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Historiography is the aspect of semiotics that is the study of how knowledge of the past, recent or distant, is obtained and transmitted. Broadly speaking, historiography examines the writing of history and the use of historical methods, drawing upon such elements such as authorship, sourcing, interpretation, style, bias, and audience. The word historiography can also refer to a body of historical work. As the tools of historical investigation have changed over time and space, the term itself bears multiple meanings and is not readily associated with a single all-encompassing definition.

Scholars often discuss historiography topically, such as "Historiography of Catholicism" or "Historiography of China". There are many approaches or genres of history, such as oral history and social history. Beginning in the 19th century, with the rise of academic historians, a corpus of literature related to historiography came into existence, including classic works such as E. H. Carr's What is History? (1961) and Hayden White's Metahistory (1974).


[edit] Defining historiography

There are two basic issues involved in historiography (Breisach, 1994). First, the study of the development of history as an academic discipline over time, as well as its development in different cultures and epochs. Second, the study of the academic tools, methods and approaches that have been and are being used, including the historical method.

The term "historiography" can also be used to refer to a specific body of historical writing that was written during a specific time concerning a specific issue. For instance, a statement about "medieval historiography" would refer to some issue in the academic discipline of Medieval History, and not to the actual history of the Middle Ages or to historical works written in that time (e.g., "during the last century, medieval historiography changed its focus from the study of political events to social and mental structures", or "medieval historiography has largely benefited from the recognition of the importance of parish records": that is, the discipline underwent some change).

Conal Furay and Michael J. Salevouris define historiography as "the study of the way history has been and is written — the history of historical writing... When you study 'historiography' you do not study the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians."[1] One should be cautious, however, that in the sense given in the previous paragraph when a historian does historiography they are actually studying "the events of the past directly".

[edit] Questions studied

Some of the common questions of historiography are:

  1. Reliability of the sources used, in terms of authorship, credibility of the author, and the authenticity or corruption of the text. (See also source criticism).
  2. Historiographical tradition or framework. Every historian uses one (or more) historiographical traditions, some of which are Marxist, or Annales School, ("total history"), political history, etc.
  3. Moral issues, guilt assignment, and praise assignment
  4. Revisionism versus orthodox interpretations
  5. Historical Metanarratives

Issues engaged by critical historiography includes topics such as:

  • What constitutes a historical "event"?
  • In what modes does a historian write and produce statements of "truth" and "fact"?
  • How does the medium (novel, textbook, film, theatre, comic) through which historical information is conveyed influence its meaning?
    • What inherent epistemological problems does archive-based history possess?
  • How do historians establish their own objectivity or come to terms with their own subjectivity?
  • What is the relationship between historical theory and historical practice?
  • What is the "goal" of history?
  • What does history teach us?

[edit] The history of written history

Understanding the past appears to be a universal human need and the telling of history has emerged independently in civilisations around the world. What constitutes history is a philosophical question (see philosophy of history). For the purposes of this survey it is written history recorded in a narrative format for the purpose of informing future generations about events.

[edit] Hellenic world

Reproduction of part of a Tenth-century copy of Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War

The earliest known systematic historical thought emerged in ancient Greece, a development which would be an important influence on the writing of history elsewhere around the Mediterranean. Greek historians greatly contributed to the development of historical methodology. The earliest known critical historical works were The Histories composed by Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484 BC–ca.425 BC), who became later known as the 'father of history' (Cicero). Herodotus attempted to distinguish between more and less reliable accounts, and personally conducted research by travelling extensively, giving written accounts of various Mediterranean cultures. Although Herodotus' overall emphasis lay on the actions and characters of men, he also attributed an important role to divinity in the determination of historical events.

The generation following Herodotus witnessed a spate of local histories of the individual poleis, written by the first of the local historians who employed the written archives of city and sanctuary. Such local histories, the forerunners of Thucydides as Dionysius of Halicarnassus characterized them[2], continued to be written into Late Antiquity, as long as the polis survived. Two figures from the earliest stages stand out, Hippias of Elis, who produced the lists of winners in the Olympic games that provided the basic chronological framework as long as the pagan classical tradition lasted, and Hellanicus of Lesbos, who compiled more than two dozen histories from civic records, all of them now lost.

Thucydides largely eliminated divine causality in his account of the war between Athens and Sparta, establishing a rationalistic element which became defining of subsequent Western historical writings. He was also the first to distinguish between cause and immediate origins of an event, while his successor Xenophon (ca. 431–355 BC) introduced autobiographical elements and character studies in his Anabasis.

The proverbial Philippic attacks of the Athenian orator Demosthenes (384-322 BC) on Philip II of Macedon marked the height of ancient political agitation. The now lost history of Alexander's campaigns by the diadoch Ptolemy I (367-283 BC) may represent the first historical work composed by a ruler. Polybius (ca. 203–120 BC) wrote on the rise of Rome to world prominence, trying to harmonize the Greek and Roman point of views.

The Chaldean priest Berossus (fl. 3rd century) composed a Greek-language History of Babylonia for the Seleucid king Antiochus I, combining Hellenistic methods of historiography and Mesopotamian accounts to form a unique composite. Reports exist of other near-eastern histories, such as that composed by the Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon; but his very existence is considered semi-fabled and writings attributed to him are fragmentary, known only through the later historians Philo of Byblos and Eusebius, who asserted that he wrote before even the Trojan war.

[edit] China

First page of the Shiji

In China, the Classic of History, one of the Five Classics of Chinese classic texts is one of the earliest narratives of China. The Spring and Autumn Annals, the official chronicle of the State of Lu covering the period from 722 BCE to 481 BC, is among the earliest surviving Chinese historical texts to be arranged on annalistic principles. It is believed to have been compiled by Confucius. The Zuo Zhuan, attributed to Zuo Qiuming in the 5th century BC, is the earliest Chinese work of narrative history and covers the period from 722 BCE to 468 BCE. Zhan Guo Ce was a renowned ancient Chinese historical work and compilation of sporadic materials on the Warring States Period compiled between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC.

In China, Sima Qian (around 100 BC) was the first to lay the groundwork for professional historical writing. His written work was the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), a monumental lifelong achievement in literature. Its scope extends as far back as the 16th century BC, including many treatises on specific subjects, along with individual biographies for prominent people, as well as exploring the lives and deeds of commoners found in his own time or in previous eras. His work influenced every subsequent author of history in China, including the prestigious Ban family of the Eastern Han Dynasty era.

Traditionalist Chinese historiography describes history in terms of dynastic cycles. In this view, each new dynasty is founded by a morally righteous founder. Over time, the dynasty becomes morally corrupt and dissolute. Eventually, the dynasty becomes so weak as to allow its replacement by a new dynasty.

[edit] Roman world

The Romans adopted the Greek tradition, becoming the first European people to write history in a non-Greek language. While early Roman works were still written in Greek, the Latin Origines, composed by the Roman statesman Cato the Elder (234–149 BC) in a conscious effort to counteract the Greek cultural influence, marked the beginning of Latin historical writings. Hailed for its lucid style, Julius Caesar's (100 BC–44 BC) Bellum Gallicum may represent the earliest autobiographical war coverage.[citation needed] The politician and orator Cicero (106–43 BC) introduced rhetorical elements in his political writings.

Strabo (63 BC–ca. AD 24) was a main exponent of the Greco-Roman tradition of combining geography with history, presenting a descriptive history of peoples and places known to his era. Livy (59 BC–AD 17) records the rise of Rome from city-state to world dominion. His inquiry into the question of what would have happened if Alexander the Great had marched against Rome represents the first known instance of alternate history.[3]

Biography, although popular throughout antiquity, was introduced as a branch of history by the works of Plutarch (c. 46 - 127) and Suetonius (c. 69-after 130) who described the deeds and characters of ancient personalities, stressing their human side. Tacitus (c. 56–c. 117) denounces Roman immorality by praising German virtues, elaborating on the topos of the Noble savage.

[edit] Christendom

The growth of Christianity and its increased status in the Roman Empire after Constantine I led to the development of a distinct Christian historiography, influenced by both Christian theology and the nature of the Bible, encompassing new areas of study and views of history. The central role of the Bible in Christianity is reflected in the preference Christian historians had for written sources compared to the classical historians' preference for oral sources and in the inclusion of politically unimportant people. Christian historians also focused on development of Religion and society. This can be seen in the extensive inclusion of written sources in the Ecclesiastical History written by Eusebius of Caesarea circa 324 and in the subjects it deals with.[4] Christian theology led a view of time as linear, progressing according to God's divine plan. As God's plan encompassed everyone, Christian histories in this period had a universal approach. For example, Christian writers often included summaries of important historical events prior to the start of the period the work was dealing with.[5]

A page of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Writing history was popular among Christian monks and clergy in the Middle Ages. They wrote about the history of Jesus Christ, the Church and of their patrons, the dynastic history of the local rulers. In the Early Middle Ages historical writing often took the form of annals or chronicles recording events year by year but this style tended to hamper the analysis of events and causes.[6] An example of this type of writing are Anglo-Saxon Chronicles which were the work of several different writers and start during the reign of Alfred the Great in the late 9th century and one copy of which was still being updated in 1154. Some writers in the period did construct a more narrative form of history including Gregory of Tours and more successfully Bede who wrote both secular and ecclesiastical history and is known for writing Ecclesiastical History of the English People.[4]

History was written about states or nations during the Renaissance. The study of history changed during the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Voltaire described the history of certain ages that were important according to him, instead of describing events in a chronological order. History became an independent discipline. It was not called philosophia historiae anymore, but merely history (historia).

[edit] Islamic world

The first detailed studies on the subject of historiography itself and the first critiques on historical methods appeared in the works of the Arab Muslim historian and historiographer Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), who wrote historiographical writings in the Muqaddimah (Latinized as Prolegomena) and Kitab al-I'bar (Book of Advice).[7] Among many other things, his Muqaddimah laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history,[8] and he discussed the rise and fall of civilizations. He also developed a scientific method for the study of history, and is thus considered to be the founder of historiography.[9][10] In the preface to the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun warned of seven mistakes that he thought that historians regularly committed. In this criticism, he approached the past as strange and in need of interpretation. The originality of Ibn Khaldun was to claim that the cultural difference of another age must govern the evaluation of relevant historical material, to distinguish the principles according to which it might be possible to attempt the evaluation, and lastly, to feel the need for experience, in addition to rational principles, in order to assess a culture of the past. Ibn Khaldun often criticized "idle superstition and uncritical acceptance of historical data." As a result, he introduced a scientific method to the study of history, which was considered something "new to his age", and he often referred to it as his "new science", now associated with historiography,[11] and he is thus considered to be the "father of historiography"[12][10] or the "father of the philosophy of history".[13]

Muslim historical writings first began developing earlier from the 7th century with the reconstruction of Muhammad's life in the centuries following his death. Due to numerous conflicting narratives regarding Muhammad and his companions from various sources, it was necessary to verify which sources were more reliable. In order to evaluate these sources, various methodologies were developed, such as the "science of biography", "science of hadith" and "Isnad" (chain of transmission). These methodologies were later applied to other historical figures in the Islamic civilization. Egyptology began in Arab Egypt from the 9th century, with the first known attempts at deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs made by Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya. Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838-923) is known for writing a detailed and comprehensive chronicle of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern history in his History of the Prophets and Kings in 915.

Until the 10th century, history most often meant political and military history, but this was not so with Persian historian Biruni (973-1048). In his Kitab fi Tahqiq ma l'il-Hind (Researches on India), he did not record political and military history in any detail, but wrote more on India's cultural, scientific, social and religious history. He also discussed more on his idea of history in another work The Chronology of the Ancient Nations.[14] Biruni is considered the father of Indology for his detailed studies on Indian history.[15] Other famous Muslim historians included Urwah (d. 712), Wahb ibn Munabbih (d. 728), Ibn Ishaq (d. 761), al-Waqidi (745-822), Ibn Hisham (d. 834), and Ibn Hajar (1372-1449), among others.

Franz Rosenthal wrote in the History of Muslim Historiography:

"Muslim historiography has at all times been united by the closest ties with the general development of scholarship in Islam, and the position of historical knowledge in Muslim education has exercised a decisive influence upon the intellectual level of historical writing....The Muslims achieved a definite advance beyond previous historical writing in the sociological understanding of history and the systematisation of historiography. The development of modern historical writing seems to have gained considerably in speed and substance through the utilization of a Muslim Literature which enabled western historians, from the seventeenth century on, to see a large section of the world through foreign eyes. The Muslim historiography helped indirectly and modestly to shape present day historical thinking."[16]

[edit] Modern era

Modern historiography began with Ranke in the 19th century, who was very critical on the sources used in history. He was opposed to analyses and rationalizations. His adagium was writing history the way it was. He wanted eyewitness accounts and wanted an emphasis on the point of view of the eyewitness. Hegel and Marx introduced the change of society in history. Former historians had focused on cyclical events of the rise and decline of rulers and nations. A new discipline, sociology, emerged in the late nineteenth century that analyzed and compared these perspectives on a larger scale.

The French Annales School radically changed history during the 20th century. Fernand Braudel wanted history to become more scientific by demanding more mathematical evidence in history, in order to make the history discipline less subjective. Furthermore, he added a social-economic and geographic framework to answer historical questions. Other French historians, like Philippe Ariès and Michel Foucault described history of daily life topics such as death and sexuality. They wanted history to be written about all topics and that all questions should be asked.

[edit] Foundation of important historical journals

The idea of the historical journal, a forum where academic historians could exchange ideas or publish newly discovered facts, came into being in the nineteenth century. The early journals were similar to those used in the physical sciences, and were seen as a means by which history could be professionalised. Journals also helped historians to establish various historiographical approaches, the most notable example of which was Annales. Économies. Sociétés. Civilisations. a publication instrumental in establishing the Annales School.

[edit] Approaches to history

The question of how a historian approaches historical events is one of the most important questions within historiography. It is commonly recognised by historians that, in themselves, individual historical facts are not particularly meaningful. Such facts will only become useful when assembled with other historical evidence, and the process of assembling this evidence is understood as a particular historiographical approach.

Some of the more common historiographical approaches are:

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ (The Methods and Skills of History: A Practical Guide, 1988, p. 223, ISBN 0-88295-982-4)
  2. ^ Dionysius, On Thucydides, 5.
  3. ^ Livy's History of Rome: Book 9
  4. ^ a b Historiography, Concordia University Wisconsin , retrieved on 02 November 2007
  5. ^ Warren, John (1998). The past and its presenters: an introduction to issues in historiography, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-67934-4, p. 67-68.
  6. ^ Warren, John (1998). The past and its presenters: an introduction to issues in historiography, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-67934-4, p. 78-79.
  7. ^ S. Ahmed (1999). A Dictionary of Muslim Names. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1850653569.
  8. ^ H. Mowlana (2001). "Information in the Arab World", Cooperation South Journal 1.
  9. ^ Salahuddin Ahmed (1999). A Dictionary of Muslim Names. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1850653569.
  10. ^ a b Enan, Muhammed Abdullah (2007), Ibn Khaldun: His Life and Works, The Other Press, p. v, ISBN 9839541536 
  11. ^ Ibn Khaldun, Franz Rosenthal, N. J. Dawood (1967), The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, p. x, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691017549.
  12. ^ Salahuddin Ahmed (1999). A Dictionary of Muslim Names. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1850653569.
  13. ^ Dr. S. W. Akhtar (1997). "The Islamic Concept of Knowledge", Al-Tawhid: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Thought & Culture 12 (3).
  14. ^ M. S. Khan (1976). "al-Biruni and the Political History of India", Oriens 25, p. 86-115.
  15. ^ Zafarul-Islam Khan, At The Threshhold [sic] Of A New Millennium – II, The Milli Gazette.
  16. ^ Historiography. The Islamic Scholar.

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Theory and philosophy

[edit] Histories of historical writing

  • Geoffrey Barraclough, History: Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences, (1978)
  • Michael Bentley (ed.), Companion to Historiography, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 0-415-28557-7 990pp; 39 chapters by experts
  • Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval and Modern, 3rd edition, 2007, ISBN 0-226-07278-9
  • H. Floris Cohen, The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry, Chicago, 1994, ISBN 0-226-11280-2
  • Mark T. Gilderhus, History an Historiographical Introduction, 2002, ISBN 0-13-044824-9
  • Georg G. Iggers, Historiography in the 20th Century: From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge (2005)
  • Susan Kinnell, Historiography: An Annotated Bibliography of Journal Article, Books and Dissertations, 1987, ISBN 0-87436-168-0
  • Lloyd Kramer and Sarah Maza, eds. A Companion to Western Historical Thought Blackwell 2006. 520pp; ISBN 978-1-4051-4961-7.
  • Arnaldo Momigliano, The Classical Foundation of Modern Historiography, 1990, ISBN 9780226072838
  • Philippe Poirrier, Aborder l'histoire, Paris, Seuil, 2000.
  • Philippe Poirrier,Les enjeux de l'histoire culturelle, Paris, Seuil, 2004.
  • Philippe Poirrier, Introduction à l'historiographie, Paris, Belin, 2009.
  • Daniel Woolf, Historiography, in New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, ed. M.C. Horowitz, New York, Scribner, 2005, vol. I.

[edit] Feminist historiography

  • Mary Ritter Beard, Woman as force in history: A study in traditions and realities
  • Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds its Past: Placing Women in History, New York: Oxford University Press 1979
  • Bonnie G. Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice, Harvard UP 2000
  • Mary Spongberg, Writing women's history since the Renaissance, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002
  • Julie Des Jardins, "Women and the Historical Enterprise in America" University of North Carolina Press, 2002
  • Judith M. Bennett, History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006

[edit] Thematic and regional

  • Cappel,Constance. "The Smallpox Genocide of the Odawa Tribe at L'Arbre Croche, 1763: The History of a Native American People". The Edwin Mellen Press,(2007)
  • John Ernest. Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861. University of North Carolina Press, 2004
  • Frank Farrell. Themes in Australian History: Questions, Issues and Interpretation in an Evolving Historiography (1990)
  • Marc Ferro, Cinema and History, Wayne State University Press, 1988
  • R. Darcy and Richard C. Rohrs, A Guide to Quantitative History (1995)
  • Hudson, Pat. History by Numbers: An Introduction to Quantitative Approaches (2002)
  • James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Touchstone Books 1996
  • Tessa Morris-Suzuki, The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History, 2005, ISBN 1-85984-513-4
  • Gary Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross Dunn. History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past, (2000)
  • Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession (1988), ISBN 0-521-34328-3
  • Uri Ram, The Future of the Past in Israel - A Sociology of Knowledge Approach, in Benny Morris, Making Israel, the University of Michigan Press, 2007.
  • Thomas Söderqvist. The Historiography of Contemporary Science and Technology (1997)
  • Sommer, Barbara W. The Oral History Manual (2003)
  • Jan Vansina, "Oral Tradition as History," University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1985
  • Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (1982)
  • Keita, Maghan. "Race and the Writing of History" Oxford UP (2000)

[edit] Journals

[edit] External links

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