Spotlight on… Ancient History

Welcome to our Spotlight on… series. In this series of blog posts we’ll be exploring specific degree subjects in depth; what it’s like to study that subject, the types of modules available, the extra opportunities available to students of that subject and what graduate careers it can lead to. The blog posts will be written by current students, or recent graduates from across all 12 Shaping Futures partner institutions. In this post, Mary explores Ancient History. Is there a specific subject you’d like the spotlight on? Tweet us at @ShapingFutures_ and let us know. We’d love to hear from you!

Blog post by Mary Edgar, BA Ancient History Graduate, University of Liverpool. 

I was given a children’s book of Greek mythology when I was in primary school and I loved the stories explaining why we had seasons and animals and fire. When I got older I realised that the original myths were much darker, full of monsters, villains and curses and that there was a reason the children’s versions were carefully censored.

I always loved history and it was easily my favourite subject at school. I had planned on studying pure History (usually BA Hons History) at university, then at an Open Day I picked up a leaflet for the undergraduate course of Ancient History, saw an entire module dedicated to mythology and the rest, as they say, is history.

ancient world, ancient history, coliseum

Ancient History had no specific subject requirements, only grade requirements. My school didn’t offer Classics (An A Level with some similar content to Ancient History), so I took History A Level and was free to fill my other options with subjects I enjoyed. I ended up taking Biology and Chemistry.

Ancient History was a smaller department than other more well-known subjects, so I got to really know my lecturers and my classes were never much bigger than my school classes. I could study a huge range of subjects during my degree from Roman British Archaeology, to Greek drinking parties, to the myth of Odysseus and the Ancient World in modern cinema. There aren’t many degrees that you you watch Disney’s Hercules and call it research! My department also had it’s very own museum (the Garstang Museum, which you can see a picture of below) and this allowed us to have a hands on experience with many different artefacts from the Ancient World. I found myself in an early morning seminar holding a perfectly preserved perfume bottle which had survived for three thousand years. I was terrified that my own clumsiness could end it all but thankfully the bottle is still intact!

Ancient History is an incredible flexible degree to take with you into a career. Although it’s doesn’t lead directly into a career like a Law or Medicine degree (unless the Roman Empire makes an unexpected comeback!), the skills you learn are easily transferable. You develop your written and verbal communication skills, critical thinking and teamwork. Students on my course have gone on to work as curators in museums, as archaeologists on digs, as teachers or working for large companies in their marketing and human resources departments. I enjoyed my studies so much that I stayed on to complete my Master’s degree which allowed me to write my dissertation on Ancient Roman magic.

My favourite thing about studying Ancient History was discovering how little has changed even after all this time. People in the Ancient World still wrote cheesey love poems, they complained about food, they worried about following the latest fashions and we know all of this because of the sources they left behind. I know that on the 19th of April, a man in Pompeii made bread. How do I know this? Because he graffitied it on the wall of the gladiator barracks and almost two thousand years later Ancient History students are still reading it.

Of Shaping Futures partners, the University of Liverpool is the only provider who offers Ancient History and you can find more out about that course here. There are lots of other universities who provide Ancient History courses, and you can find out more about those institutes and courses on the UCAS website. UCAS will also show you lots of similar course that you might be interested in!