History is the social science that studies the past of humanity. On the other hand, the word is used to define the historical journal that begins with the appearance of writing and even to refer to the past itself.
What does history study?
The phenomena analyzed by history can be of an economic, political, social, artistic, cultural or religious nature and are differentiated from each other by being of short, medium or long duration. Those of short duration are punctual events, also called events, that occur in a few hours or days. Those of medium duration are considered to be conjunctural and take place over a period of a few years. Finally, those of long duration, are the structural ones and their development can last up to centuries.
Branches of History
History is divided into two main branches: prehistory and history. These in turn are divided into stages: Stone and Metal Ages, corresponding to prehistory; and Ancient, Middle, Modern and Contemporary Ages, corresponding to history.
- Prehistory: is in charge of studying the facts prior to the invention of writing. It is divided into two stages: the Stone Age (comprising the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods) and the Metal Age (comprising the Copper Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age).
- History: studies all the events from the invention of writing to the present day. It is divided into four stages: the Ancient Age, the Middle Age, the Modern Age and the Contemporary Age.
The division of history facilitates the study of the most important facts and/or events in the life of mankind (from the appearance of the human being to the present day). That is why history is said to be the science that studies the past in order to understand the present.
Prehistory is divided into Stone Age and Metal Age.
1- Stone Age
The Stone Age covers the period from approximately 2,500,000 to 3,000 BC.
It is called the "Stone Age" because during this period humans used stone to make the tools of daily use. It is made up of the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.
- Palaeolithic: The Paleolithic period covers the period from 2,500,000 and 10,000 BC. It is divided into the Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. During this period humans were nomadic. They moved around in search of food in order to survive. It was also characterized by the construction of simple tools (made with stones).
- Mesolithic: This is a transitional period between the Paleolithic and Neolithic. During the Mesolithic period, humans had to modify their methods of survival, so they began to domesticate animals to hunt more easily.
- Neolithic: Also called the period of the polished stone or new stone. It covers the period from approximately 5,000 BC to 3,000 BC. It was characterized by the emergence of agriculture and livestock, which generated that they became sedentary. It was not necessary to move from one place to another in search of food because they could sow and grow whatever they needed.
2- Metal Age
The historical period during which humans began to use metals in everyday life was called the Metal Age.
Most historians claim that it began shortly before 5,000 BC and culminated in the emergence of writing. However, this does not mean that humans stopped using metals.
It is made up of the Copper Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
- Copper Age: At this stage the sedentary human being begins to use copper, gold and silver to create the tools to improve agriculture and hunting.
- Bronze Age: It arises when human beings discover that, by alloying copper with tin, bronze (a stronger metal than copper) is produced. In this age we see the emergence of the first political authority. It also shows how social organization differed from previous periods and social inequality began to be noticed. The Bronze Age spread over much of the world. However, it was limited by the Sahara Desert preventing its global expansion.
- Iron Age: This period is characterized by the use of iron for the realization of their tools. Iron is used because it was the metal that was found in abundance (much more than copper and bronze).
The first signs of the division of social classes are observed. This stage extended all over the world, reaching the Sahara Desert.
It is divided into four stages: the Ancient Age, the Middle Age, the Modern Age and the Contemporary Age.
1- Ancient Age
The Ancient Age begins with the emergence of writing and ends with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 47 AD.
During this period, the first civilizations appeared and developed: Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Persian, Hebrew, Egyptian, Greek and Roman.
2- The Middle Ages
The Middle Ages covers the study of historical events from the 5th to the 15th century.
It begins with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and culminates with the discovery of the American continent (some historians point out that it ends with the fall of the Byzantine Empire). It was characterized by the disappearance of Roman citizenship, and the implementation of the theocentric ideology of the Christian and the Muslim ideology.
In the economic aspect, the model of feudal production began to be used, according to which the King gave extensions of land (feuds) to the nobles and warriors. These in turn allowed the peasants to live there on the condition that they produced it and it was given to them.
The Middle Ages were governed by both kings and clergy, as it was they who established what could or could not be done.
3- Modern Age
The Modern Age begins with the discovery of America (1492) and ends with the French Revolution (1789).
During this period the European continent went through great economic, social and political changes. It was characterized by giving an anthropocentric sense to human life (more interest was given to art, literature and scientific studies).
Likewise, the so-called "Modern State" emerged, which consisted of concentrating power in the King, and to achieve this it was necessary to negotiate with the feudal lords so that they would give up their individual rights (in some cases wars were fought to obtain the land).
Later on, political power emerged, which was called absolute monarchy.
4- Contemporary Age
The Contemporary Age begins with the French Revolution in 1789 and continues to the present day.
This stage of history is characterized by its scientific discoveries, such as: the steamboat, the electric battery, the telephone, the electric light bulb, the airplane, the mobile phone, among others.
This is the stage of history that is being lived at present. For such reason, day by day more transcendental facts are being added to it in the life of the human being.
Sources of history
The sources of history are the documents, objects and other materials used by researchers to acquire information about past events. These archives are used to explain mankind's past and present.
Types of historical sources
The types of historical sources are explained below:
- Primary Sources
Primary sources are those that answer how, why and when an event occurred. Thus, it can be seen that this material has to provide concrete data in order to be considered a primary support.
It is convenient to mention that historians work through social examination; it is like saying that they break the facts with the purpose of putting them together again. Likewise, in order to obtain positive results, researchers should not only go to libraries; they should also visit museums, academies and civil registries.
If necessary, it is fair that they visit the relatives of the people who performed a feat or who have been victims of some event.
The purpose is to get a little-known report, such as the newspapers or the stories of the people who lived the event. These sources are called testimonies and enrich the school and work projects.
Among the main primary sources are:
Photographs and drawings are essential sources because they show a specific episode of the story. They reveal the clothing, landscapes and materials that men used. However, it is essential to check that these objects have not been altered over time.
Books are usually the most relevant sources because they contain complete and detailed information. By analyzing the texts, researchers can develop a new study. The most valuable written references are:
- - Legal codes: such as the laws that maintain the order of the nation.
- - Censuses: data that show how many inhabitants there are in a country.
- - Chronicles and biographies: these books often contain the local histories of the countries or the lives of important figures such as politicians, artists, communicators or the military.
- - Records: where birth and marriage certificates are kept and where individuals have reported over the years.
- - Newspaper articles: newspapers and magazines, whether on paper or on the Internet.
For an opinion to be valid, it is necessary to verify that the person - who will transmit his or her testimony - is aware and in full use of his or her faculties; this with the aim of preventing the story from being modified. Generally, this source is divided into:
- - Interviews with direct witnesses.
- - Commercial.
- - Radio and television speeches.
- - Voice recordings and documentaries.
- Secondary sources
Secondary references are considered to be texts and elements that are intended to demonstrate that some event actually occurred; that is, they explain what the primary sources say.
Thus, it is perceived that the materials -which are incorporated within this category- are characterized by being instruments of exemplification. The most common are:
These are the tables, graphs and illustrations that are exposed in the research works and that seek to describe the economic, demographic and climate changes. The idea is to say how these transformations affect man on a daily basis.
Maps and charts written by navigators are cartographic works. These documents are fundamental because, for example, through the maps you can see the states that make up a country, as well as the territories that have disappeared or joined the nation.
On the other hand, the charts show the landscape transformations that the regions have had. These tools are widely used in geohistory and ethnohistory:
- - Geohistory:studies how human actions modify the environment.
- - Ethnohistory:examines how the world has perceived different social groups (indigenous, African, mestizo and European).
h5 >*Material references
Thanks to these sources it can be shown that there were many cultures in the past and that their inhabitants contributed to the progress of humanity through their words or discoveries. Sometimes these objects represent the power and fortune of ancient civilizations, among which they stand out:
- - The construction of architectural and hydraulic pieces (such as buildings, streets and pipes).
- - Coins and medals.
- - The first writings (like hieroglyphics).