A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it.Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.
During the Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt trial, people[ who? ] became aware that the court needed to identify what was an "objective historian" in the same vein as the reasonable person, and reminiscent of the standard traditionally used in English law of "the man on the Clapham omnibus". This was necessary so that there would be a legal benchmark to compare and contrast the scholarship of an objective historian against the illegitimate methods employed by David Irving, as before the Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt trial, there was no legal precedent for what constituted an objective historian.
Justice Gray leant heavily on the research of one of the expert witnesses, Richard J. Evans, who compared illegitimate distortion of the historical record practiced by Holocaust deniers with established historical methodologies.
By summarizing Gray's judgment, in an article published in the Yale Law Journal , Wendie E. Schneider distils these seven points for what he meant by an objective historian:
- The historian must treat sources with appropriate reservations;
- The historian must not dismiss counter-evidence without scholarly consideration;
- The historian must be even-handed in treatment of evidence and eschew "cherry-picking";
- The historian must clearly indicate any speculation;
- The historian must not mistranslate documents or mislead by omitting parts of documents;
- The historian must weigh the authenticity of all accounts, not merely those that contradict their favored view; and
- The historian must take the motives of historical actors into consideration.
Schneider uses the concept of the "objective historian" to suggest that this could be an aid in assessing what makes a historian suitable as expert witnesses under the Daubert standard in the United States. Schneider proposed this, because, in her opinion, Irving could not have passed the standard Daubert tests unless a court was given "a great deal of assistance from historians".
Schneider proposes that by testing a historian against the criteria of the "objective historian" then, even if a historian holds specific political views (and she gives an example of a well-qualified historian's testimony that was disregarded by a United States court because he was a member of a feminist group), providing the historian uses the "objective historian" standards, they are a "conscientious historian". It was Irving's failure as an "objective historian" not his right-wing views that caused him to lose his libel case, as a "conscientious historian" would not have "deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" to support his political views.
The process of historical analysis involves investigation and analysis of competing ideas, facts, and purported facts to create coherent narratives that explain "what happened" and "why or how it happened". Modern historical analysis usually draws upon other social sciences, including economics, sociology, politics, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and linguistics. While ancient writers do not normally share modern historical practices, their work remains valuable for its insights within the cultural context of the times. An important part of the contribution of many modern historians is the verification or dismissal of earlier historical accounts through reviewing newly discovered sources and recent scholarship or through parallel disciplines like archaeology.
Understanding the past appears to be a universal human need, and the telling of history has emerged independently in civilizations around the world. What constitutes history is a philosophical question (see philosophy of history). The earliest chronologies date back to Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, though no historical writers in these early civilizations were known by name.
Systematic historical thought emerged in ancient Greece, a development that became an important influence on the writing of history elsewhere around the Mediterranean region. The earliest known critical historical works were The Histories , composed by Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484 – c. 425 BCE) who later became known as the "father of history" (Cicero). Herodotus attempted to distinguish between more and less reliable accounts and personally conducted research by travelling extensively, giving written accounts of various Mediterranean cultures. Although Herodotus' overall emphasis lay on the actions and characters of men, he also attributed an important role to divinity in the determination of historical events. Thucydides largely eliminated divine causality in his account of the war between Athens and Sparta, establishing a rationalistic element that set a precedent for subsequent Western historical writings. He was also the first to distinguish between cause and immediate origins of an event, while his successor Xenophon (c. 431 – 355 BCE) introduced autobiographical elements and character studies in his Anabasis.
The Romans adopted the Greek tradition. While early Roman works were still written in Greek, the Origines, composed by the Roman statesman Cato the Elder (234–149 BCE), was written in Latin, in a conscious effort to counteract Greek cultural influence. Strabo (63 BCE – c. 24 CE) was an important exponent of the Greco-Roman tradition of combining geography with history, presenting a descriptive history of peoples and places known to his era. Livy (59 BCE – 17 CE) records the rise of Rome from city-state to empire. His speculation about what would have happened if Alexander the Great had marched against Rome represents the first known instance of alternate history.
In Chinese historiography, the Classic of History is one of the Five Classics of Chinese classic texts and one of the earliest narratives of China. The Spring and Autumn Annals , the official chronicle of the State of Lu covering the period from 722 to 481 BCE, is among the earliest surviving Chinese historical texts arranged on annalistic principles. Sima Qian (around 100 BCE) was the first in China to lay the groundwork for professional historical writing. His written work was the Shiji ( Records of the Grand Historian ), a monumental lifelong achievement in literature. Its scope extends as far back as the 16th century BCE, and it includes many treatises on specific subjects and individual biographies of prominent people and also explores the lives and deeds of commoners, both contemporary and those of previous eras.
Christian historiography began early, perhaps as early as Luke-Acts, which is the primary source for the Apostolic Age. Writing history was popular among Christian monks and clergy in the Middle Ages. They wrote about the history of Jesus Christ, that of the Church and that of their patrons, the dynastic history of the local rulers. In the Early Middle Ages historical writing often took the form of annals or chronicles recording events year by year, but this style tended to hamper the analysis of events and causes. century, but one copy was still being updated in 1154.An example of this type of writing is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which were the work of several different writers: it was started during the reign of Alfred the Great in the late ninth
Muslim historical writings first began to develop in the seventh century, with the reconstruction of the Prophet Muhammad's life in the centuries following his death. With numerous conflicting narratives regarding Muhammad and his companions from various sources, scholars had to verify which sources were more reliable. To evaluate these sources, they developed various methodologies, such as the science of biography , science of hadith and Isnad (chain of transmission). They later applied these methodologies to other historical figures in the Islamic civilization. Famous historians in this tradition include Urwah (d. 712), Wahb ibn Munabbih (d. 728), Ibn Ishaq (d. 761), al-Waqidi (745–822), Ibn Hisham (d. 834), Muhammad al-Bukhari (810–870) and Ibn Hajar (1372–1449).
During the Age of Enlightenment, the modern development of historiography through the application of scrupulous methods began.
French philosophe Voltaire (1694–1778) had an enormous influence on the art of history writing. His best-known histories are The Age of Louis XIV (1751), and Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations (1756). "My chief object," he wrote in 1739, "is not political or military history, it is the history of the arts, of commerce, of civilization – in a word, – of the human mind."He broke from the tradition of narrating diplomatic and military events, and emphasized customs, social history, and achievements in the arts and sciences. He was the first scholar to make a serious attempt to write the history of the world, eliminating theological frameworks, and emphasizing economics, culture, and political history.
At the same time, philosopher David Hume was having a similar impact on history in Great Britain. In 1754, he published the History of England , a six-volume work that extended from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688. Hume adopted a similar scope to Voltaire in his history; as well as the history of Kings, Parliaments, and armies, he examined the history of culture, including literature and science, as well.William Robertson, a Scottish historian, and the Historiographer Royal published the History of Scotland 1542 – 1603, in 1759 and his most famous work, The history of the reign of Charles V in 1769. His scholarship was painstaking for the time and he was able to access a large number of documentary sources that had previously been unstudied. He was also one of the first historians who understood the importance of general and universally applicable ideas in the shaping of historical events.
The apex of Enlightenment history was reached with Edward Gibbon's, monumental six-volume work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire , published on 17 February 1776. Because of its relative objectivity and heavy use of primary sources, at the time its methodology became a model for later historians. This has led to Gibbon being called the first "modern historian".The book sold impressively, earning its author a total of about £9000. Biographer Leslie Stephen wrote that thereafter, "His fame was as rapid as it has been lasting."
The tumultuous events surrounding the French Revolution inspired much of the historiography and analysis of the early 19th century. Interest in the 1688 Glorious Revolution was also rekindled by the Great Reform Act of 1832 in England.
Thomas Carlyle published his magnum opus, the three-volume The French Revolution: A History in 1837.The resulting work had a passion new to historical writing. Thomas Macaulay produced his most famous work of history, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second , in 1848. His writings are famous for their ringing prose and for their confident, sometimes dogmatic, emphasis on a progressive model of British history, according to which the country threw off superstition, autocracy and confusion to create a balanced constitution and a forward-looking culture combined with the freedom of belief and expression. This model of human progress has been called the Whig interpretation of history.
In his main work Histoire de France, French historian Jules Michelet coined the term Renaissance (meaning "Re-birth" in French language), as a period in Europe's cultural history that represented a break from the Middle Ages, creating a modern understanding of humanity and its place in the world.The nineteen-volume work covered French history from Charlemagne to the outbreak of the Revolution. Michelet was one of the first historians to shift the emphasis of history to the common people, rather than the leaders and institutions of the country. Another important French historian of the period was Hippolyte Taine. He was the chief theoretical influence of French naturalism, a major proponent of sociological positivism and one of the first practitioners of historicist criticism. Literary historicism as a critical movement has been said to originate with him.
One of the major progenitors of the history of culture and art, was the Swiss historian Jacob BurckhardtBurckhardt's best-known work is The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860). According to John Lukacs, he was the first master of cultural history, which seeks to describe the spirit and the forms of expression of a particular age, a particular people, or a particular place. By the mid-19th century, scholars were beginning to analyse the history of institutional change, particularly the development of constitutional government. William Stubbs's Constitutional History of England (3 vols., 1874–78) was an important influence on this developing field. The work traced the development of the English constitution from the Teutonic invasions of Britain until 1485, and marked a distinct step in the advance of English historical learning.
Karl Marx introduced the concept of historical materialism into the study of world-historical development. In his conception, the economic conditions and dominant modes of production determined the structure of society at that point. Previous historians had focused on the cyclical events of the rise and decline of rulers and nations. Process of nationalization of history, as part of national revivals in the 19th century, resulted with separation of "one's own" history from common universal history by such way of perceiving, understanding and treating the past that constructed history as history of a nation.A new discipline, sociology, emerged in the late 19th century and analyzed and compared these perspectives on a larger scale.
The modern academic study of history and methods of historiography were pioneered in 19th-century German universities. Leopold von Ranke was a pivotal influence in this regard, and is considered as the founder of modern source-based history.
Specifically, he implemented the seminar teaching method in his classroom and focused on archival research and analysis of historical documents. Beginning with his first book in 1824, the History of the Latin and Teutonic Peoples from 1494 to 1514, Ranke used an unusually wide variety of sources for a historian of the age, including "memoirs, diaries, personal and formal missives, government documents, diplomatic dispatches and first-hand accounts of eye-witnesses". Over a career that spanned much of the century, Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources (empiricism), an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics ( aussenpolitik ).Sources had to be hard, not speculations and rationalizations. His credo was to write history the way it was. He insisted on primary sources with proven authenticity.
The term Whig history was coined by Herbert Butterfield in his short book The Whig Interpretation of History in 1931, (a reference to the British Whigs, advocates of the power of Parliament) to refer to the approach to historiography that presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians emphasized the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms, and scientific progress. The term has been also applied widely in historical disciplines outside of British history (the history of science, for example) to criticize any teleological (or goal-directed), hero-based, and transhistorical narrative.Butterfield's antidote to Whig history was "...to evoke a certain sensibility towards the past, the sensibility which studies the past 'for the sake of the past', which delights in the concrete and the complex, which 'goes out to meet the past', which searches for 'unlikenesses between past and present'." Butterfield's formulation received much attention, and the kind of historical writing he argued against in generalised terms is no longer academically respectable.
The French Annales School radically changed the focus of historical research in France during the 20th century by stressing long-term social history, rather than political or diplomatic themes. The school emphasized the use of quantification and the paying of special attention to geography.An eminent member of this school, Georges Duby, described his approach to history as one that
relegated the sensational to the sidelines and was reluctant to give a simple accounting of events, but strived on the contrary to pose and solve problems and, neglecting surface disturbances, to observe the long and medium-term evolution of economy, society, and civilisation.
Marxist historiography developed as a school of historiography influenced by the chief tenets of Marxism, including the centrality of social class and economic constraints in determining historical outcomes. Friedrich Engels wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 , which was salient in creating the socialist impetus in British politics from then on, e.g. the Fabian Society. R. H. Tawney's The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century (1912)and Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926), reflected his ethical concerns and preoccupations in economic history. A circle of historians inside the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) formed in 1946 and became a highly influential cluster of British Marxist historians, who contributed to history from below and class structure in early capitalist society. Members included Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and E. P. Thompson.
World history, as a distinct field of historical study, emerged as an independent academic field in the 1980s. It focused on the examination of history from a global perspective and looked for common patterns that emerged across all cultures. Arnold J. Toynbee's ten-volume A Study of History, written between 1933 and 1954, was an important influence on this developing field. He took a comparative topical approach to independent civilizations and demonstrated that they displayed striking parallels in their origin, growth, and decay.William H. McNeill wrote The Rise of the West (1965) to improve upon Toynbee by showing how the separate civilizations of Eurasia interacted from the very beginning of their history, borrowing critical skills from one another, and thus precipitating still further change as adjustment between traditional old and borrowed new knowledge and practice became necessary.
A new advanced specialty opened in the late 20th century: historical editing. Edmund Morgan reports on its emergence in the United States:
It required, to begin with, large sums of money. But money has proved easier to recruit than talent. Historians who undertake these large editorial projects must leave the main channel of academic life. They do not teach; they do not write their own books; they do not enjoy long vacations for rumination, reflection, and research on whatever topic interests them at the moment. Instead they must live in unremitting daily pursuit of an individual whose company, whatever his genius, may ultimately begin to pall. Anyone who has edited historical manuscripts knows that it requires as much physical and intellectual labor to prepare a text for publication as it does to write a book of one's own. Indeed, the new editorial projects are far too large for one man. The editor-in-chief, having decided to forego a regular academic career, must entice other scholars to help him; and with the present [high] demand for college teachers, this is no easy task.
An undergraduate history degree is often used as a stepping stone to graduate studies in business or law. Many historians are employed at universities and other facilities for post-secondary education.In addition, it is normal for colleges and universities to require a PhD degree for new full-time hires. A scholarly thesis, such as a PhD, is now regarded as the baseline qualification for a professional historian. However, some historians still gain recognition based on published (academic) works and the award of fellowships by academic bodies like the Royal Historical Society. Publication is increasingly required by smaller schools, so graduate papers become journal articles and PhD dissertations become published monographs. The graduate student experience is difficult—those who finish their doctorate in the United States take on average 8 or more years; funding is scarce except at a few very rich universities. Being a teaching assistant in a course is required in some programs; in others it is a paid opportunity awarded a fraction of the students. Until the 1970s it was rare for graduate programs to teach how to teach; the assumption was that teaching was easy and that learning how to do research was the main mission. A critical experience for graduate students is having a mentor who will provide psychological, social, intellectual and professional support, while directing scholarship and providing an introduction to the profession.
Professional historians typically work in colleges and universities, archival centers, government agencies, museums, and as freelance writers and consultants.The job market for new PhDs in history is poor and getting worse, with many relegated to part-time "adjunct" teaching jobs with low pay and no benefits.
C. Vann Woodward (1908–1999), Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, cautioned that the academicians had themselves abdicated their role as storytellers:
Professionals do well to apply the term "amateur" with caution to the historian outside their ranks. The word does have deprecatory and patronizing connotations that occasionally backfire. This is especially true of narrative history, which nonprofessionals have all but taken over. The gradual withering of the narrative impulse in favor of the analytical urge among professional academic historians has resulted in a virtual abdication of the oldest and most honored role of the historian, that of storyteller. Having abdicated... the professional is in a poor position to patronize amateurs who fulfill the needed function he has abandoned.
Chinese historiography is the study of the techniques and sources used by historians to develop the recorded history of China.
Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography by topic—such as the historiography of the United Kingdom, that of WWII, the British Empire, early Islam, and China—and different approaches and genres, such as political history and social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the development of academic history, there developed a body of historiographic literature. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties—such as to their nation state—remains a debated question.
In historiography, historical revisionism is the reinterpretation of a historical account. It usually involves challenging the orthodox views held by professional scholars about a historical event or timespan or phenomenon, introducing contrary evidence, or reinterpreting the motivations and decisions of the people involved. The revision of the historical record can reflect new discoveries of fact, evidence, and interpretation, which then results in revised history. In dramatic cases, revisionism involves a reversal of older moral judgments.
Philosophy of history is the philosophical study of history and its discipline. The term was coined by French philosopher Voltaire.
Leopold von Ranke was a German historian and a founder of modern source-based history. He was able to implement the seminar teaching method in his classroom and focused on archival research and the analysis of historical documents. Building on the methods of the Göttingen School of History, he was the first to establish a historical seminar. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources (empiricism), an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics (Außenpolitik). He was ennobled in 1865, with the addition of a "von" to his name.
Whig history is an approach to historiography that presents history as a journey from an oppressive and benighted past to a "glorious present". The present described is generally one with modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy: it was originally a satirical term for the patriotic grand narratives praising Britain's adoption of constitutional monarchy and the historical development of the Westminster system. The term has also been applied widely in historical disciplines outside of British history to describe "any subjection of history to what is essentially a teleological view of the historical process". When the term is used in contexts other than British history, "whig history" (lowercase) is preferred.
Norman Frank Cantor was a Canadian-American historian who specialized in the medieval period. Known for his accessible writing and engaging narrative style, Cantor's books were among the most widely read treatments of medieval history in English. He estimated that his textbook The Civilization of the Middle Ages, first published in 1963, had a million copies in circulation.
Ernst Peter Wilhelm Troeltsch was a German liberal Protestant theologian, a writer on the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of history, and a classical liberal politician. He was a member of the history of religions school. His work was a synthesis of a number of strands, drawing on Albrecht Ritschl, Max Weber's conception of sociology, and the Baden school of neo-Kantianism.
Sir Herbert Butterfield was an English historian and philosopher of history, who was Regius Professor of Modern History and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He is remembered chiefly for a short volume early in his career entitled The Whig Interpretation of History (1931) and for his Origins of Modern Science (1949). Butterfield turned increasingly to historiography and man's developing view of the past. Butterfield was a devout Christian and reflected at length on Christian influences in historical perspectives.
Recorded history or written history describes the historical events that have been recorded in a written form or other documented communication which are subsequently evaluated by historians using the historical method. For broader world history, recorded history begins with the accounts of the ancient world around the 4th millennium BC, and it coincides with the invention of writing. For some geographic regions or cultures, written history is limited to a relatively recent period in human history because of the limited use of written records. Moreover, human cultures do not always record all of the information which is considered relevant by later historians, such as the full impact of natural disasters or the names of individuals. Recorded history for particular types of information is therefore limited based on the types of records kept. Because of this, recorded history in different contexts may refer to different periods of time depending on the topic.
The historiography of Scotland refers to the sources, critical methods and interpretive models used by scholars to come to an understanding of the history of Scotland.
Gu Jiegang was a Chinese historian best known for his seven-volume work Gushi Bian. He was a co-founder and the leading force of the Doubting Antiquity School, and was highly influential in the 20th century development of Chinese history.
Critical historiography approaches the history of art, literature or architecture from a critical theory perspective. Critical historiography is used by various scholars in recent decades to emphasize the ambiguous relationship between the past and the writing of history. Specifically, it is used as a method by which one understands the past and can be applied in various fields of academic work.
History is the systematic study and documentation of human activity. The time period of events before the invention of writing systems is considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term comprising past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of these events. Historians seek knowledge of the past using historical sources such as written documents, oral accounts, art and material artifacts, and ecological markers. History is not complete and still has debatable mysteries.
Hellenic historiography involves efforts made by Greeks to track and record historical events. By the 5th century BC, it became an integral part of ancient Greek literature and held a prestigious place in later Roman historiography and Byzantine literature.
Robert Jacobus Fruin was a Dutch historian. A follower of Leopold von Ranke, he introduced the scientific study of history in the Netherlands when he was professor of Dutch national history at Leiden University.
Nationalization of history is the term used in historiography to describe the process of separation of "one's own" history from the common universal history, by way of perceiving, understanding and treating the past that results with construction of history as history of a nation. If national labeling of the past is not treated with great care, it can result in the retrospective nationalization of history and even assigning nonexistent or exaggerating existing national attributes of historical events and persons. Nationalization of history, which began after a period of globalization of history, was not only one of causes, but also element and result of the process of establishment of modern nations.
The historiography of Japan is the study of methods and hypotheses formulated in the study and literature of the history of Japan.
The historiography of the United Kingdom includes the historical and archival research and writing on the history of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. For studies of the overseas empire see historiography of the British Empire.
The historiography of Germany deals with the manner in which historians have depicted, analyzed and debated the history of Germany. It also covers the popular memory of critical historical events, ideas and leaders, as well as the depiction of those events in museums, monuments, reenactments, pageants and historic sites, and the editing of historical documents.
This essay deals with, what I call, "nationalized history", meaning a way of perceiving, understanding and treating the past that requires separation of "one's own" history from "common" history and its construction as history of a nation.