Business and economic history are critical to business decision-making, which is why they are core components of the curricula of the best business schools. Seeing and/or anticipating patterns and acting accordingly is a key attribute of strong leadership; knowing history facilitates that kind of insight. And in business, understanding one’s partners, rivals, customers, and employees is critical; many CEOs told reporter Adam Bryant “I am a student of human nature.” (The Corner Officep.13). In addition, the research, analytical, and communicative skills learned in a History major are valuable in the business world, as well as the creative thinking skills. “In the best of all worlds,” David Novak, CEO of the company that operates Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, told Bryant (p.15), “you want someone who’s whole-brained – someone who is analytical and can also be creative enough to come up with the ideas and galvanize the organization… There’s more of a premium on that [creativity] today than ever before.”
Daniel Sullivan, founder and CEO of a successful executive recruitment firm, J. Patrick and Associates (New York), credits his success to his History degree from Wesleyan, with a concentration in African History. Sullivan believes History is a good foundation for many careers in business. Students with an interest in History, he says, should feel secure majoring in the field, because it offers so many elements necessary not only to landing that first job after graduation but also to being able to move around, as is typical for careers today. History gives a broad and deep view of the world that is critical to the many career paths nowadays that link people across locations, across classes, and across languages, ethnicities, and faiths. Learning to understand the people of the past, both their deep differences and their deep similarities, translates to being able to negotiate with, work with, buy from, and sell to with people from all over the world. Mastering the history of an era or a nation means assessing and integrating information from many sources, applying abstract principles to concrete data and vice-versa, and producing solutions to problems. These skills, too, are necessary in an information-heavy world marketplace and in an era of rapidly-changing technology.
Finally, History teaches excellent written and spoken presentation skills, necessary to anyone who wishes to sell a new product, excite investors, promote a policy, or explain to employees and team members how a project will proceed. CEOs considering job candidates often demand to see a writing sample. As Nell Minow, editor and co-founder of a research firm, The Corporate Library, put it to reporter Adam Bryant: “It’s the best way of finding out all sorts of things. Do they have a sense of curiosity about the world? Are they just repeating things they’ve read, or is there some sense of engagement with it? And their ability to express themselves, I think, is tremendously important… Ultimately I won’t hire anybody who can’t write.” (p.135) notes that today’s students are tech-savvy and sociable, and can benefit most from an education that develops their creative initiative and their follow-through, often as part of a team. A History major is a gateway to many different jobs, including those that have not yet been invented!
History majors and minors considering business careers might take some of the courses listed below.
HIUS 130. U.S. Cultural History to 1865
HIUS 131. U.S. Cultural History, 1870-1920
HIUS 140/Econ 158A. Economic History of the United States I
HIUS 141/Econ 158B. Economic History of the United States II
HIUS 159/ETHN 131. Social and Economic History of the Southwest II
HISC 131. Science, Technology, and Law
HIEA 126. The Silk Road in Chinese and Japanese History
HIEA 140: China in the Contemporary World
HIEU 118. Americanization in Europe
HIEU 126. Age of Expansion: Europe and the World, 1400–1600
HIEU 127. Sport in the Modern World
HIEU 154: Modern Germany (focus on economic development)
HIEU 161 class (coinage and panegyric)