Friday, June 18, 2010


History is the study of the human past. Scholars who write about history are called historians. It is a field of research which uses a narrative to examine and analyse the sequence of events, and it sometimes attempts to investigate objectively the patterns of cause and effect that determine events.Historians debate the nature of history and its usefulness. This includes discussing the study of the discipline as an end in itself and as a way of providing "perspective" on the problems of the present. The stories common to a particular culture, but not supported by external sources (such as the legends surrounding King Arthur) are usually classified as cultural heritage rather than the "disinterested investigation" needed by the discipline of history. Events of the past prior to written record are considered prehistory.

The word history comes from the root *weid- "know" or "see" — from which also come Greek ἰδέᾱ (idéā) "appearance" or "kind", Latin ēvidēns and vīsiō, Italian vista, English wit, I wot, wise, and wisdom, Sanskrit veda,[10] and Slavic videti. (See asterisk.)

Ancient Greek ἱστορία means "inquiry" or "knowledge from inquiry", from ἵστωρ (hístōr) "judge" (from the Proto-Indo-European agent noun *wid-tor: "one who knows"). It was in that sense that Aristotle used the word in his Ηistoríai "Inquiries about Animals"). The ancestor word ἵστωρ is attested early on in Homeric Hymns, Heraclitus, the Athenian ephebes' oath, and in Boiotic inscriptions (in a legal sense, either "judge" or "witness", or similar).

Although the related verb οἷδα oîda "I know" (zero-grade aorist stem id- "see") has d, ἵστωρ has s, according to the Greek phonological rule that a dental stop (t, d, or th) before another dental stop becomes s.

It was still in the Greek sense that Francis Bacon used the term in the late 16th century, when he wrote about "Natural History". For him, historia was "the knowledge of objects determined by space and time", that sort of knowledge provided by memory (while science was provided by reason, and poetry was provided by fantasy).

The word entered the English language in 1390 with the meaning of "relation of incidents, story". In Middle English, the meaning was "story" in general. The restriction to the meaning "record of past events" arises in the late 15th century. In German, French, and most Germanic and Romance languages, the same word is still used to mean both "history" and "story". The adjective historical is attested from 1661, and historic from 1669.

Historian in the sense of a "researcher of history" is attested from 1531. In all European languages, the substantive "history" is still used to mean both "what happened with men", and "the scholarly study of the happened", the latter sense sometimes distinguished with a capital letter, "History", or the word historiography.