What is History – Definitions, Periods, Methods

What is History



History can be defined as the study of the past, including the people, cultures, events, and trends that have shaped our world. It helps us to understand who we are and where we came from.

History is more than just a list of dates and facts. It also includes the stories, traditions, and values that have been passed down through generations. These help us to understand the present and make informed decisions about the future.


Prehistory is the time before history, or the time before people began writing. This means that prehistory is everything that happened before people wrote down what happened. Historians can use archaeological evidence to piece together a story of humanity’s past. This evidence tells us about the way people lived, what they ate, and how they interacted with their surroundings. Prehistory is very important because it helps us understand how people lived in the past and how they came to live the way they do today.

Prehistory is divided into three main periods:

  • Stone Age
  • Bronze Age
  • Iron Age

Stone Age

The Stone Age in prehistory refers to a time when people used stone tools and other items made from stone. This period of time began around 2.6 million years ago and ended around 3,300 BCE.

The Stone Age is divided into three periods:

  • Paleolithic
  • Mesolithic
  • Neolithic

Paleolithic literally means “old stone age”. It is the earliest known period of human history, lasting from 2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago. The Paleolithic era is characterized by the use of stone tools and the beginning of cave paintings.

Humans during the Paleolithic era were mostly hunter-gatherers. They lived in small groups and moved around a lot in search of food. The climate during the Paleolithic era was very different from today – it was much colder and drier.

The Paleolithic era was a time of great change for humans. We began to evolve and develop new skills, like using fire and making tools. This was a time of great opportunity – with a little bit of ingenuity, we were able to survive and thrive in spite of the challenges posed by our environment.


The Mesolithic era was a time of great change for humans. Around 10,000 BC, the last Ice Age ended, and the world began to warm up. This meant that people could start to move around more freely, and they began to settle in different parts of the world.

The Mesolithic era was also a time when humans started to use new technologies. For example, they began to make tools and weapons from stone, bone, and wood. They also started to use fire for cooking and warmth.

All of these changes meant that humans had to adapt to their new environment. They developed new ways of doing things, and they also started to think about the world in different ways.


In the Neolithic era, people began domesticating plants and animals, which led to the development of civilizations. This era is also characterized by the use of stone tools, the construction of permanent dwellings, and the development of agriculture. The Neolithic era was a time of great change for humans, and it is considered to be one of the most important periods in human history.

Bronze Age

Prehistory is a time period that refers to the time before written history. The Bronze Age is an era in prehistory that began around 3000 BCE. This era is characterized by the use of bronze, a metal made from copper and tin, for tools and weapons.

The Bronze Age was a time of great change. New technologies were developed, such as the first writing systems and the wheel. This period saw the rise of civilizations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Bronze Age was a time of great advances in art, science, and technology.

Iron Age

The Iron Age was a period in human history that followed the Bronze Age. It is commonly believed to have begun around 1200 BCE and ended in 600 BCE. The Iron Age is significant because it was during this time that iron began to be used extensively in the production of tools and weapons. This marked a major shift in technology and ushered in a new era of human history.

The use of iron had a number of advantages over other materials. It was stronger than bronze, making it better suited for use in tools and weapons. It was also cheaper to produce, which made it more accessible to the average person. This led to a boom in iron production and an increase in trade. The Iron Age saw the rise of new civilizations, such as the Greeks and Romans, who used iron to create vast empires.

The Iron Age was a time of great change for humanity.


Historiography is the study of how history is written. It looks at the ways that historians use sources to interpret the past. Historiography can also be used to examine how historical narratives have changed over time.

There are many different approaches to historiography. Some historians focus on analyzing primary sources, while others may use a more comparative approach. There is no one right way to do historiography. Instead, it is important to critically examine all sources and draw evidence-based conclusions.

Historiography is an important tool for understanding the past. By looking at how history is written, we can better understand the biases and assumptions that shape our understanding of the past.

Historiography can be divided into three main types these types are further divided into subtypes:

  • Political History
  • Social History
  • Cultural History

Political History

Political history is a branch of history that focuses on the study of political institutions and processes. It can be traced back to the ancient world, and has been a major part of historiography since then. Political historians use a variety of sources to study the past, including government records, personal papers, and newspaper accounts.

There are many different approaches to writing political history. One common approach is to focus on specific events or periods. Another approach is to focus on specific topics, such as democracy or diplomacy. Regardless of the approach taken, political history is an important part of historiography and provides valuable insights into the past.

Social History

Social history is the study of the everyday lives of ordinary people in the past. It is sometimes called “the new history” because it focuses on previously neglected aspects of history, such as women’s history, labour history, and the history of childhood. Social historians use a wide range of sources, including diaries, letters, newspapers, government records, and oral histories.

The rise of social history has been linked to a number of trends in historiography. These include a renewed interest in popular culture and everyday life, and a focus on previously neglected groups such as women and minorities.

Cultural History

Cultural history in historiography is the study of cultural change and continuity over time. It emphasizes the active role of individuals, groups, and institutions in shaping their own cultures.

Historians who study cultural history often use a variety of methods, including ethnography, archaeology, art history, and literary criticism. They may also draw on disciplines such as anthropology and sociology.

Cultural history has its roots in the 19th-century discipline of antiquarianism. Today, it is an important field of study for understanding how societies have changed over time and how they continue to evolve.

Historical Methods

Historical methods are the techniques and approaches used by historians in their research. These methods can be divided into three main categories:

  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tertiary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or time period, written by someone who was there at the time. They can take many forms, including letters, diaries, journals, newspapers, photographs, and art.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are interpretations and analyses of primary sources, written after the fact by historians and other researchers. They provide context and commentary on primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include history books, articles from scholarly journals, and biographies.

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources are compilations of primary and secondary sources; they don’t offer any new information or analysis. Encyclopedias and textbooks are tertiary sources.

Areas of study in History

There are many different areas of study in history. These include political history, military history, economic history, social history, religious history, and cultural history. Each area of study offers its own unique insights into the past.


A historian is an expert in history, typically a professional who engages in historical research and writing. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. In addition to their work with archives and primary sources, historians also use secondary sources to help them interpret events of the past. A common misconception is that anyone who writes about history is a historian, but this is not always the case. There are many different types of historians, each with their own focus and area of expertise.

Some focus on a certain time period, such as ancient Greece or medieval England. Others focus on a particular theme, such as political history or social history. There are also those who specialize in specific regions, such as European history or Asian history.

About the author

Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer