What is history anyway? A handful of historians explained (2023)

History is the study of the human past as described inwritten documentsleft by people. The past, with all its complicated decisions and events, the deaths of the participants and the story told, is what is perceived by the general public as the immutable foundation upon which historians andarchaeologistsStanding.

But as purveyors of the past, historians recognize that foundations are actually quicksand, that parts of every story go unreported, and that what has been told is shaped by current conditions. While it is not wrong to say that history is the study of the past, here is a much clearer and more accurate collection of descriptions.

Concise definitions of history.

There's no denying that the best definition isn't short, but it helps if you can also be funny.

Juan Jacob Anderson

"History is a narrative of the events that occurred among mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations and other great changes that affected the political and social conditions of mankind." (John Jacob Anderson)

WASHBASIN. Seal and R.J. Duty Man

"History is not what you thought. It is what you remember. All other stories defeat themselves." (1066 and all that)

James Joyce

"History, Stephen said, is a nightmare I'm trying to wake up from." (Ulysses)

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Arnold J Toynbee

"History that is not used is nothing, because all intellectual life is action, like practical life, and if it is not used well, it is as if it were dead."

the psychohistorian

Between 1942 and 1944, science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote the first short stories that would become the basis of theStiftungTrilogy. The main concept of the Foundation Trilogy is that if you are a good enough mathematician, you can accurately predict the future based on the records of the past. Indeed, Asimov was an attentive reader, so it should come as no surprise that his ideas were based on the writings of other historians.

charles austin bart

“If a historical science were realized, it would make possible, like the science of celestial mechanics, predictable prediction of the future in history. It would gather the totality of historical events into a single field, revealing the future unfolding to its ultimate end, including all the obvious choices made and to be made. It would be omniscience. Its creator would possess the qualities that theologians attribute to God. Once the future was revealed, humanity would have nothing to do but wait for its doom. "

Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges

"History is and should be a science... History is not the accumulation of all kinds of events that occurred in the past. It is the science of human societies."


“The first foundations of all history are the stories of parents to children, then passed on from one generation to another; at their origin are more probable when they do not shake common sense, and lose a degree of probability with each generation”. (the philosophical dictionary)

(Video) The Story of Kony2012

Edward Hallett Carr

"History is... a dialogue between the present and the past. (Originally: History is... a dialogue between the present and the past.)" (What's the story)

Martin Luther King hijo.

"The most important lessons of the story? There are four: first, whom the gods destroy, they first madden with power. second, God's mills grind slowly, but they grind very little. third, the bee fertilizes the flower that steals room, when it's dark enough, you can see the stars." (Attributed to historian Charles Austin Beard, but this version is the one used by Martin Luther King in The Death of Evil Upon the Seashore)

a pack of tricks

Not everyone enjoys studying history or finds it useful.Henry Fordhe was a prime example, as was Henry David Thoreau, which is perhaps one of the few things these two gentlemen had in common.


"History is nothing more than a bunch of tricks we play on the dead." (Original in French) "I saw a time when you didn't like history. After all, it's just a bunch of trouble we cause the dead..."

Henry David Thoreau

"As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to marvel at but the fact that so many men could be humble enough to spend their lives building a tomb for an ambitious hick who would have been wiser and more manly to drown him in the Nile and then gave his body to the dogs".Walden)

(Video) history of the entire world, i guess

Jane Austen

“History, really serious history, cannot interest me. I read it a little out of duty, but it doesn't tell me anything that doesn't bother or tire me; men are all so deaf to nothing and hardly any women, that's pretty exhausting. (northanger abbey)

Ambrosio Bierce

"HISTORY, a nine-tenths lie. I think I'd like it known, before we take the great Niebuhr as our guide, where he went wrong and how much he lied.devil's dictionary)

Malcom X

“A race of men is like an individual man; Until she uses her own talent, is proud of her own history, expresses her own culture, asserts her own identity, she can never fulfill herself."

Over time

Whether you like the story or not, there's no denying the impact it has on us.

Henry David Thoreau

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"Most events recorded in history are more notable than important, like solar and lunar eclipses, which attract everyone but whose effects no one bothers to calculate."A week on the Concord and Merrimack rivers.)

Gusti Bienstock Kollman

"You know, it's so strange, I've seen four forms of government in my life: monarchy, republic, Hitler's empire, American democracy. He [Weimar RepublicIt was just... 1918 to 1933, that's fifteen years! Imagine that, just fifteen years old. But Hitler was going to last a thousand years, and he only lasted... 1933 to 1945... twelve, just twelve years! Say ah!"


"It's such a difficult proposition to track and discover the truth of anything throughout history." (the life of plutarch)

douglas adams

“The history of each major galactic civilization generally progresses through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of survival, exploration, and sophistication, also known as the how, why, and where phases. For example, the first phase is characterized by the question "How can we eat?", the second by the question "Why do we eat?" and the third for the question "Where are we going to have lunch?" (The universal backpacker's guide)

According to Prufrock

T. S. Eliot

What forgiveness after such acquaintance? now think
History has many ingenious passages, corridors constructed
and troubles, deceit with whispering ambition,
Take us through the vanities. now think
She relents when our attention wanders
And what happens with such flexible confusions
This bestowal is hungry with desire. It's too late
What is not believed or still believed
Only in memory, the passion reconsidered. give too soon
In weak hands, the thought can be dispensed with
Until rejection sows fear. Think
Neither fear nor courage will save us. unnatural vices
They are born of our heroism. virtues
imposed on us by our insolent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the raging tree.
("The Land of Waste", Prufrock and Other Poems)

(Video) A Historian of the Future: Five More Questions for Stephen Kotkin


What is history in short answer? ›

History is the study of change over time, and it covers all aspects of human society. Political, social, economic, scientific, technological, medical, cultural, intellectual, religious and military developments are all part of history.

What is history in my own words? ›

History is the knowledge of and study of the past. It is the story of the past and a form of collective memory. History is the story of who we are, where we come from, and can potentially reveal where we are headed.

What is history how is your understanding of history different from what is explained? ›

History describes our attempts to research, study and explain the past. This is a subtle difference but an important one. What happened in the past is fixed in time and cannot be changed. In contrast, history changes regularly.

What is history according to Arthur Marwick? ›

In this original article Professor Arthur Marwick discusses 'The Fundamentals of History', defining history as 'The bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians, together with everything that is involved in the production, communication of, and teaching about that knowledge'.

Why is history important easy answer? ›

It gives us a chronological and systematic account of the past.It is necessary to study history because it reveals our past , helps us to understand who we are , where we come from and can possibly reveal where we will be heading to.In fact studying our past gives us an opportunity to create our future in a more ...

What is history short answer for kids? ›

It is the story of man in time, an inquiry into the past based on evidence. Indeed, evidence is the raw material of history teaching and learning. It is an Inquiry into what happened in the past, when it happened, and how it happened.

Why is history so important to us? ›

Studying history helps us understand how events in the past made things the way they are today. With lessons from the past, we not only learn about ourselves and how we came to be, but also develop the ability to avoid mistakes and create better paths for our societies.

What is the history in one sentence? ›

History is a coherent account of the significant past events in the progress of human culture.

Why is history called history? ›

The short version is that the term history has evolved from an ancient Greek verb that means “to know,” says the Oxford English Dictionary's Philip Durkin. The Greek word historia originally meant inquiry, the act of seeking knowledge, as well as the knowledge that results from inquiry.

What is the difference between history and historian? ›

The word "historian" is a relatively unambiguous word. It means simply a man who tries to write history. But the word "history" is thoroughly ambiguous. It may refer to events which have taken place in the past; or it may refer to the written record of those events.

What is history and why understanding history is important? ›

Through history, we can learn how past societies, systems, ideologies, governments, cultures and technologies were built, how they operated, and how they have changed. The rich history of the world helps us to paint a detailed picture of where we stand today.

How do historians make sense of the past? ›

Historians look for causes and effects that help to explain how and why events happened. They try to see the past through the eyes of the people who lived it. When they study the past, historians ask themselves questions. The answers to the questions help historians draw conclusions about the past.

How did Arthur Marwick differentiate history from the past? ›

…we have to make a firm distinction between history as "the bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians", and "the past" as "everything which actually happened, whether known, or written, about by historians or not".

What is history according to Augustine? ›

Augustine defined history as having a distinct beginning and end, through which God worked to provide salvation to humanity.

What is the historian's aim about the past? ›

Modern historians aim to reconstruct a record of human activities and to achieve a more profound understanding of them.

What are 5 reasons why history is important? ›

Why Study History? (1998)
  • By Peter N. ...
  • History Helps Us Understand People and Societies. ...
  • History Helps Us Understand Change and How the Society We Live in Came to Be. ...
  • The Importance of History in Our Own Lives. ...
  • History Contributes to Moral Understanding. ...
  • History Provides Identity.

What is history answer in one word? ›

Explanation: Answer in one line: the study of past events, particularly in human affairs. History also means the whole series of past happenings related with a particular person or period.

What are the five importance of history? ›

10 Reasons Why History Is Important
  • #1. History builds a better understanding of the world.
  • #2. History helps us understand humanity.
  • #3. History can teach us to be better citizens.
  • #4. History can help the world make better decisions.
  • #5. Studying history can improve critical thinking.
  • #6. ...
  • #7. ...
  • #8.

What is history in simple words essay? ›

History is the study of past events leading up to the present day. It is a research, a narrative, or an account of past events and developments that are commonly related to a person, an institution, or a place. It is a branch of knowledge that records and analyzes…show more content…

What is the definition of history quizlet? ›

History. The study of people and events in the past based on evidence. Historian. A person who studies the past.

What are two reasons why history is important? ›

Why Studying History is Important (and Why It Is Fun)
  • History helps us understand other cultures. ...
  • History helps us understand our own society. ...
  • History helps us understand our own identities. ...
  • History builds citizenship. ...
  • History gives us insight into present-day problems. ...
  • History builds reading and writing skills.
Nov 21, 2016

What is the Three importance of history? ›

It gives clear understanding of who you are : history makes you understand your race,lineage and ancestors, it describes ancient people ,cultures and traditions of past generations,All these make your origin clear to you. It develops our sense of judgement: History teaches individuals.

How does history shape who you are? ›

History helps one to understand the immense complexity of our world and therefore enables one to cope with the problems and possibilities of the present and future. History provides us with a sense of identity. People need to develop a sense of their collective past. Events in the past have made us what we are today.

What is history in one sentence answer? ›

A history is an account of events that have happened in the past.

What is history answer in sentence? ›

Solution. History is a coherent account of the significant past events in the progress of human culture.

How do you summarize history? ›

How to write a summary? Identify its main thesis [check intro and conclusion for that]. Skim through the text and notice its major divisions: chapters and/or subchapters, as well as titles and/or subtitles. Read each division carefully with the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions in mind.

What is history choose the correct answer? ›

Correct answer: 1. History is the study of past events in chronological order.

What is a easy sentence for history? ›

Use “history” in a sentence

My father is interested in ancient history. They are about to begin a new chapter in their history. Her knowledge of world history is extensive. I like geography and history.


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