A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.
Marxist historiography developed as a school of historiography influenced by the chief tenets of Marxism, including the centrality of social class and economic constraints in determining historical outcomes. Friedrich Engels wrote relegated the sensational to the sidelines and was reluctant to give a simple accounting of events, but strived on the contrary to pose and solve problems and, neglecting surface disturbances, to observe the long and medium-term evolution of economy, society, and civilisation.Marxist historiography developed as a school of historiography influenced by the chief tenets of Marxism, including the centrality of social class and economic constraints in determining historical outcomes. Friedrich Engels wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, which was salient in creating the socialist impetus in British politics from then on, e.g. the Fabian Society. R. H. Tawney's The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century (1912) and Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926), reflected his ethical concerns and preoccupations in economic history. A circle of historians inside the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) formed in 1946 and became a highly influential cluster of British Marxist historians, who contributed to history from below and class structure in early capitalist society. Members included Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and E. P. Thompson.
World history, as a distinct field of historical study, emerged as an independent academic field in the 1980s. It focused on the examination of history from a global perspective and looked for common patterns that emerged across all cultures. Arnold J. Toynbee's ten-volume A Study of History, written between 1933 and 1954, was an important influence on this developing field. He took a comparative topical approach to independent civilizations and demonstrated that they displayed striking parallels in their origin, growth, and decay. William H. McNeill wrote The Rise of the West (1965) to improve upon Toynbee by showing how the separate civilizations of Eurasia interacted from the very beginning of their history, borrowing critical skills from one another, and thus precipitating still further change as adjustment between traditional old and borrowed new knowledge and practice became necessary.
An undergraduate history degree is often used as a stepping stone to graduate studies in business or law. Many historians are employed at universities and other facilities for post-secondary education. In addition, it is normal for colleges and universities to require the PhD degree for new full-time hires. A scholarly thesis, such as a PhD, is now regarded as the baseline qualification for a professional historian. However, some historians still gain recognition based on published (academic) works and the award of fellowships by academic bodies like the Royal Historical Society. Publication is increasingly required by smaller schools, so graduate papers become journal articles and PhD dissertations become published monographs. The graduate student experience is difficult—those who finish their doctorate in the United States take on average 8 or more years; funding is scarce except at a few very rich universities. Being a teaching assistant in a course is required in some programs; in others it is a paid opportunity awarded a fraction of the students. Until the 1970s it was rare for graduate programs to teach how to teach; the assumption was that teaching was easy and that learning how to do research was the main mission. A critical experience for graduate students is having a mentor who will provide psychological, social, intellectual and professional support, while directing scholarship and providing an introduction to the profession.
Professional historians typically work in colleges and universities, archival centers, government agencies, museums, and as freelance writers and consultants. The job market for new PhDs in history is poor and getting worse, with many relegated to part-time "adjunct" teaching jobs with low pay and no benefits.