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Choosing what to study

Top ten celebrities with a History degree

Study History and you’ll tackle some of the most interesting – and sometimes controversial – topics humans have dealt with. These celebrities prove it’s good training for many careers.

Times Square tribute to president elect Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Elected President of the United States in 2020, Joe Biden graduated with a double major in History and Political Science from the University of Delaware in 1965. He followed it three years later with a Law degree, working as an attorney for four years before entering the political arena. He’s not the only president to have studied history though, with George W. Bush (Yale University) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Harvard University) also gaining bachelor’s degrees in History.

Elena Kagan

Appointed to the US Supreme Court by Barack Obama, Elena Kagan was the first woman to serve there as Solicitor General. She graduated sum cum laude from the prestigious Princeton University with a History degree. She also graduated from University of Oxford and Harvard Law School, and became the first female dean of the latter. 

Louis Theroux  

Filmmaker, author, broadcaster and journalist Louis Theroux also makes our list of famous History graduates. The famously awkward yet inquisitive documentary-maker earned a first-class degree from the University of Oxford. His documentaries have covered abstract subjects, often focusing on the sordid and surreal, and he's won many awards for his films.

Ellen Barkin

Ellen Barkin has acted in many films including Sea of Love and This Boy’s Life, working alongside names such as Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. She won an Emmy for her performance in Before Women Had Wings and has tried her hand at production with films like Letters to Juliet. Before this, Barkin studied a dual major in History and Theatre at Hunter College, New York.

Sacha Baron Cohen

A University of Cambridge History graduate, Sacha Baron Cohen may love to play morally and intellectually flawed characters, but his genuine intelligence and guile are always on show.

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand is famous for writing lengthy books like The Fountainhead (311,596 words) and Atlas Shrugged (561,996 words). She developed Objectivism, a political philosophy about immutable moral truths and the benefits of laissez-faire capitalism. The Russian-American writer and philosopher was educated in History at Petrograd State University.

Steve Carell

Comedian Steve Carell has won favour through his iconic performances in the TV show The Office and the Anchorman films. Along with these achievements is his History degree from Denison University in 1984.

Dianne Abbott

The first BAME woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons, Dianne Abbott studied History at Cambridge. Before becoming an MP for Labour, Abbott worked for the civil service and the media. More recently she founded London Schools and the Black Child initiative, which aims to improve the achievement levels of black children in education.

Salman Rushdie

Esteemed novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie also studied History at Cambridge. He's gone on to become a prolific author, winning the Booker Prize in 1981 with Midnight's Children, as well as being a controversial figure in the world of religion. Hailed as a progressive wordsmith by some and maligned as a blasphemer among others, Rushdie divided opinion with his book The Satanic Verses.


Shakira has been a celebrity for most of her life. She’s had chart hits since she was 13, so, unlike many others on this list, she never got the chance to experience student life. That changed, however, when she took time out of a tour to study Ancient History at UCLA for a month, dressing up as a boy so none of her classmates recognised her.

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