|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Magic|
|History of Magic|
|First Appearance||Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone|
History of Magic is the course in which students at Hogwarts learn, appropriately enough, about the history of magic. It is a core subject, and is required for all students from first to fifth years. We presume that NEWT-level studies are available, but as the viewpoint character does not progress in this course past year five, we don't see them. It is taught by Professor Binns, a ghost.
Very nearly all of the exposure we have to the course is involved with mentioning how boring it is. Harry is obviously not alone in his inability to stay awake in this class; of all the Trio, it seems Hermione alone is able to stay awake long enough to make notes. Harry does note at one point that with any other teacher, the subject matter (the Goblin Wars) could be much more exciting.
Possibly the main reason for the existence of this course is in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where Hermione manages to get the story of the Chamber of Secrets from Professor Binns. Additionally, there is one time when Harry is aroused from his stupor in this class by the arrival of an injured Hedwig at the window. All other sessions of this class are uniformly dull and eventless.
Harry's experience in this class clearly mimics the experience many students have had in one class or another. It is possible that this course is included for the purpose of balance, as if to say, yes, magic and learning about magic can be fun, but it's not all fun, there's tedious part of it as well. Selection of history as the subject in question is probably premeditated. Of all the courses that are required learning, History is by far the most commonly seen as not only tedious, but useless. Particularly at the teenage level, few students can see the value of learning about things that happened long ago. Making the instructor a ghost emphasizes that the subject material is basically unchanging, and also allows for his delivery of the material to be, if we may be permitted the pun, dry and dead.
There are points in history that have a great influence on Harry and his actions; however, he does not perceive, and perhaps Binns does not adequately teach, the background that led to the separation of Muggles and the Wizarding world, with its concomitant Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. This decree, with its constraints on what Harry is allowed to do outside school and the consequences he suffers therefrom, is a part of a larger picture that Harry remains unaware of, despite its stemming from a critical juncture in Wizarding history.