‘I’m a bit obsessed by Vikings’: Bryony Spencer on studying in our History Department!


Name Bryony Spencer
Degree Programme BA History (Hons)
Year Completed 2015
Current Occupation Student Communications and Marketing Assistant (MGIP Internship)

University of Manchester Careers Service


I’ve been enthusiastic about History for as long as I can remember. Growing up I subscribed to Horrible Histories magazine and summer holidays saw regular trips to the museums of Manchester. But it was studying The Crusades as part of my History A Level that made me realise History was my passion – that this was the subject I wanted to take to degree level.

The University of Manchester seemed the obvious choice. My mum was keen for me to stay local, going on about how lucky I was to have such a reputable university “down the road” from my hometown, Bury. But, more than that, I was impressed by the range of historical periods available to study at Manchester, and the possibility of getting to study abroad in Sweden. I’m a bit obsessed with Vikings, so getting to live in Scandinavia for a semester was a big draw!

One of the best things about History at Manchester though is the sheer passion for the subject of the department’s academics. Their knowledge and enthusiasm was really inspiring. History as a degree is great because you can explore such a vast range of eras, topics, and countries, but also specialise and focus on the bits of a topic or historical period that most interest you. I actually really enjoyed writing my third-year dissertation because I could immerse myself totally in the Norman period (c.1000-1200) and get to grips with how gender affected the exercise of power in their world.

Of course, my dissertation was also the most challenging part of my degree. It seems like such a huge ask when you’re faced with it in final year. Can I write that much? Will I finish it before the deadline? But then eventually all your research and planning comes together, and you feel so proud of this wad of text you yourself have produced.

Studying History can also get a bit lonely. Because you can choose from such a vast range of modules, it’s rare you’ll be in classes with the same people throughout the year, and most of your time each is week spent on your own reading for seminars or essays. But if you get involved in History society events, you’ll soon build up a network of familiar faces.

People always ask me “What are you going to do with a History degree? Become a teacher?”, but really the skills you get from studying History can take you anywhere. During second year I decided I’d like a career in Marketing or PR, and my degree has definitely helped me hone the writing skills needed for this, and improved my ability to manage my time and prioritise deadlines, another big part of Marketing and PR work.

I owe much of my personal and professional development over the last three years to the University of Manchester. The International Programmes Office facilitated my exchange period in Sweden, and without the support of the Careers Service, I wouldn’t have secured a summer internship or honed the application and interview skills that helped me land a graduate job only a month after graduating.

Alongside all that, studying History at university has drawn opinions and beliefs out of me that I had no idea I possessed, giving me new perspectives on modern politics and global affairs. But the thing I’ll remember most about my time at Manchester are the lecturers who supported me on my way to graduation – be that through fangirling with me over long-dead knights, or setting British politics to rights over a cup of coffee!

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