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Running Head: Historical Enquiry

Historical Enquiry

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History, in its broadest sense, is the totality of all past events, although a more realistic definition would limit it to the known past. Historiography is the written record of what is known of human lives and societies in the past and how historians have attempted to understand them. Of all the fields of serious study and literary effort, history may be the hardest to define precisely, because the attempt to uncover past events and formulate an intelligible account of them necessarily involves the use and influence of many auxiliary disciplines and literary forms. The concern of all serious historians has been to collect and record facts about the human past and often to discover new facts. They have known that the information they have is incomplete, partly incorrect, or biased and requires careful attention. All have tried to discover in the facts patterns of meaning addressed to the enduring questions of human life.

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Historiography has a number of related meanings. It can refer to the history of historical study, its methodology and practices (the history of history). It can also refer to a specific body of historical writing (for example, "medieval historiography during the 1960s" means "medieval history written during the 1960s"). Historiography can also be taken to mean historical theory or the study of historical writing and memory. As a meta-level analysis of descriptions of the past, this third conception can relate to the first two in that the analysis usually focuses on the narratives, interpretations, worldview, use of evidence, or method of presentation of other historians. Consequently, history has assumed a sense which is broader than being solely the true narratives of human past. History is not just the past as an object of systematic knowledge or the discipline that produces knowledge out of that object; history also carries a sense that is implicit in the expression :'making history'. Thus History often signifies the production of events having transformative potentials that ushers in the future. This is how a temporal schema connecting the past, the present and the future is fore grounded through the signifier history. The historical temporality is grounded within the idea of autonomous human subjects endowed with 'historical subjectivity' which aids them in the production of events and at once helps them to record and narrate past events as history.

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The 5th-century bc Greek historian Herodotus provided information about ancient Greece, North Africa, and the Middle East. Herodotus traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean world, observing the different peoples he encountered and studying the military history of the region. Known as the father of history, Herodotus produced a narrative compilation of his findings, entitled History.

The historians who have created world, or universal, histories have over the ages taken different approaches to the organization and focus of their work. In the 2nd century bc, Greek historian Polybius saw world history as centered around a struggle for power. Christian and Muslim historians tended to view history as the unfolding of a divine plan. During the 18th century, many historians moved from the idea of divine agency to the principle of human advancement based on reason.

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Universal (or world) history aspires to comprehend the totality of past human experience and implicitly to discern in it some message of present and future utility. Two problems dominate the writing of universal history. First, the quantity of material available and the variety of languages in which it is written imply that universal history must necessarily take the form of a collective work or be second-hand history, a circumstance which has led some professional historians to condemn the enterprise. Second is the principle of selection with which is linked the choice of units of study from which to construct a suitable historical taxonomy. Such units have been geographical (for example continents), periods of time, developmental stages or structures, crucial events, interconnections (for example communications, the struggle for world power, or the development of a world economic system), civilizations or cultures, empires and nation states, or chosen communities. Universal history has been written chiefly by western historians or historians from western Asia.

Except for the special circumstance in which historians record events they themselves have witnessed, historical facts can only be known through intermediary sources. These include testimony from living witnesses; narrative records, such as previous histories, memoirs, letters, and imaginative literature; the legal and financial records of courts, legislatures, religious institutions, or businesses; and the unwritten information derived from the physical remains of past civilizations, such as architecture, arts and crafts, burial grounds, and cultivated land. All these, and many more, sources of information provide the evidence from which the historian deciphers historical facts. The relation between evidence and fact, however, is rarely simple and direct. The evidence may be biased or mistaken, fragmentary, or nearly unintelligible after long periods of cultural or linguistic change. Historians, therefore, have to assess their evidence with a critical eye.

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Moreover, the purpose of history as a serious endeavor to understand human life is never fulfilled by the mere sifting of evidence for facts. Fact-finding is only the foundation for the selection, arrangement, and explanation that constitute historical interpretation. The process of interpretation informs all aspects of historical inquiry, beginning with the selection of a subject for investigation, because the very choice of a particular event or society or institution is itself an act of judgment that asserts the importance of the subject. Once chosen, the subject itself suggests a provisional model or hypothesis that guides research and helps the historian to assess and classify the available evidence and to present a detailed and coherent account of the subject. The historian must respect the facts, avoid ignorance and error as far as possible, and create a convincing, intellectually satisfying interpretation. Until modern times, history was regarded primarily as a special kind of literature that shared many techniques and effects with fictional narrative. Historians were committed to factual materials and personal truthfulness, but like writers of fiction they wrote detailed narratives of events and vivid character sketches with great attention to language and style. The complex relations between literary art and historiography have been and continue to be a subject of serious debate. Western historiography originated with the ancient Greeks, and the standards and interests of the Greek historians dominated historical study and writing for centuries.

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With the work and influence of Leopold von Ranke, history achieved its identity as an independent academic discipline with its own critical method and approach, requiring rigorous preparation. Ranke insisted on dispassionate objectivity as the historian's proper point of view and made consultation of contemporary sources a law of historical construction. He substantially advanced the criticism of sources beyond the achievements of the antiquarians by making consideration of the historical circumstances of the writer the key to the evaluation of documents. This combination of the neutral, nonpartisan approach (at least as an ideal) with the acute realization that all observers are the products of their specific time and place and are thus necessarily subjective recorders promised to break history's ancient connection to the intuitive literary arts and align it with modern scientific research. Many modern historians trace the intellectual foundations of their discipline to this development of the 19th-century German universities, which influenced historical scholarship throughout Europe and America.

French interest in the history of civilization was sustained by François Guizot, and the new scientific methods were applied to medieval history by Fustel de Coulanges. In England, Thomas Macaulay's brilliant style continued the Enlightenment mode of a personal, essaylike history, but more exacting methods were applied in the universities. With colleagues and students at the University of Oxford, William Stubbs established English history on foundations of a thorough examination of sources, a movement carried forward by Samuel R. Gardiner and Frederick W. Maitland. George Bancroft was the first notable writer of U.S. history, and American universities in his time increasingly accepted the influence of German methods. By the 20th century, history was firmly established in European and American universities as a professional field, resting on exact methods and making productive use of archival collections and new sources of evidence.

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The divisive effects of two world wars, which undermined the ideal of a common international enterprise informed by an internationally acceptable point of view, and the increasing specialization and variety within the historical discipline itself have left history in much the same state of complex and divided purpose that marks all contemporary intellectual life. The earlier optimism that promised imminent recovery of the truth of the past has been replaced by the belief that no accumulation of facts constitutes history as an intelligible structure, and no historian, however free from crude bias, can be a totally neutral, impersonal recorder of an objective reality.

urthermore, the scope of history has expanded immeasurably, in time, as archaeology and anthropology have provided knowledge of earlier ages, and in breadth, as fields of inquiry entirely unknown in the past (such as economic history, psychohistory, history of ideas, of family structures, and of peasant societies) have emerged and refined their methods and goals. To many scholars, national history has come to seem an outmoded, culture-bound approach, although history written on thoroughly international assumptions is extremely difficult to achieve.

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The term historical enquiry is the use sources of information in ways that go beyond simple observations to answer questions about the past. Historians have looked more and more to the social sciences—sociology, psychology, anthropology, and economics—for new methods and forms of explanation; the sophisticated use of quantitative data has become the accepted approach to economic and demographic studies. The influence of Marxist theories of economic and social development remains vital and contentious, as does the application of psychoanalytic theory to history. At the same time, many scholars have turned with sharpened interest to the theoretical foundations of historical knowledge and are reconsidering the relation between imaginative literature and history, with the possibility emerging that history may after all be the literary art that works upon scholarly material. Many Asian peoples have traditions of historical writing that date back many centuries. Perhaps the most familiar to Westerners is the Jewish tradition as known from the Bible. Others, however, are noteworthy.

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An enquiry should provide the opportunity for pupils to make progress in at least one of the following areas of historical knowledge, skills and understanding:

  • chronological understanding
  • knowledge and understanding of events, people and changes in the past
  • historical interpretation
  • historical enquiry
  • organization and communication.

In fact, it is likely that all enquiries in history will include activities that promote the pupils' chronological understanding and organization and communication. So the teacher has to decide which of the other areas to address in addition to these. Will the enquiry focus on change, or why things happened, or how the past has been represented, or on the use of sources to find out about the past? The answer will partly depend on the topic -- some have more obvious links with particular areas of knowledge, skills and understanding. The subject coordinator will also need to take into account what is planned for the other history enquiries in key stage 2. It is important that the pupils have chances to make progress in all the five areas of historical knowledge, skills and understanding, and this will mean revisiting some of them through different enquiries. A long-term plan is critical in ensuring that this takes place.  A very effective way of organizing content in history and linking it to the areas of knowledge, skills and understanding is to focus individual enquiries around an overarching enquiry question. This key question provides a route through the topic and can be used to maintain the pupil's interest and deepen their understanding of the subject being studied. Historical enquiries should involve activities that appeal to children with different learning styles including visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning. The long-term plan should be used to keep a track of the range and variety of activities on offer to ensure that there is an appropriate balance across the key stage.

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Asimov, Isaac; Asimov's Chronology of the World; Harper Collins, 1991, ISBN 0062700367.

Durant, Will & Ariel; The Lessons of History; MJF Books, 1997, ISBN 1-56731-024-9.

Durant, Will & Ariel; The Story of Civilization; 11 vols., Simon & Schuster.

Evans, Richard J.; In Defence of History; W. W. Norton (2000), ISBN 0-393-31959-8

Gonick, Larry; The Cartoon History of the Universe; Doubleday, vol. 1 (1990) ISBN 0-385-26520-4, vol. II (1994) ISBN 0-385-42093-5, W. W. Norton, vol. III (2002) ISBN 0-393-05184-6.

Wells, H. G.; An Outline of History; Reprint Services Corporation (1920), ISBN 0-7812-0661-8.

The World Almanac and Book of Facts (annual); World Almanac Education Group; 2005 ISBN 0886879450

Williams, H. S. (1907). The historians' history of the world. (ed., This is Book 1 of 25 Volumes; PDF version is available)

Wells, H. G. (1921). The outline of history, being a plain history of life and mankind. (ed., This is Book 1 of multi-volume set.)

Whitney, W. D. (1889). The Century dictionary; an encyclopedic lexicon of the English language. New York: The Century Co. Page 2842.

Scott Gordon and James Gordon Irving, The History and Philosophy of Social Science. Routledge 1991. Page 1. ISBN 0415056829

Ritter, H. (1986). Dictionary of concepts in history. Reference sources for the social sciences and humanities, no. 3. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. Page 416.

Michael C. Lemon (1995). The Discipline of History and the History of Thought. Routledge. Page 201. ISBN 0415123461

Graham, Gordon (1997). "Chapter 1", The Shape of the Past. Oxford University. 

Jack Goody (2007) The Theft of History (from Google Books)

dams, Henry. (1986). History of the United States of America During the Administration of Thomas Jefferson (pg. 1299). Library of America.

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