History: Should you study Ancient or Modern?

History: Should you study Ancient or Modern?

Which path to the past is for you?

There’s a weird line between Ancient History and Modern History – and in a thousand years they’ll both be the same thing, right? So when you’re looking at becoming a scholar of what happened before this morning, there are a few things to keep in mind that might help you decide which one’s for you (or if you wanna do both).

Ancient History is a labour of love

Ancient History isn’t harder than Modern, but if you aren’t interested in the topics being covered it’s very difficult to understand. In senior years, Ancient typically attracts students because they think about how fun it was doing Ancient Egypt in Year 7… but it’s nothing like this.

To excel, you have to be able to analyse ancient and modern sources and historians. You also have to interpret and understand the context of the past, including ancient societies’ politics. At times, Ancient History has limited information and needs students to have a grasp of societies in the past.

Pompeii and Herculaneum are amazing and such a great study. They bring students into viewing archaeological processes and include impacts of today’s climate and tourism. However, you still require an in-depth understanding of sources, being able to get your head round the information and debates.

The main difficulty with Ancient is the limited primary sources, which are easily manipulated and interpreted in numerous ways. If you study, pay attention and work hard, it’s the same difficulty as Modern. But if you lack motivation and rely heavily on your teacher, Ancient might not be for you.

Modern History is a labour of war

Modern History is a more well-rounded subject because it’s more flexible in how you learn. There are easier ways to learn topics, but it is still content-driven. This subject is for students passionate about all aspects of war, including how politics can influence tension between nations. It is linked more to today’s society, and enables you to understand the impact ordinary people can have on the past.

And obviously, because it’s closer to us in time, there’s more visual content, easy access to information and a variety of theories and perspectives in both primary and secondary sources.

Students who enjoy and excel at Modern History have a well-rounded understanding of the past, can understand sources but can also understand the bias of historians and nations. So keep that in mind if you’re planning to be a one-eyed Prussia supporter.

One last bit of advice

Before you make your decision, talk to your teachers to see if you can have a say on what topics you’ll be studying. Being able to have some buy-in there makes the subject a lot more interesting and intriguing and another word that starts with “I”.


Nah, we just made that one up.


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