A New Career for History Majors

Many American humanities professors are worrying about evidence that students are avoiding us. Partly due to the extreme cost of a typical college education today, combined with the economic insecurity of our younger middle class, undergraduates are not only deciding not to major in humanities disciplines like history, but—even more worryingly—are also likely more likely than college graduates in other fields to regret their choice later if they do.

Into this darkness comes a sudden ray of hope: a brand-new career opportunity for history majors. And it’s lucrative!

I think we can expect a rebound in history enrollments once young people realize that studying history can prepare you very well to compete for a rewarding job as the king of England.

I discovered this recently when I heard a BBC radio report that mentioned that the newly elevated Charles III studied archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the 1960s. Looking into this, I found that Charles had indeed studied archaeology and anthropology at first, but had switched to history for the latter part of his time at Trinity.

Now, I’m not exactly an expert on how subject examinations work at Cambridge, but as I understand it, this meant Charles’s baccalaureate degree was indeed a B.A. in history when he earned it in 1970.

In any case, that’s how the New York Times reported it at the time. Describing “the first university degree to be earned by an heir to the British crown,” the Times noted the following:

The degree awarded, based on examination results, was an honors degree in history, Class 2, Division 2. That is about the average at Cambridge — ‘a good middle stream result,’ as one don put it.

There are three classes of honors degrees, awarded according to grades, and the second class in turn has two divisions. …

The Prince’s tutor, Dr. Denis Marrian, senior tutor at Trinity, was asked whether Charles had been in any trouble as an undergraduate. ‘Nothing went wrong,’ was the reply. ‘In fact, I think you’ll find I have more hair now than I did three years ago.’

According to a recent story in the Guardian, the British monarch’s main income last year (the “sovereign grant,” a sort of royal allowance from the government), amounted to £86.3 million, or $98.2 million. That’s revenue derived from official wealth totaling an estimated £17 billion or so. (The crown owns expensive parts of London, much of the sea floor, the swans, etc.) In addition, the late queen had a private fortune estimated this year at £370 million; presumably much of that has passed to Charles III. Being the monarch also means significantly expanded access to housing in today’s tight market.

Seen at sunset: Just one of the exciting benefits of a career in history
Photo by David Iliff, 2006 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

I think we can all agree that this means a bachelor’s degree in history, even with only average grades, can be an excellent investment for a student’s future economic security. I trust American colleges and universities won’t overlook this crucial opportunity to publicize the value of what we do.

To be fair, though, it’s a career with limited opportunities for promotion.