History is the study of what happened in the past. It is also the study of how the past is produced and contested.  It therefore involves critical enquiry into the nature and status of historical evidence, and into the ways in which the past may be reconstructed and produced for contemporary motives and needs. Historians study the past to understand its complexities, and how it is the product of research, analysis, memory, forgetting, and storytelling. The past does not just happen naturally; it is composed, challenged, and maintained.

In Aotearoa New Zealand there is an increasing awareness of the need to explore our deeply colonial history, and to acknowledge hundreds of years of foundational and ongoing Indigenous Maori histories. These key aspects of our past are now central features in the national History curriculum. Globally there is a connected interest in the histories of Indigenous peoples worldwide, the importance of methodology, historical theory, environment, gender, food, violence, religion, historical trauma, and movement.  These interrelated themes tell us about where the field is heading locally and globally.

Study History

Historical study emphasises such skills as: writing to a high standard, formulating research questions, locating and critically analysing source materials, and communicating in clear and effective ways the results of research. These skills are relevant to careers in the media, education, business and administration, as well as professional work as an historian. Historians work in various Ministry Departments, Schools, Tertiary Institutions, and as private consultants. Their expertise in finding, organising, and closely analysing a wide array of archival material makes them strong researchers. Because writing has long been essential to the craft of history, Historians tend to be excellent writers. But in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally, the teaching and delivery of the past through multisensory forms such as oral history, art, and performance is providing opportunities for  Historians to work in an array of exciting areas such as music, gaming, and film.

Certain history papers form part of programmes in New Zealand Studies, Te Tohu Paetahi, and Communication Studies. In addition, students in Law, Management, Science, Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies and Education often include one or more History papers in their programmes of study. Historical Methodology also counts as Methodology paper for BSocSc requirements.

History photo

Career opportunities

Our History Graduates work in a surprisingly broad array of vocations. Many of our students have gone on to careers in the public sector and with different Ministry Departments, where their high standards in research and writing are valued and appreciated. We have past students working in, and with, central and local governments, for the Waitangi Tribunal, in private consultancies, at Universities and with Iwi and Maori organisations.  Some work in museums, archives and libraries, but a large number are teaching and changing the world in schools.

In Aotearoa and across the world, there is an increasing demand for people with intellectual skills to make sense of the materials that other human beings have left behind. Historians who acquire linguistic and professional qualifications will have international and local opportunities. Public history in New Zealand offers a number of opportunities where historians are now employed or contracted to research the history of organisations, issues and policies. Expert knowledge in Maori, New Zealand, and Treaty history, is also now highly valued in all sectors today. Career opportunities for historians are considerable, in media, public service, tourism and heritage and, particularly, policy analysis.

  • Archivist
  • Analyst
  • Documentary Researcher
  • Government or Private Consultant
  • Historian
  • Journalist
  • Museum or Gallery Curator
  • Policy Advisor
  • Political Speechwriter
  • Teacher
  • Tour Guide
  • University Lecturer


Dominique Bouwer

Bachelor of Arts with Honours in History

"I feel that the skills I've acquired in my undergraduate degree show that I am able to finish what I start, manage my time, think critically and take feedback - all valuable skills that I believe will benefit me in any career I undertake."

Tell me a bit about your background, where you grew up, what did you want to be growing up?

I grew up in Roodepoort, a suburb of Johannesburg within the Gauteng province of South Africa. We immigrated to Aotearoa as a family three months after I completed High School and we've lived in Hamilton ever since. When I was little, what I wanted to be when I grew up changed depending on the day you asked and what my fascination was at the given time, but in my early to late teens my focus was a career in professional dance.

Can you explain why you chose to study your specific qualification/degree/programme?

I took a while to come to tertiary study. I wanted to be really sure about what I was studying and refused to get a degree just for the sake of it. I've always been the kid who asked too many questions and liked to sift through stories for the meaning behind the words, and so when I was considering Uni options, English and History were a natural fit. I also had an excellent teacher in my final year at high school who really opened
my eyes to the way that History can help us understand where we are in the world, and showed me that history is an active process not just an exercise in memorization.

What were some of the highlights for you while studying? Have there been achievements or experiences throughout your studies that stood out for you? (E.g. scholarships, awards, student exchanges, travel opportunities?).

I've been privileged enough to receive a few scholarships and awards in my years at Waikato University. Receiving the Michael Caiger Memorial Scholarship in 2020 in particular really stands out as it was my first scholarship. This scholarship was so incredibly humbling in that it showed me how many people were invested in my success academically, and inspired me to work harder to make my degree into something that would make a difference to real people. The other highlight of my uni journey has been the people that I've encountered along the way, some of which who have become close friends and a real support - always available for constructive criticism, as a sounding board and for coffee breaks on the tough days.

What are you really enjoying about your study?

I am really enjoying the experience of finding out how little I truly know. It feels like the further I get with study, the more I find out that I'm wrong about. The beautiful thing about study is that you get more and more comfortable with not having the whole picture and you become more convinced that the only way to have a fuller picture is to develop a network of people who challenge you, keep you accountable, and fill the gaps in your understanding.

What was the student experience like on campus? (E.g. class sizes, interactions with lecturers, group work, the campus itself?).

The Waikato campus is really something. You never have to go far to find a spot of peace in the many green spaces and every season is like seeing the campus for the first time with a fresh pallet of colours. My experience with the lecturers and the faculties I've been involved with has been incredible. The history department in particular feels like an academic family. You never feel stupid for asking questions and they love a good debate. I've felt so supported by both the English and History Faculties who have shown me the kind of academic I want to be - approachable, full of integrity and passionate about the subjects I study. I've also had great interactions with my fellow students, who've never let me down during group projects and helped lessen the blow of exam prep with study groups that were almost too much fun to be productive.

If you’re still studying, when you finish your study what is the plan? How do you want to use what you have learnt for the next stage in your life?

The plan is to go into a role where I can research and teach. I'd love to teach and research at a tertiary level where I can pay it forward and help other students (who are unsure and a little intimidated as I was) choose a direction and gain confidence in their abilities once they finish school. I believe that even if you don't know what to do with a humanities degree you can learn invaluable skills in critical thinking, researching and arguing. I'd like to help students see that their skills have real world value outside the institution and support them in their goals. A role at a tertiary level would hopefully also allow me to continue to challenge myself in terms of my own knowledge and allow me to contribute in a small way to the greater conversation.

If you’re still studying, what is the most important/valuable thing you’ve learnt so far?

The most valuable thing I've learned so far is not to be hard on myself when I get things wrong. I had to learn that corrections aren't admonitions and that I can only get better by first getting things wrong. I've also learned that every assignment feels insurmountable until it's done. Step one is just to start somewhere.

Do you feel your degree has put you in good stead professionally? If so, how?

I feel that my success academically has put me in a good position going forward in my studies and career to come. I feel that the skills I've acquired in my undergraduate degree show that I am able to finish what I start, manage my time, think critically and take feedback - all valuable skills that I believe will benefit me in any career I undertake, but particularly in the academic field I hope to enter professionally one day.

What advice would you give to someone from home or another prospective student, wanting to follow the same study path as you?

I would advise someone wanting to follow the same path to get comfortable being overwhelmed and to make sure that they balance their personal life with their uni commitments. I'd advise them that their support system is vital to getting them through everything from the wins to the losses - and to try not to take them for granted. I'd also tell them to do the course readings. Even if they never say a word in tutorials, doing the readings will make the biggest difference when it comes to exam and research essay prep.

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