Studying History at University | Hannah Witton

Studying History at University | Hannah Witton

October 15, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


– What it’s like studying history at uni, scene one, take one. (click) (laughing) – Hey guys, I’m here with Ellie today. And so Ellie is a friend of mine from uni. You may recognize Ellie from
some of my other videos, so you should watch
them too, they’re okay. – Average to mediocre. (laughing) – We both did history
together, that is how we became best friends forever and life
partners and lovers and… oh my God, your hand’s
really cool, I hate that. (laughing) – I often get a lot of
questions from people saying “I’m thinking about going
to uni, what should I do? “What’s history like? “What’s University of Birmingham like?” Which is where we went, and
so thought we would just make a general video
talking about what it’s like to study history at uni. If you’re American, that’s college. I tweeted out what you
wanted to know, and you guys wanna know stuff, so that’s good. “Did you develop skim reading
skills at or before uni?” I did at. – You scan a whole kind of
two pages, and you pick out a couple of things, I think
I developed that more at uni because you need it. You’re reading so much,
you don’t have time to read an entire book. – “How many texts per essay did you read?” I would say like… 10 was good. – I think I probably do
more because I’ve read quite a few articles as opposed to books. I don’t know, they’re more specific. – Books as well, you literally
just read intro, conclusion and then one relevant chapter. “How do you respond to
people who say things like “‘oh but isn’t history already known?'” Oh… – (makes explosion sound) No! It’s not about knowing facts. – Yeah, it’s not about facts. History is constantly
changing because we understand events one way, and then
something comes another way like oh actually maybe it happened
slightly differently. – Why we think what happened,
what happened in the way it did, the way we see it. – And how the people at the
time understand what was happening, not what we think
of it, but what did they think about it. – And why did they think that about it. – “What topics in history do you study?” Ellie, what did you do? – My favorite was probably
to do with Orientism, and interpretations of other
countries and other cultures and interactions between
different cultures. So that’s what I did my dissertation on, travelers to the Middle
East, that kind of thing. – Obviously you guys know that I studied a lot of sexual history, me
and Ellie did a module together on the history of homosexuality
which was fascinating. Another one of my favorite
modules was the Tudors and a hundred objects,
and it was like a cultural and material history of
the Tudors, and it was like a lot of museum study
stuff, combined with history and material culture
and it was fascinating, because now every time I go to a museum I’m like “Why did they place this there? “And how did they choose
this specific object, “and why does this one have a caption, “and this one doesn’t? “What are they trying to
do here and what are they “trying to make us think,
what is the story that they’re “trying to tell, is there
like a specific direction “that you have to travel
around the museum? “Or is it like free-for-all?” I’ll usually not go to
museums now, I’m like blah! (making silly noises) – Why!? – “How bad is third year?” – Not very. – Third year was my best year. – I had modules I really enjoyed
and I think that made a… and the tutors I had in
third year were so brilliant. – “Do you have post graduation
depression when you realize “that you wont be studying such
an awesome subject anymore?” – That is a very loaded question. I think I didn’t get
like depressed about it, but I definitely miss it,
I really miss just learning so many interesting new things. – I feel a bit under stimulated sometimes. I’ve not read it yet but I bought this, “A Little Gay History.” Got pictures and everything. – (giggling) It’s got pictures! – What’s that? Early desires, what is this? (upbeat music) – This is the oldest known
representation of a couple making love in the world. – [Both] Ah! – It was found in a cave
in the Judean Dessert. The pebble depicts a couple face to face. – It’s a couple having sex! – One person has wrapped their
arms around the shoulders of their lover in an embrace. See, now we’ve just learned something! – That’s what it’s like
being a history student! – Yeah we see something,
we’re like “What is this?” (clap) – “Is there a massive
difference between studying at “different unis or do they
all offer similar things?” They will offer different
things depending on what the tutors are. – But I feel like every
university offers so many modules, that there will be something you like. – You discover what you like. The beautiful thing is that
even though me and Ellie went to the same university to
do history, we have come out with completely different
history degrees and completely different specialisms,
which I think is cool. No one has the same history degree. “How does the courses work,
is there a choice for example “on what time period you want focused on?” In our first year, we did
a complete survey course. – You’d go through a few
hundred years in an hour and then you’d feel a bit seasick. – So we had two Medieval
modules, two modern modules, this is when I realized that
I hated Medieval history. – And both of us never went there again. We think the point of it
is to show you new things that you haven’t studied before. – I came out with it, and I was like “Oh my God, I have this
timeline in my head.” Then in second and third
year, it’s like free-for-all, you just pick the modules
that you wanna study. – If your laptop logs on fast enough. – Oh my God, those are the
most stressful days ever. – It’s like you’re in line for
a festival ticket, but worse because it would decide your
fate for an entire year. And the places went like that. – Yeah, on the popular
modules, so there was a day and a time that it went live,
and you had to go online and you had to click on the
module that you wanted to do. “I love history at A level,
but I’m worried I’ll take it to “degree level and realize
it’s not my passion, help.” University history is very
different to A level history but for the better. – But also actually, if you
don’t enjoy it you can always change your degree. – It’s a lot more theory based. – It’s quite philosophical
as well actually, because you have to look
at yourself and look at what in your life has made
you think and see things the way you do. – The type of history that we
studied, really put emphasis on removing yourself from your worldview– – De-centering. – Yeah, de-center yourself,
and putting yourself into the shoes of the people in the
past that you’re studying. Not judging the people in
the past like, “that’s weird, that’s wrong, why did they do that?” But being like “okay, what
made them think and feel “that kind of way?” – But you can’t kind of
judge them, you just have to look at it and try and
understand why they did it instead of being like “Can’t believe they did that.” Because we do things that
in a hundred years time they’ll look back and be like “Why did they do that?” But right now we think this is… – This is right, and this
is true, this is real. – But there’s no such thing. – Be prepared for just
having the whole world like crumble at your feet if you study history. – And around you and including
you, and then you’ve gotta kind of glue it all together. – And then you rebuild yourself. – Like literally gluing dust together. – “Do you think there are
biased representations “in historical writing in
terms of gender, racial, “and cultural stereotypes?” – [Both] Yes! – There is no such thing
as un-biased history. – Like you can try, you
can try, you can try, but I don’t think you’ll
ever get to the point where you can say “this is
100 percent objective.” – Would you say that you
found it more interesting “studying modern history
or earlier periods?” – Modern. – What are your favorite centuries? 19th and the 16th. – I kind of like 19th and 17th. I enjoyed Medieval history,
but it’s very different to modern history because
the written sources are completely different,
the way people write about it is completely different. And all of the names are the
same, it’s really confusing. – All of the different Targaryan kings, like Aegon, Aron, Aerys, like, Raegar, Aeron, Aemon, like that’s Medieval history,
what are all these names? – Game of Thrones really
happened, it’s Medieval history! (laughing) – It’s true, the wall is
Hadrian’s Wall, and beyond the wall is Scotland. – “Any tips on studying at
Birmingham would be fab, “and because I’ve found an
unconditional offer to go there.” (cheering) – Congrats. – Do not walk under the
clock tower when it rings, because it’s bad luck and
you’ll fail your degree. University of Birmingham superstitions. – We’re not superstitious at all! – I’ve never walked under
it, even it’s not ringing I don’t walk under it, but
it rings four times an hour because it rings at o’clock– – Quarter past, half past, quarter to. – So just don’t. – The Cadbury research library. – (gasps) Yes, it’s like all
of the archives that University of Birmingham owns. So our friend George
was doing an internship with the library, and he was
like searching some stuff and he saw something that
was like Havelock Ellis. And he texted me being
like “Aren’t you studying “Havelock Ellis, isn’t he like
a sexologist or something?” So I was studying Ellis for
my dissertation, and it turned out that at the University of Birmingham, we have Ellis’s diaries. And… – Handy. – “How much is it like
history class in high school?” – [Both] Not. – Next. (snickering) – Do you know how I see
the progression of history, as in how it’s taught? So in high school you learn
like, oh this happened this happened, here’s
some dates and names, you learn it, you write
about it, then sixth form, you do about historians, and
you say “this historian said “this, but this historian said this,” and you kind of make arguments,
and then University is all about what do you think? Yeah these historians say
this, yeah they use this information, but what
information are you gonna use to make your point? – Yup, yeah! You’re the historian
now, what do you think? – Yeah, you have to
pretend to be an adult. – “Why should I study
history other than enjoyment, “what kind of jobs can you
get through that degree?” – YouTuber! – I feel like with a history
degree, a lot of people say this, and it sounds really
cheesy, but I feel like you actually can get quite
a range of jobs because you do have quite a few
trasnferable skills. Publishing, teaching, research, writing, or you can get a master’s
then a PhD and just become a history lecturer. – Become a historian. – Become a historian for
life, being a historian is a profession. – “How much do you plan essays,
I usually do very minimal plan and it seems to pay off
but I feel like this changes at a higher level.” – I feel like planning loads helps. In our exams you have about
an hour per essay-ish. – But you spend like 15 minutes planning. – It makes your argument
so much more succinct. – But also like for course work essays, I plan a lot, I plan like
every point that I’m gonna make in each paragraph. Planning documents I had for
my dissertation was ridiculous, I had this huge Word document
with just all of my notes, it was searchable, so I could be like “I need to find something
about homosexuality,” so I’d just type in
“homosexuality” and I’m like “okay, there are all the
points for homosexuality.” – Control F saved my life. – Control F! – Praise the control F! I had a notebook that I
carried around with me and everytime I thought of
something cool, I’d write it down and that was my plan. – Make friends with your tutors as well, because they’re good fun. They say to you like “Email me anytime.” – They have so much information
in their brains as well. – Yeah, talk to them a lot. – It’s incredible. – What we were saying about
studying history at uni basically like blowing
your mind a little bit and making you question everything, we did this module, a
compulsory module in second year, called “History
in Theory and Practice,” which is basically how we
study history, why we study history, what is history,
how should we study history? It amazing. – It was so brilliant. – We had a whole module and
lecture on “what is time?” – We concluded that it was… – [Both] “Timey wimey
wibbley wobbley stuff.” – I quoted John Green in
my exam for that module. I remember sitting in
David’s office when we were talking about History
in Theory and Practice, and I started coming up
with this random stuff about how The Little Mermaid
is really post-modern. She’s using a fork as a
hairbrush, and that’s her truth. Like the fork is being
used as a hairbrush, it’s functionality is a
hairbrush, it brushes her hair, so that’s what it is,
until someone comes along and says to her “Actually
no, that’s not a hairbrush, “you use it to eat food.” So that truth then dies,
and a new truth is born and it’s like… – And then Hannah curled
up in a ball and cried for about seven days. – Thank you guys for watching,
please give the video thumbs up if you liked it, and
let us know in the comments if you have anymore tips or
info on studying history at uni. Follow Ellie on Twitter because she’s– – I haven’t tweeted much recently. – But when you do it’s very funny. And she often tweets
really interesting history, political stuff. I hope this has been somewhat
useful and I’ll see you guys soon, bye! Say bye. (soft music)