What’s it like studying History?

Bailey Leis

Why Durham?

I like to think of history as stories woven together through time and space. It is folklore, mythology, and relationships. A big, beautiful patchwork quilt of stories about people and events that you can point to and learn about. Strings come loose that can be pulled on and reveal a great expanse of grief, happiness, and wonder, and can be empathized with by a stranger hundreds of years later. History is magic and studying it is to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

This is why I chose to study History at Durham University. I stumbled upon Durham by accident – a name in a list of other universities I was looking at. Then curiosity got the better of me and I googled it, and immediately fell in love. I saw a picture of Durham and it felt like home despite being 4000 miles away from it. So, I applied and was accepted, arriving alone with two suitcases at Heathrow Airport and a ticket to Durham by train.

I am now in my second year here and don’t regret a single thing. I can walk around the city and find houses older than my entire country, a Cathedral that feels like there is magic written into the stones, an entire history that was experienced before I was even born.

History is a combination of all other disciplines

History isn’t just looking at what happened in the past. You are looking at science, economics, laws, and philosophies throughout history to understand why things happened or how these things made them happen. It is trying to understand people and their relationships. History is a combination of all other disciplines in an attempt to understand the past. By studying history, you are preserving an entire world of lives people have already lived. Their knowledge, their mistakes, and their achievements. You are the caretakers of the Earth’s memories.

Being a History student at Durham means that I spend a lot of my time in the library reading. I read court records, paintings, scientific notes, and diaries of ordinary people throughout history. The department is so wide that you can find a class for almost any interest you might have. I took a class on East Asian history because it sounded cool and ended up continuing to take another in my second year. Durham gives you a well-rounded education in history while also letting you explore more in-depth interests that you might not have originally planned.

My love for history started by reading biographies and going on deep dives on Wikipedia about things that interested me. Now, I get to study historical documents and develop my own theories on topics, engaging in a wide history of debate across time and space. I can now point to that patchwork quilt and trace the threads through their knots and ties to understand how it creates the larger picture. Durham doesn’t make you passionate. It takes the passion you already have and multiplies it. It is the physical history of the university and environment, and the history we learn in our degree that makes us a part of that magic and sticks with us throughout our time here and onwards.

Discover more

Set within the magnificent location of Durham’s World Heritage Site, the Department of History at Durham has established itself firmly as one of the top three in the UK. 

Our research and teaching extend from late antiquity and the Middle Ages to contemporary history; from the British Isles and continental Europe to the USA, Africa and East Asia; and across social, cultural, gender, visual, scientific, political and economic history. 

Feeling inspired? Visit our History webpages for more information on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. 

Create your own personalised prospectus here

Follow our students on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

Bailey Leis

Hi! My name is Bailey, and I am a second-year international undergraduate studying joint honors English Literature and History at Durham! Originally from Minnesota, I moved to the UK for university and am a part of Collingwood College. In addition to my degree, I am the co-president of the Collingwood badminton club and a member of the International Student Association. Outside of studying, I love to travel, hike, and play board games!

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