History is the cumulative study of human action over time. Human activities in the prehistoric era, pre-historical times, the prehistoric period, the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Medieval Ages, and the New Stone Age, to name a few periods, are the subject of historical research. Events prior to the invention of written systems are often viewed as prehistorical. “Prehistorially” is an inclusive umbrella phrase containing both prehistorical events and the human recording, investigation, accumulation, documentation, interpretation, and selection of those events. More recent historical research into the origins of civilization, race, nationality, and religious groups also falls under the rubric of history.
The discipline of history has many important historical concepts and approaches. One of those important concepts is chronology. Chronology refers to the arrangement of events within time. Chronologists include such notables as Herodotus, Thucydides, Diodorus, and Virgil.
Another important analytical method used in the study of history is literary criticism. Here historical researchers examine popular literature, cultural references, personal memoirs, and inscriptions for clues about what actually happened. They compare this information with what they know about the historical figures they follow, to attempt to identify falsified facts and to reach conclusions about the validity of popular culture. Writers who test these literary critics’ ideas by presenting their work for publication are often subjected to charges of revisionism, falsification, and plagiarism.
One of the most enduring challenges of our time is understanding what really happened during the course of history. Attempting to determine what occurred through the written records has become a common part of intellectual life. While thoroughgoing scientific methods have largely succeeded in describing the past, we have only begun to understand how these records actually reflect reality. While “folk memory,” the memories of ordinary people stored in the subconscious through repetitive expression, may sometimes help us reconstruct the events of the past, nothing in the concrete recordable facts about which folk memories are made can provide the precise truth about what really happened.
The difficulty of accurately reconstructing events that have passed away can be seen in how many people relate their childhood. Children’s books, plays, and other preserved works often describe events that have occurred long ago. However, when these same events are read and retold, the details often change, the emotions felt by the characters change, or the people telling the stories themselves may subtly alter the realities that were revealed by the events described. This is why some people claim that childhood memories are the key to unlock the key to the truth about any given historical period. Although there is much that is uncertain about past history, however, there is much more that can be known about certain periods of history than can ever be known about them.
By studying the various ways that people can construct and store historical facts, it is also possible to learn more about how social factors may have affected the development of a certain historical reality. For instance, a number of scholars argue that the rise of the Protestant Church in Ireland may have resulted in the suppression of Catholic religious practices during the 18th century. Through studying recovered history, it is also possible to discover how important elements of popular culture may have been suppressed or ignored during a historical time. There are also many methods used today that rely on a combination of recovered and real history in order to explain how and why particular events took place. As more modern methods of research are developed, it will become even easier to study historical truth.