During the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s, medieval history professor Joseph Strayer often consulted with the C.I.A. When asked what a medievalist could possibly have to offer that would be of any use to the Central Intelligence Agency, Strayer replied that the C.I.A. had to analyze disparate and often conflicting pieces of information and then try to create a complete picture of something that was quite distant. “This,” Strayer said, “is exactly what medievalists do.”
Many careers in the public an private sectors find use for the skills and discipline that result from training as a medievalist: researching information, evaluating diverse interpretations, imagining scenarios based on the evidence at hand, not to mention writing and speaking skills.
While some medievalists become professors and teachers, many more follow other career paths. Look at the range of famous people, all of whom were medievalists in college: former Hewlitt-Packaard C.E.O. Carly Fiorina, Monty Python member Terry Jones, fantasy writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, cellist Margariet Tindermans, and the adventurer T.E. Lawrence of Arabia. Of course, medieval studies majors can find work in schools, archives, libraries, museums, and publishing houses, but one is just as likely to find them in management, advertising, banking, government, insurance, law, marketing, journalism, public relations, tourism, and lots more.