Die Geschichte u. die Geschichtswissenschaft.
ETYM Latin historia, Greek istoria history, information, inquiry, from istor, istor, knowing, learned; akin to Eng. wit. Related to Wit, Story.
1. A record or narrative description of past events; SYN. account, chronicle, story.
2. All that is remembered of the past as preserved in writing; a body of knowledge:.
3. The aggregate of past events.
4. The continuum of events occurring in succession leading from the past to the present and even into the future.
5. The discipline that records and interprets past events involving human beings.
Record of the events of human societies. The earliest surviving historical records are inscriptions concerning the achievements of Egyptian and Babylonian kings. As a literary form in the Western world, historical writing, or historiography, began in the 5th century BC with the Greek Herodotus, who was first to pass beyond the limits of a purely national outlook. Contemporary historians make extensive use of statistics, population figures, and primary records to justify historical arguments.
A generation after Herodotus, Thucydides brought to history a strong sense of the political and military ambitions of his native Athens. His close account of the Peloponnesian War was continued by Xenophon. Later Greek history and Roman history tended toward rhetoric; Sallust tried to recreate the style of Thucydides, but Livy wrote an Augustan history of his city and its conquests, while Tacitus expressed his cynicism about the imperial dynasty.
Medieval history was dominated by a religious philosophy sustained by the Christian church. English chroniclers of this period are Bede, William of Malmesbury, and Matthew Paris. France produced great chroniclers of contemporary events in Jean Froissart and Philippe Comines. The Renaissance revived historical writing and the study of history both by restoring classical models and by creating the science of textual criticism. A product of the new secular spirit was Machiavelli’s History of Florence 1520–23.
This critical approach continued into the 17th century but the 18th century Enlightenment disposed of the attempt to explain history in theological terms, and an interpretive masterpiece was produced by Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1776–88. An attempt to formulate a historical method and a philosophy of history, that of the Italian Giovanni Vico, remained almost unknown until the 19th century. Romanticism left its mark on 19th-century historical writing in the tendency to exalt the contribution of the individual “hero”, and in the introduction of a more colorful and dramatic style and treatment, variously illustrated in the works of the French historian Jules Michelet and the British writers Thomas Carlyle and Thomas Macaulay.
During the 20th century the study of history has been revolutionized, partly through the contributions of other disciplines, such as the sciences and anthropology. The deciphering of the Egyptian and Babylonian inscriptions was of great importance. Researchers and archeologists have traced developments in prehistory, and have revealed forgotten civilizations such as that of Crete. Anthropological studies of primitive society and religion, which began with James Frazer’s Golden Bough 1890, have attempted to analyze the bases of later forms of social organization and belief. The changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying perception of economics as a science forced historians to turn their attention to economic questions. Karl Marx’s attempt to find in economic development the most significant, although not the only, determining factor in social change, has influenced many historians. History from the point of view of ordinary people is now recognized as an important element in histo.
Rical study. Associated with this is the collection of spoken records known as oral history.
A comparative study of civilizations is offered in A J Toynbee’s Study of History 1934–54, and on a smaller scale by J M Roberts’s History of the World 1992. Contemporary historians make a distinction between historical evidence or records, historical writing, and historical method or approaches to the study of history. The study of historical method is also known as historiography.