A Historian is a professional in Social Sciences that specializes in the discipline of History. Their main objective is to research, study, analyze, interpret, and document facts of past human history. Like most branches of Social Sciences, there are several subcategories in which Historians divide themselves. The most common division is to specialize on the particular aspects or periods of history they focus in. A Historian may analyze and research history from a specific point of view, such as political, artistic, or economical. On the other hand, they can focus on specific eras or periods, such as pre-Columbian, Medieval, or Classical eras.
Historians follow a method of investigation that relies heavily on facts and historical records left by past colleagues. They look for solid evidence and reliable sources, sometimes liaising with Archeologists, to explain how and why things happened and how past events shaped modern society.
One of the key characteristics of a good Historian is their objectivity. It is normal for people to tell and interpret history from their own point of view. However, Historians must maintain a level of complete and total objectivity and simply refer to facts avoiding opinions or any form of bias.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Historians are required to complete.
- Conducting historical research for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of past events:
- Collecting historical data from reliable sources (e.g. records, diaries, news files, and photographs) to be analyzed and interpreted;
- organizing data and validating its authenticity and significance;
- researching historic events of a particular country or region, or a specific time period;
- tracing historical development in a specific field (e.g. social, cultural, political, or diplomatic history);
- conserving and preserving manuscripts, records, and other artifacts for further studies; and
- presenting historical accounts and findings in the form of published papers, books, and conferences.
- Liaising with museums and other historical sites and locations to provide advice and other recommendations regarding historical conservation and significance of artifacts, sites, and monuments.
- Consulting and collaborating with groups, organizations, museums and foundations to promote historical preservation and activities.
- Preparing and reviewing publications and exhibits in museums to ensure historical accuracy:
- Determining which historic point of view to research from and follow as specified by clients or employers;
- advising individuals and institutions regarding the historical authenticity of artifacts, materials, traditions, and records;
- coordinating activities of workers in charge of cataloguing and filing records;
- translating or requesting translation of records when necessary; and
- editing historical publications and exhibits.
- Collecting detailed information from reliable sources on individuals to write biographies:
- Interviewing people to gather information of life events of individuals; and
- documenting and organizing information for publications in the form of books or documentaries.
- Conducting research and historical investigations.
- Analyzing and interpreting historical events and facts.
- Documenting research for later publishing.
- Interviewing experts to collect information.
- Liaising with museums and other locations to provide advice on historical events.
- Coordinating a group of Historians in order to distribute research duties.
The average Historian salary in Canada is $61,449 per year or $32 per hour. This is around 1.9 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $43,000 while most experienced workers make up to $86,000. These results are based on 2 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding understanding of historical studies and methodologies along with excellent research and project development skills:
- Conducting research on historical data;
- collecting and sorting data, artifacts and other facts found in historical records; and
- analyzing and documenting historical data.
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with coworkers;
- being able to read and write technical reports and give presentations; and
- liaising with Archeologists, Anthropologists, and Sociologists to complement each other’s research.
- Strong computer and numerical skills:
- Handling specialized software to collect, sort, and analyze data and artifacts.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment;
- being precise and accurate in their analyses, since errors could invalidate their research; and
- determining if results and conclusions are based on sound evidence.
Historians work mostly in museums, universities, and other academic institutions devoted to the research and understanding of historical events. There are many fields of interest and specializations Historians can have, but the most common requirement for an entry-level job in the field is having a bachelor’s degree in History or any of its subcategories (e.g. History of Art, Medieval History, or Political History). Experience as a Historian can be obtained by presenting and publishing research at academic institutions, or by working in related fields and positions (e.g. libraries, schools, or volunteering in museums).