What I Do: Historians Talk about Their Work

So, you’re in graduate school, you’ve chosen history, but you realize the academy is not for you. You’d like to think about other careers, but you don’t know anyone with a history degree who works anywhere else. Or maybe you’re a mid-career adjunct, a “road warrior” who commutes to several schools, and you’ve decided your talents and energy could be put to better use elsewhere but you don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you’re happily ensconced in your career but you’re curious about where else historians are practicing. Maybe you’ve been chatting with a new acquaintance and when you tell him you’re a historian, he looks confused and vaguely anxious. Or maybe you just wonder, as many have, “What do historians actually do?”

This month, the AHA is launching a new web series: What I Do: Historians Talk about Their Work  that will answer some of the questions people have about where historians work and what they do all day.

What I Do features short video interviews with history PhDs across the spectrum of professions. Each month, a different historian will sit down and talk about what they do, how they got their job, what makes their job interesting and challenging, and what they love about their work.

We’re launching the series with Lincoln Bramwell, historian for the US Forest Service. Bramwell’s career trajectory began with his work as a firefighter, which he pursued in parallel with his graduate degree, never imagining that he could combine his two interests. Bramwell describes his daily work at the Forest Service and the surprising ways in which he was able to bring his training in history and passion for firefighting together. Each month we’ll post a new interview, with the intention of showing the widest possible spectrum of historians at work.

With What I Do, we pull the curtain aside and allow a glimpse into the diversity of professional opportunities available for history PhDs.  We anticipate that these short videos will be a resource for all those thinking about what to do with their  history PhD,  wonder what other PhDs do, or are just curious about the how working historians participate in a variety of professions.  What I Do complements the AHA’s existing program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and conducted in partnership with the Modern Language Association for broadening the career horizons of humanities PhDs, as well as the Malleable PhD and Tuning Project.

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  2. Randi Cox

    Thanks so much for this! It looks like you have a grad student audience in mind, people who already know about academic history. I could see this growing into a great little series for non-historians or pre-historians, like undergrad history majors and first semester grad students, explaining what we do as a profession. A perfect thing to have playing on a loop at student recruiting events, something for all those parents who are worried about their kids picking impractical majors, like history.

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