Features & Essays

What Makes History, History

While in the car today my husband and I began talking about many different topics, from race, religion, culture and then we got around to how I differentiate between history, political science and current events.

Unless you had to study the topic at university, as I did, you don’t really think about the topic of History. What is the definition of history? A person on the street probably thinks of history as anything that happened in the past, but is the fact that I had a fruit smoothy for breakfast history? A fact that my professors went over with us, over and over again, is that history requires analysis.

What is a history book? A history book is where an author or historian takes primary sources and uses that information to draw conclusions. How much time needs to pass for any writer to have some distance to analyze sources?

I would like to argue roughly 100 years. Now as a student of both history and political science let me explain. An author can and will take documents, articles and other pieces of media from the last 100 years and can draw conclusions, but if those conclusions are affecting the current culture and current political landscape I wouldn’t call that history. This is why some historians won’t call something history for much longer than 100 years.

History, to me, is all about analysis of primary sources that have already been written, and if the sources about a subject are still being written than the historian cannot write a comprehensive annnalysis.

I would love to hear your point of view in the comments and see if you can change my mind.

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