The study of history involves sorting out historical sources. Historians must distinguish between primary and secondary sources in their work. The former were created by the authors with their personal interests in mind, while the latter are more general works that were written to describe the past. Historians are also faced with moral gray areas, and must make judgments based on evidence rather than their own beliefs.
Historians work in many disciplines and consult both written and oral sources. They also study non-written sources such as paintings, sculpture, and artifacts. The study of history requires skills, as historians must be able to communicate and write well. Their writing style should be clear, precise, and well-structured.
Writing history is an important tool, and it has shaped national identities. It can also legitimize or discredit current events and people. Misuse of history is a huge concern. It should never be used as a weapon in culture wars. Unfortunately, history is increasingly becoming the handmaiden of identity politics and self-flagellation, and it is leading to poor understandings of history.
Postmodernists have contested the validity of history and the need to study history. They argue that history is based on the individual’s interpretation of sources. In response to this criticism, historians such as Richard J. Evans and Keith Windschuttle have defended history and its study. In their respective books, they defend history against postmodernist criticism.
Among the early medieval historiographers, Augustine emphasized the linearity of history and the Christian eschatology. He argued that history is a record of the struggle between the chosen elect and self-loving self-lovers. In this way, history is a reflection of the struggle between these two opposing forces.
In contrast, Walsh argues that history cannot be viewed as an objective science. For example, a coin would be worthless if the viewer were unaware of Rome or the natural environment that made it possible. Ultimately, he says that the value of history is in the interpretative and constructive aspects of historical events.
While many historians have rejected this approach, a number of prominent historians have taken a multidisciplinary approach to study history. Friedrich Hegel, David Friedrich Strauss, and Le Roy Ladurie sought to combine history with sociology and the sciences. Others have advocated for an empirical view of history by considering the evidence.
The study of history also includes stories and legends that are common to a culture. Although this is not necessarily true, it is often based on verifiable sources. And, as a result, it is possible to get a variety of interpretations of history. In fact, the study of history has become a major discipline at the university level.
In addition to this, there are various subsets of history. For example, there is ancient history, which covers the history of human civilization from the beginning to the early Middle Ages. There is also people’s history and political history. There is also art history, which studies the development of art and its social context. Another branch of history is cultural history, which studies cultures in the past.