Our post today comes from Josh Holtzman (4LAS) a double-major in history and political science from Tampa. Rather than roaming the hallways of Keene-Flint this semester, Josh will be in London for an internship. We asked Josh for an update on how his time in the UF History Department has helped with this job, and he graciously responded with this brief essay.
Working in a Place “Created by History”
Josh Holtzman (4LS)
A lot of my friends ask me what you can do with a history degree. I usually hold my tongue, but right now I’m tempted to respond, “Well, you can work in the Mother of all Parliaments.” This semester, I’m studying in London and interning for an MP (Member of Parliament) in the UK’s House of Commons. It’s an incredible opportunity to work in the institution that inspired the U.S. Congress and to compare and contrast our two great legislative systems.
My history training from UF plays a big role in my ability to do my job effectively. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said that “Europe was created by history,” and indeed, anyone working in the government here must be able to understand issues from a historical perspective. The History Department has conditioned me to think like a historian, recognizing that we do not live in a vacuum and that most significant events actually have historical precedents. For example, historical thinking is crucial in Europe right now because the Greek debt crisis has caused a number of European Union leaders to call for the EU to integrate into a United States of Europe. The only useful model for this potential move comes from American history, when the Founders replaced the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution. Understanding that event has clarified and contextualized the European integration issue for me, so that now I can speak intelligently on the matter in the office.
But my history training at UF has done much more than to help me understand history. My professors have strengthened my analytical and writing skills so that I can critically assess and find solutions for complex problems. For example, one of my responsibilities is to review audit reports in order to identify wasteful bureaucratic spending. These reports provide many facts but with few value judgments, much like history can at first appear to be a collection of facts. But my UF historical training has taught me to discern trends from the facts, and to tell a story with them. I can therefore make connections and draw comparisons to other departments, allowing me to identify truly wasteful spending as opposed to misleading figure.
If you’re a history major looking to use your degree in a way that is significant and satisfying, I would recommend that you consider working in a legislature. There may be no place where history matters more.