Top 5 Things You Learn as a History Major

by Alex King

        At Penn, I’m double majoring in History. More than halfway through my studies I now, rightly so, consider myself a complete expert in all fields of History. If something has already happened, then I am an expert in it. In fact, as soon as you finish reading this piece, I’ll be an expert in you reading this piece and I’ll have to write a 15 page research topic explaining your socio-economic status at the time (poor). But for reasons I cannot fathom, some students at our venerable university do not, in fact, major in History. The reasons for this are uncertain, ranging from hotter students to a desire to be employed, and the result is scores of Penn kids who don’t know the joys being a History major brings. So, for those poor huddled masses I have boiled down the vastness of History into five concise points.

5) The Rest of the World Exists
        One of the first things you learn as a History major is that there’s more to the world than America. Of course, it only exists pre-Europe, or during colonialism. It may seem unfair that non-European countries are only either ancient, or being conquered, but you must remember that nothing happens at all in the interim millennia, which is why they get conquered so easily, duh. Sumerians, Greece, Rome, yadda ydada, Enlightenment, Napoleon, and now we have pastries named after all of them.

4) Capitalism is Incredibly Badass
        Okay okay, you do occasionally find some pinko holdout of a professor, but even then, the discussion is not if Capitalism is badass or not, but the degree of badassness (like HIST388: Capitalism: Only Marginally Badass?). Essentially though the lesson is clear: as soon as it is invented by Europeans, capitalism becomes the only good economic system and promptly wipes every other system off the face of the earth, along with their respective nations as capitalist Europeans conquer them and also buy products in a competitive market place enjoying the cheap prices and a good wide selection. Countries like America, Britain and Japan pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, so if someone like Bolivia can’t, it’s clear they just aren’t being badass enough. The notion that capitalism is dependant on complex social and political institutions to function correctly is clearly a fringe belief, and any country with financial woes should just blindly become free market. If they still suck, you can blame their culture and ethnicity.

3) No One in My Recitations Will Go Out With Me
        Oh whatever, no hot girls take history. Still, you’d think that would help my chances. I don’t understand women.

2) Man is Inherently Evil
        This is one of the easiest lessons to grasp of history: that man is a horrible race of perennial backstabbers. I defy you to take a history class in which a war is not talked about, or least talked around using careful euphemisms, like the famous WW2 in the Pacific Class “That Time A Bunch of Nips Were Alive and Then Later They Weren’t, How Weird Is That?” For the most part wars are discussed with only a passing interest as just a fact of life, like bad weather or a nuclear apocalypse, but that’s only because History is written by the winners, who are total losers. But it’s a rich and interesting history, where people take up arms against their neighbors to get their stuff or because they looked at them funny or because they were Nips. We’ve done it with a variety of tools from the first black-space-monolith inspired bone clubs, till eventually the day when we use cold emotionless robots who will inevitably enslave us (take HIST159: Technology, War, and Robots Enslaving Us). I am actually a little relieved, but also disappointed, when my History classes end without the students immediately breaking into a riot and enslaving one another.

1) USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!!
        The number 1 thing you learn as a History major is that America is a fucking beast. America can’t hug you with her nuclear arms because America is a total badass and doesn’t hug anyone. The history of the world prior to 1776 is just an elaborate set up for our glorious nation being born in a flash of red, white and blue with eagles screeching in the background as we proceed to conquer the rest of the world. The history of Europe is basically just a preamble to America existing, and if the world were a video game, the history of Europe post-America existing would be a side-quest or maybe a mini-game. America is basically a superhero in nation form, defeating the evils of communism (kapow!), tyranny (blam!), and other countries (whammo!). Even if you take a history class about something other than America (a hard feat in and of itself), it’s usually about how the professor is kind of admiring the quaintness of such non-badass countries and how peculiar it must’ve been to be a Welshman, because you’d be a total pansy.

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