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DU course profile: Apply for History you have penchant for informed arguments

Doing History at DU: Pankaj Jha, Associate Professor, LSR College for Women

delhi Updated: May 30, 2017 23:16 IST
Hindustan Times
DU admissions,Delhi University,College admissions
Pankaj Jha, Associate Professor, LSR College for Women

If one is considering a Bachelor’s degree with History honours in DU, one must know that it is unrecognizably different from the History taught in school.

Anyone who has passed her/his Class 12 examination, irrespective of the stream, is eligible to apply. Usually, those with a penchant for informed arguments, literary nuances, social issues and sheer hard work tend to excel in History.

The History (Honours) course under the present CBCS Programme is only slightly different from the old Semester course of DU. It still consists of about eight papers on Indian history, four papers on European history and two papers on ancient societies of the world – all of which are compulsory. Among the optional ones, every student is supposed to choose from papers on history of USSR or history of USA (one or two colleges might offer options on ‘Gender in Indian History’ or on modern Africa and Latin America) and history of China or South-east Asia (again very few colleges offer the option of ‘Global Perspectives on Environment’ instead).

One also has the choice of doing a paper on the ‘Making of Contemporary India’. Apart from these, however, one has to do a couple of ‘Skill Enhancement Papers’ plus four papers from other subject(s).

History graduates might look forward to a fulfilling career in diverse fields. Apart from the predictable Civil Services and management, one might consider print and electronic media, NGOs, law, academics, social work, tourism, museology, etc. It is of critical significance to realize that History Honours is neither a terminal degree nor a professional course. Many History students from DU have the option of working immediately after graduation. The more lucrative and fulfilling jobs await those who understand the long gestation period of the subject and continue to pursue further studies within or outside the discipline.

To be sure, the History syllabi are still primarily survey-oriented, i.e. they seek to survey all the ‘important developments’ that took place during particular periods. However, the primary focus of the classroom pedagogy, reading materials and the examinations is to cultivate a disposition towards, and the skill for, critically appreciating multiple perspectives on past and present. This is usually a delightfully upsetting experience though it may disorient the students in the beginning. History graduates in the end develop a discerning eye for the long-term patterns of change in society. They are able to get a meaningful narrative out of what might appear like an entangled mumbo-jumbo of information to others. History, after all, studies past not so much to learn what happened previously as with a view to hone the ability to analyse complex social patterns with sensitivity to changes in time, place and human agencies.

The last bunch might, theoretically, be chosen from any subject ranging from Physics and Geography to Psychology and Philosophy. In reality, most of the colleges do not provide too many options to their students due to logistical issues.

The skill enhancement courses allow History students the choice of ‘Understanding Heritage’ or ‘Archives and museums’ and ‘Understanding Popular Culture’ or ‘Indian Art and Architecture’.

First Published: May 30, 2017 23:16 IST