What is history? History is narratives. Hence, it attempts to recreate the past based on the data that has survived. Hence, it is not the same as in the past. We can never directly say or experience what happened in the past. We can never know how it felt to be a pharaoh in ancient Egypt, or what Da Vinci had in mind when he was drawing the Mona Lisa. What genuinely occurred in the past has vanished. Therefore, history tries to reconstruct what happened in the past using the remaining pieces of evidence.
History is not the past but a map of the past, drawn from a particular point of view, to be useful to the modern traveller.Henry Glassie, US historian
History is a jangle of accidents, blunders, surprises and absurdities, and so is our knowledge of it, but if we are to report it at all we must impose some order upon it.Henry Steele Commager, American historian
What is History about?
The word History originated from the Greek word “Historein”. In Greek historein means investigating, writing, thinking.
According to Francesca Morphakis, ‘History is the study of people, actions, decisions, interactions, and behaviors. So, history studies every aspect of human society including, social, political, and economic, culture, religion, technology, language, and arts. And according to American Historian David McCullough “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
Taking all these definitions into consideration we can say history is studying the human race and their actions, decisions, and behaviors.
History is fundamentally a problem-solving discipline.Marcus Colla, Departmental Lecturer in European History at Christ Church, Oxford
History gives answers only to those who know how to ask questions.Hajo Holborn, German-American historian
History vs facts
History is very different from facts. Facts only show what happened. But history looks at what happened; why it happened; and also its consequences. Through these questions, it is possible to have a more complete idea of past events. However, history is always an incomplete puzzle. We will never fully know what really happened in the past. But it is possible to get some idea of those events through history.
What is history and prehistory?
Human history can be divided into two periods: the Prehistoric Age and the Historical Age. The word “prehistory” refers to the age of human civilization before written records. And our knowledge of prehistory totally relies upon archaeological pieces of evidence. On the other hand, history is the time period after the invention of written records.
Different sources are needed to study history. These sources can be varied. Take, for example, a fossil of a dinosaur, a clay tablet of a Mesopotamian accountant, an ancient document, or oral evidence of a World War I soldier.
Primary sources and secondary sources
Sources can be divided into two main categories. That is primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are things written or created within the time period of the historical event being researched. For example, in the study of the Indus Valley Civilization, the sources are the archeological finds from the areas belonging to that civilization. Primary sources provide information that is closest to the objective of the study.
Secondary sources are usually based on primary sources. A written document written later about a particular historical event can be taken as a secondary source.
Literary sources and archaeological sources
Moreover, sources can be divided into literary sources and archaeological sources. Literary sources are books, documents, diaries, etc. written in various forms. Archaeological sources include ruins found in inscriptions, coins, monuments, and archaeological excavations.