History is the study of the past, specifically how it relates to humans. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians. Events occurring prior to written record are considered prehistory. History can also refer to the academic discipline which uses a narrative to examine and analyse a sequence of past events, and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them. Historians sometimes debate the nature of history and its usefulness by discussing the study of the discipline as an end in itself and as a way of providing “perspective” on the problems of the present. Stories common to a particular culture, but not supported by external sources are usually classified as cultural heritage or legends, because they do not support the “disinterested investigation” required of the discipline of history.
Herodotus, a 5th-century BC Greek historian is considered within the Western tradition to be the “father of history”, and, along with his contemporary Thucydides, helped form the foundations for the modern study of human history. Their work continues to be read today and the divide between the culture-focused Herodotus and the military-focused Thucydides remains a point of contention or approach in modern historical writing. In the Eastern tradition, a state chronicle the Spring and Autumn Annals was known to be compiled from as early as 722 BC although only 2nd century BC texts survived. Ancient influences have helped spawn variant interpretations of the nature of history which have evolved over the centuries and continue to change today. The modern study of history is wide-ranging, and includes the study of specific regions and the study of certain topical or thematical elements of historical investigation. Often history is taught as part of primary and secondary education, and the academic study of history is a major discipline in University studies. Etymology
Ancient Greek ἱστορία means “inquiry”,”knowledge from inquiry”, or “judge”. It was in that sense that Aristotle used the word in his . The ancestor word is attested early on in Homeric Hymns, Heraclitus, the Athenian ephebes’ oath, and in Boiotic inscriptions . The word entered the English language in 1390 with the meaning of “relation of incidents, story”. In Middle English, the meaning was “story” in general. The restriction to the meaning “record of past events” arose in the late 15th century. It was still in the Greek sense that Francis Bacon used the term in the late 16th century, when he wrote about “Natural History”. For him, historia was “the knowledge of objects determined by space and time”, that sort of knowledge provided by memory . In an expression of the linguistic synthetic vs. analytic/isolating dichotomy, English like Chinese now designates separate words for human history and storytelling in general. In modern German, French, and most Germanic and Romance languages, which are solidly synthetic and highly inflected, the same word is still used to mean both “history” and “story”.
The adjective historical is attested from 1661, and historic from 1669. Historian in the sense of a “researcher of history” is attested from 1531. In all European languages, the substantive “history” is still used to mean both “what happened with men”, and “the scholarly study of the happened”, the latter sense sometimes distinguished with a capital letter, “History”, or the word historiography. The modern discipline of history is dedicated to the institutional production of this discourse. All events that are remembered and preserved in some authentic form constitute the historical record. The task of historical discourse is to identify the sources which can most usefully contribute to the production of accurate accounts of past. Therefore, the constitution of the historian’s archive is a result of circumscribing a more general archive by invalidating the usage of certain texts and documents . The study of history has sometimes been classified as part of the humanities and at other times as part of the social sciences. It can also be seen as a bridge between those two broad areas, incorporating methodologies from both.
Some individual historians strongly support one or the other classification. In the 20th century, French historian Fernand Braudel revolutionized the study of history, by using such outside disciplines as economics, anthropology, and geography in the study of global history. Traditionally, historians have recorded events of the past, either in writing or by passing on an oral tradition, and have attempted to answer historical questions through the study of written documents and oral accounts. From the beginning, historians have also used such sources as monuments, inscriptions, and pictures. In general, the sources of historical knowledge can be separated into three categories: what is written, what is said, and what is physically preserved, and historians often consult all three. But writing is the marker that separates history from what comes before. Archaeology is a discipline that is especially helpful in dealing with buried sites and objects, which, once unearthed, contribute to the study of history. But archaeology rarely stands alone. It uses narrative sources to complement its discoveries. However, archaeology is constituted by a range of methodologies and approaches which are independent from history; that is to say, archaeology does not “fill the gaps” within textual sources.
Indeed, “historical archaeology” is a specific branch of archaeology, often contrasting its conclusions against those of contemporary textual sources. For example, Mark Leone, the excavator and interpreter of historical Annapolis, Maryland, USA; has sought to understand the contradiction between textual documents and the material record, demonstrating the possession of slaves and the inequalities of wealth apparent via the study of the total historical environment, despite the ideology of “liberty” inherent in written documents at this time. There are varieties of ways in which history can be organized, including chronologically, culturally, territorially, and thematically. These divisions are not mutually exclusive, and significant overlaps are often present, as in “The International Women’s Movement in an Age of Transition, 1830–1975.” It is possible for historians to concern themselves with both the very specific and the very general, although the modern trend has been toward specialization. The area called Big History resists this specialization, and searches for universal patterns or trends. History has often been studied with some practical or theoretical aim, but also may be studied out of simple intellectual curiosity. History and prehistory
The history of the world is the memory of the past experience of Homo sapiens around the world, as that experience has been preserved, largely in written records. By “prehistory”, historians mean the recovery of knowledge of the past in an area where no written records exist, or where the writing of a culture is not understood. By studying painting, drawings, carvings, and other artifacts, some information can be recovered even in the absence of a written record. Since the 20th century, the study of prehistory is considered essential to avoid history’s implicit exclusion of certain civilizations, such as those of Sub-Saharan Africa and pre-Columbian America. Historians in the West have been criticized for focusing disproportionately on the Western world. In 1961, British historian E. H. Carr wrote: This definition includes within the scope of history the strong interests of peoples, such as Australian Aboriginals and New Zealand Māori in the past, and the oral records maintained and transmitted to succeeding generations, even before their contact with European civilization. Historiography
Historiography has a number of related meanings. Firstly, it can refer to how history has been produced: the story of the development of methodology and practices. Secondly, it can refer to what has been produced: a specific body of historical writing . Thirdly, it may refer to why history is produced: the Philosophy of history. As a meta-level analysis of descriptions of the past, this third conception can relate to the first two in that the analysis usually focuses on the narratives, interpretations, worldview, use of evidence, or method of presentation of other historians. Professional historians also debate the question of whether history can be taught as a single coherent narrative or a series of competing narratives. Philosophy of history
Philosophy of history is a branch of philosophy concerning the eventual significance, if any, of human history. Furthermore, it speculates as to a possible teleological end to its development—that is, it asks if there is a design, purpose, directive principle, or finality in the processes of human history. Philosophy of history should not be confused with historiography, which is the study of history as an academic discipline, and thus concerns its methods and practices, and its development as a discipline over time. Nor should philosophy of history be confused with the history of philosophy, which is the study of the development of philosophical ideas through time. Historical methods
Cultural history replaced social history as the dominant form in the 1980s and 1990s. It typically combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at language, popular cultural traditions and cultural interpretations of historical experience. It examines the records and narrative descriptions of past knowledge, customs, and arts of a group of people. How peoples constructed their memory of the past is a major topic. Cultural history includes the study of art in society as well is the study of images and human visual production. Diplomatic history
Diplomatic history, sometimes referred to as “Rankin History” in honor of Leopold von Ranke, focuses on politics, politicians and other high rulers and views them as being the driving force of continuity and change in history. This type of political history is the study of the conduct of international relations between states or across state boundaries over time. This is the most common form of history and is often the classical and popular belief of what history should be. Economic history
Although economic history has been well established since the late 19th century, in recent years academic studies have shifted more and more toward economics departments and away from traditional history departments. Environmental history
Environmental history is a new field that emerged in the 1980s to look at the history of the environment, especially in the long run, and the impact of human activities upon it.
World history is the study of major civilizations over the last 3000 years or so. World history is primarily a teaching field, rather than a research field. It gained popularity in the United States, Japan and other countries after the 1980s with the realization that students need a broader exposure to the world as globalization proceeds. It has led to highly controversial interpretations by Oswald Spengler and Arnold J. Toynbee, among others. The World History Association publishes the Journal of World History every quarter since 1990. The H-World discussion list serves as a network of communication among practitioners of world history, with discussions among scholars, announcements, syllabi, bibliographies and book reviews. People’s history
A people’s history is a type of historical work which attempts to account for historical events from the perspective of common people. A people’s history is the history of the world that is the story of mass movements and of the outsiders. Individuals or groups not included in the past in other type of writing about history are the primary focus, which includes the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor, the nonconformists, and the otherwise forgotten people. This history also usually focuses on events occurring in the fullness of time, or when an overwhelming wave of smaller events cause certain developments to occur. Histomomity
Histornomity is a historical study of human progress or individual personal characteristics, by using statistics to analyze references to eminent persons, their statements, behavior and discoveries in relatively neutral texts. Gender history
Gender history is a sub-field of History and Gender studies, which looks at the past from the perspective of gender. It is in many ways, an outgrowth of women’s history. Despite its relatively short life, Gender History has had a rather significant effect on the general study of history. Since the 1960s, when the initially small field first achieved a measure of acceptance, it has gone through a number of different phases, each with its own challenges and outcomes. Although some of the changes to the study of history have been quite obvious, such as increased numbers of books on famous women or simply the admission of greater numbers of women into the historical profession, other influences are more subtle. Public history
Public history describes the broad range of activities undertaken by people with some training in the discipline of history who are generally working outside of specialized academic settings. Public history practice has quite deep roots in the areas of historic preservation, archival science, oral history, museum curatorship, and other related fields. The term itself began to be used in the U.S. and Canada in the late 1970s, and the field has become increasingly professionalized since that time. Some of the most common settings for public history are museums, historic homes and historic sites, parks, battlefields, archives, film and television companies, and all levels of government. Historians
Professional and amateur historians discover, collect, organize, and present information about past events. In lists of historians, historians can be grouped by order of the historical period in which they were writing, which is not necessarily the same as the period in which they specialized. Chroniclers and analysts, though they are not historians in the true sense, are also frequently included. The judgments of history
Since the 20th century, Western historians have disavowed the aspiration to provide the “judgments of history.” The goals of historical judgments or interpretations are separate to those of legal judgments, which need to be formulated quickly after the events and be final. A related issue to that of the judgments of history is that of collective memory. Pseudo-history
Pseudo-history is a term applied to texts which purport to be historical in nature but which depart from standard historiographical conventions in a way which undermines their conclusions. Closely, related to deceptive historical revisionism. Works which draw controversial conclusions from new, speculative, or disputed historical evidence, particularly in the fields of national, political, military, and religious affairs, are often rejected as pseudo-history. Teaching history
From the origins of national school systems in the 19th century, the teaching of history to promote national sentiment has been a high priority. In the United States after World War I, a strong movement emerged at the university level to teach courses in Western Civilization, so as to give students a common heritage with Europe. In the U.S. after 1980 attention increasingly moved toward teaching world history or requiring students to take courses in non-western cultures, to prepare students for life in a globalized economy. At the university level, historians debate the question of whether history belongs more to social science or to the humanities. Many view the field from both perspectives. The teaching of history in French schools was influenced by the Nouvelle histoire as disseminated after the 1960s by Cahiers pedagogies and Inveiglement and other journals for teachers. Also influential was the Institute national de recherché et de documentation pedagogue. Joseph Leif, the Inspector-general of teacher training, said pupils children should learn about historians’ approaches as well as facts and dates.
Louis François, Dean of the History/Geography group in the Inspectorate of National Education advised that teachers should provide historic documents and promote “active methods” which would give pupils “the immense happiness of discovery.” Proponents said it was a reaction against the memorization of names and dates that characterized teaching and left the students bored. Traditionalists protested loudly it was a postmodern innovation that threatened to leave the youth ignorant of French patriotism and national identity. In most countries history textbook are tools to foster nationalism and patriotism, and give students the official line about national enemies. In many countries history textbooks are sponsored by the national government and are written to put the national heritage in the most favorable light. For example, in Japan, mention of the Nanking Massacre has been removed from textbooks and the entire World War II is given cursory treatment.
Other countries have complained. It was standard policy in communist countries to present only a rigid Marxist historiography. Academic historians have often fought against the politicization of the textbooks, sometimes with success. In 21st-century Germany, the history curriculum is controlled by the 16 states, and is characterized not by super-patriotism but rather by an “almost pacifistic and deliberately unpatriotic undertone” and reflects “principles formulated by international organizations such as UNESCO or the Council of Europe, thus oriented towards human rights, democracy and peace.” The result is that “German textbooks usually downplay national pride and ambitions and aim to develop an understanding of citizenship centered on democracy, progress, human rights, peace, tolerance and European.”