History is the examination of the past. Early events prior to the invention of written record systems are often regarded as prehistorical. “history” is really an umbrella term covering ancient history, the historical record, the measurement of time, the making of history, and the understanding of history. One might suppose that this would be an incomplete description, but it is actually a very comprehensive one, encompassing many different types of time periods, civilizations, peoples, and events.
In examining human experience, historians attempt to describe past human experiences by means of documentation, especially chronological documentation. Examples of chronicle are primary sources such as diaries and memoirs; secondary sources such as laws and legal papers; and documentary works, such as history books. The degree to which the historians examine their source depends on the circumstances surrounding the source, the audience for the history, and the bias of the source. In addition, the degree to which the historians examine themselves is dependent on their own self-imposed criteria. Historians may examine ancient societies, such as ancient Greece and Rome, from a Western perspective, or they may examine current societies, such as India and China, from a Eastern perspective. And yet another kind of historian, called a social scientist, who studies society as a whole, with an emphasis on historical change, is sometimes called a culturalist.
Unlike historians, students interested in studying history should be prepared to acquire a number of skills. The ability to analyze and interpret data is necessary, as is the ability to read primary sources, both contemporary and historical. Learning to use computers and other technologies is also beneficial.
In studying history, one can draw upon a variety of disciplines. One way to examine past societies is to examine world history, which usually refers to the history of ancient empires and political systems, but can also cover other nations and time periods. Another way to examine history is to examine the culture of those living in the society. The history of Ancient Greece and Rome, for example, includes aspects of Greek and Roman culture, but may also include elements of Chinese, Indian, Aztec, Arabian, or Middle Eastern cultures. Students studying history will also need to have knowledge of mathematics, science, and social science.
When studying history, it is important to remember that different areas of study offer different perspectives, depending on who is looking at the information. Primary sources are valuable, but secondary sources are sometimes even more useful. For this reason, it is important for students studying history to be aware of what kinds of information to include or not in their own interpretations of world events and past societies.
Studying history in the classroom can be challenging, but those who are willing to follow directions and absorb information can become skilled historians-orators. In fact, some of the best historians in the world are teachers or professors. Some of the most popular history courses on history in the United States begin with an introduction to history by teaching students about some of the most prominent figures in history. Learning history in the classroom can lead to a lifelong passion for studying world affairs, politics, mathematics, technology, and other forms of science.