and I found that I didn't write very good History essays. I should have done English at university, but in my AS/A2 year I was put off by the image of English, and was just very insecure at that time. I was also frustrated by some of my A-Level teaching, in which, despite my teacher's best efforts, I could never, as Katherine Mansfield said of D.H. Lawrence (twisting Shakespeare), 'see sex in trees, sex in the running brooks, sex in stones and sex in everything'. I could already see some critical malpractice, and it just scared me off. I was quite socially conscious, and wanted to do something which tackled the world around me head on, so I thought. So I chose History and Sociology.

I loved the Sociology (except Social Research Methods -- bleughh!!), and that has really helped me now that I am an English person (I did my MA in English).

But be careful of the History modules in places you look at -- some of them will be terribly niche, and rather boring. The one module I did enjoy was one called Culture Class and Gender, 1850-1970, by Joseph Melling, But already I was interested in Victorian literature, and so my leanings brought me there.

I think the thing with literature is, is that you have to be interested in it to some degree as an art form. Treating novels and poems as historical documents impoverishes the experience and the uniqueness of studying an art. But equally, I think it's really important in English, for your own sanity, to cultivate for yourself a thoroughly independent and critical attitude to contemporary orthodoxies in critical practice. Seriously, there is some weird and frankly dead boring stuff being researched and talked about, and some of this will filter into the teaching. Don't be afraid to draw from older ways of looking at texts (i.e. perhaps taking a more humanist angle -- looking at the 'human' element -- the relationships depicted, and so on). There are feelings abroad the academic world in some quarters that the invasion of History into English hasn't been as beneficial and liberating as they originally thought it might (just for your info, the 'turn to History' happened really in the late 1970s early 1980s as a reaction to focus on the text in the form of close reading (the way they encourage you to read texts at A-Level)).

Anyhoo, the thing is to go into English with a reverence for the texts you're going to encounter, and not afraid to treat them as works of art designed to throw some light on the age old question of 'how to live/what to do'. Because unfortunately many English academics have so wrecked the discipline that students would be surprised if they were told that this was actually possible.

True, in History anything can be discovered! Hehe, a friend of a friend was doing their PhD at Exeter on masturbation in the First World War :eek:. But it can get rather esoteric.

I think it's important to remember too that History and English, in their fundamentals, are two different ways of thinking. If you care about chronology, time and space, and causes and judgment and analysis of perspective, then History is more suited to you. These things of course are useful in English, but I find in English you can be more creative in your responses and in your written work. You can analyse one work, or masses -- a theme, or piece of theory. I scored much higher in my MA work than I did in my History BA work because of this ability to be more creative in my assessments.

Hope some of that is useful!
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Confused12341
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(Original post by hobbit_)
Hehe, well I can speak from many different camps. My BA was in History and Sociology (Exeter), but I did modules in Theology, Politics, and Philosophy as well. To be honest, I found the History rather dull. The modules just didn't interest me that much, and I found that I didn't write very good History essays. I should have done English at university, but in my AS/A2 year I was put off by the image of English, and was just very insecure at that time. I was also frustrated by some of my A-Level teaching, in which, despite my teacher's best efforts, I could never, as Katherine Mansfield said of D.H. Lawrence (twisting Shakespeare), 'see sex in trees, sex in the running brooks, sex in stones and sex in everything'. I could already see some critical malpractice, and it just scared me off. I was quite socially conscious, and wanted to do something which tackled the world around me head on, so I thought. So I chose History and Sociology.

I loved the Sociology (except Social Research Methods -- bleughh!!), and that has really helped me now that I am an English person (I did my MA in English).

But be careful of the History modules in places you look at -- some of them will be terribly niche, and rather boring. The one module I did enjoy was one called Culture Class and Gender, 1850-1970, by Joseph Melling, But already I was interested in Victorian literature, and so my leanings brought me there.

I think the thing with literature is, is that you have to be interested in it to some degree as an art form. Treating novels and poems as historical documents impoverishes the experience and the uniqueness of studying an art. But equally, I think it's really important in English, for your own sanity, to cultivate for yourself a thoroughly independent and critical attitude to contemporary orthodoxies in critical practice. Seriously, there is some weird and frankly dead boring stuff being researched and talked about, and some of this will filter into the teaching. Don't be afraid to draw from older ways of looking at texts (i.e. perhaps taking a more humanist angle -- looking at the 'human' element -- the relationships depicted, and so on). There are feelings abroad the academic world in some quarters that the invasion of History into English hasn't been as beneficial and liberating as they originally thought it might (just for your info, the 'turn to History' happened really in the late 1970s early 1980s as a reaction to focus on the text in the form of close reading (the way they encourage you to read texts at A-Level)).

Anyhoo, the thing is to go into English with a reverence for the texts you're going to encounter, and not afraid to treat them as works of art designed to throw some light on the age old question of 'how to live/what to do'. Because unfortunately many English academics have so wrecked the discipline that students would be surprised if they were told that this was actually possible.

True, in History anything can be discovered! Hehe, a friend of a friend was doing their PhD at Exeter on masturbation in the First World War :eek:. But it can get rather esoteric.

I think it's important to remember too that History and English, in their fundamentals, are two different ways of thinking. If you care about chronology, time and space, and causes and judgment and analysis of perspective, then History is more suited to you. These things of course are useful in English, but I find in English you can be more creative in your responses and in your written work. You can analyse one work, or masses -- a theme, or piece of theory. I scored much higher in my MA work than I did in my History BA work because of this ability to be more creative in my assessments.

Hope some of that is useful!
Wow, you have given me a lot of useful stuff to think about here!

The idea of English and History being two different ways of thinking is very interesting, and something I am definitely going to think about! I'm just not sure how creative I am, haha!

if you don't mind me asking, how can you qualify to study an English MA if you haven't studied a BA in English? Also, I saw on your page that you're now a phd student- what does studying for a phd actually involve? I know they take three years, but how are you taught? Do you still have lectures and seminars for example?

Thanks a lot!
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hobbit_
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(Original post by Confused12341)
Wow, you have given me a lot of useful stuff to think about here!

The idea of English and History being two different ways of thinking is very interesting, and something I am definitely going to think about! I'm just not sure how creative I am, haha!

if you don't mind me asking, how can you qualify to study an English MA if you haven't studied a BA in English? Also, I saw on your page that you're now a phd student- what does studying for a phd actually involve? I know they take three years, but how are you taught? Do you still have lectures and seminars for example?

Thanks a lot!
No problemo.

Well, I studied an interdisciplinary MA, focused on the Victorian period. If you get a programme called something 'studies', alongside other programmes in English Literature, then it's likely that this will be a very historicist programme, wherein texts are used to peer into a different era. I found this a very unnerving plunge into English, because in seminars we basically ran roughshod over the artistic aspects of the texts we were looking at: close reading, for instance, was a very rare thing. Instead we might look at Jude the Obscure to see what it told us about education or about the rise of the 'New Woman'. Similarly, in Adam Bede, we looked at gender relations. I think at BA and MA level, the questions you get asked about texts will often be ones which require you to do your history and delve into the past more broadly to discern different cultural moods.

So now I'm basically teaching myself how to look at texts in different ways. My knowledge of different critical methodologies was very slim indeed, and in the module we had on these, the emphasis tended to be still on very archaic ones such as psychoanalysis (Freud), Marxism, feminism (old-school feminism), and structuralism. Learning about methodologies which are actually used by contemporary critics was a rarity: cultural materialism, new historicism, postcolonialism, LGBT & queer theory, poststructuralism/deconstruction, and so on. But I'm interested in these things perhaps more deeply than some of my other PhD friends, because part of my thesis is focused on developing an alternative to one of them.

As for the structure of the PhD: there are no lectures or seminars whatsoever. I'm still in the process of finding a 'home' for my project, and so I'm not attached to any specific institution yet (I'm prodding around Queen Mary, Auckland, Cardiff, and possibly the University of Tennessee). But the thing about the thesis is that basically you just get on with it and develop it yourself. It's taken me this long (I finished my MA in December) to refine my research proposal to something which might just secure some sort of funding. It's one of the weird paradoxes that you're actually only fit to write a 'decent' research proposal for a dissertation or a thesis, after you have done a substantial amount of research. One of the most annoying things is when your tutor will tell you it's not good enough, and you want to tell them that it's a proposal and that you haven't actually done the research yet! It can be infuriating! lol.

Now, in the US, however, often you will do two years of coursework before you do your thesis, which often seems jammed into a tiny amount of time. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that you get a broader knowledge base from which to draw on for your teaching. The disadvantage is is that it's very long (6 years; UK is 3, full-time), and if you just want to do your thesis, then doing the coursework seems superfluous.

Hehe -- you don't have to worry too much about your creative juices at this point. To be honest, I mean, I had a certain level of intellectual curiosity when I started at Exeter, but it wasn't until my third year that I really began to appreciate what I was studying. And it was at MA level that I just plunged into learning without shame -- my course was on the Victorian era, but I quickly became more interested in the early C20 period, and so I had to supplement my knowledge independently, trying to balance these two knowledge bases. But it was good fun -- one of the most satisfying years of my life, intellectually, at least .

P.S. to actually ANSWER your question, lol, I was able to do the MA, I think, because of the History link .
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Confused12341
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(Original post by hobbit_)
No problemo.

Well, I studied an interdisciplinary MA, focused on the Victorian period. If you get a programme called something 'studies', alongside other programmes in English Literature, then it's likely that this will be a very historicist programme, wherein texts are used to peer into a different era. I found this a very unnerving plunge into English, because in seminars we basically ran roughshod over the artistic aspects of the texts we were looking at: close reading, for instance, was a very rare thing. Instead we might look at Jude the Obscure to see what it told us about education or about the rise of the 'New Woman'. Similarly, in Adam Bede, we looked at gender relations. I think at BA and MA level, the questions you get asked about texts will often be ones which require you to do your history and delve into the past more broadly to discern different cultural moods.

So now I'm basically teaching myself how to look at texts in different ways. My knowledge of different critical methodologies was very slim indeed, and in the module we had on these, the emphasis tended to be still on very archaic ones such as psychoanalysis (Freud), Marxism, feminism (old-school feminism), and structuralism. Learning about methodologies which are actually used by contemporary critics was a rarity: cultural materialism, new historicism, postcolonialism, LGBT & queer theory, poststructuralism/deconstruction, and so on. But I'm interested in these things perhaps more deeply than some of my other PhD friends, because part of my thesis is focused on developing an alternative to one of them.

As for the structure of the PhD: there are no lectures or seminars whatsoever. I'm still in the process of finding a 'home' for my project, and so I'm not attached to any specific institution yet (I'm prodding around Queen Mary, Auckland, Cardiff, and possibly the University of Tennessee). But the thing about the thesis is that basically you just get on with it and develop it yourself. It's taken me this long (I finished my MA in December) to refine my research proposal to something which might just secure some sort of funding. It's one of the weird paradoxes that you're actually only fit to write a 'decent' research proposal for a dissertation or a thesis, after you have done a substantial amount of research. One of the most annoying things is when your tutor will tell you it's not good enough, and you want to tell them that it's a proposal and that you haven't actually done the research yet! It can be infuriating! lol.

Now, in the US, however, often you will do two years of coursework before you do your thesis, which often seems jammed into a tiny amount of time. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that you get a broader knowledge base from which to draw on for your teaching. The disadvantage is is that it's very long (6 years; UK is 3, full-time), and if you just want to do your thesis, then doing the coursework seems superfluous.

Hehe -- you don't have to worry too much about your creative juices at this point. To be honest, I mean, I had a certain level of intellectual curiosity when I started at Exeter, but it wasn't until my third year that I really began to appreciate what I was studying. And it was at MA level that I just plunged into learning without shame -- my course was on the Victorian era, but I quickly became more interested in the early C20 period, and so I had to supplement my knowledge independently, trying to balance these two knowledge bases. But it was good fun -- one of the most satisfying years of my life, intellectually, at least .

P.S. to actually ANSWER your question, lol, I was able to do the MA, I think, because of the History link .
Ahh, okay! Well that gives me an option to study both if I choose to do a masters! Tennessee would be an amazing experience! Thank you for all your help and best of luck with your phd! I might be posting more questions that you could answer in the future, haha
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(Original post by Confused12341)
Ahh, okay! Well that gives me an option to study both if I choose to do a masters! Tennessee would be an amazing experience! Thank you for all your help and best of luck with your phd! I might be posting more questions that you could answer in the future, haha
You're welcome .
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I'm currently studying MA in renaissance English. The actual English BA surprisingly covered little typical english. You broaden your intrinsic and extrinsic understanding of a text whilst exploring the theories behind ie post mod, modern, queer theory etc.

on the whole english develops your analytical skills, verbal and non verbal communication and is a base subject where skills useful for employment can be developed and expanded. For example what I a actually do in employment has no relation to the actual study of English. I would suggest you explore what field of employment you are eventually wanting to work in and from there which degree has the greatest value!
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Have you looked at the modules you'd study?
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Confused12341
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(Original post by OU Student)
Have you looked at the modules you'd study?
Yes, that's my problem- they all sound so interesting, haha
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(Original post by hobbit_)
It's worth considering that at the moment, certainly in most of the top UK universities, the dominant methodology for looking at texts is a very contextualist one (historicist). This means that the criticism you'll read will often be very historical in its nature -- very cultural. In studies like these, texts will be considered as part of a network of cultural practices, inseparable from the time and place in which it was produced. Some of these studies read like some of the older history books.

Thinking about English, it is also worth considering that a wide variety of theoretical frameworks are invited when doing assessments. These include ones drawn from psychology, philosophy, sociology, political theory, and so on. While some people may lament the invasion of English by the social sciences and history, it does mean that for students wavering between English and History (as conceived by A-Level subjects), studying English will invite more opportunity for historical and archival study than History will invite recourse to fiction, poetry, and drama, for instance.

Hope that helps, anyhow.

P.S. -- about employability: I shouldn't worry too much about the vague discrepancies between History and English. Any employer who is good for anything will know that English requires a great deal of research skills and analytic ability. It requires you to pay attention to language, and, as I have indicated above, to view culture and society more broadly as textual, paying attention to the way language is used politically and socially. It's very useful, I think .
These two paragraphs are so accurate and insightful! Very beautifully written too.
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