- Types of history
- History subject definition: What is history?
- 3 different types of Historian
- Types of historical research
- Historiography: What is the difference between history and Historiography
It was the study of the ancient world which launched the French postmodern movement which drastically changed the way society views gender. By redefining our understanding of gender, the French postmodern movement acted as a catalyst that propelled the feminist movement to new heights.
History is one of the most important subjects that there is: it allows us to reflect on past societies and better understand the world in which we live, the interactions we have with people and the ideas we hold inside our minds. So why do people still underestimate the importance of history? Why are people still unsure about its value or the role that it plays in the modern world? Read on to find out more about the different types of history…
Types of history
We know that it can be hard to get excited about history but with the right perspective, it can be truly fascinating. Here’s our perspective…
There are fields of history dedicated to everything: including fields – ranging from battlefields to agricultural fields. Heck, some guy named Henry Petroski even wrote a book about the history of the pencil! Whether you are interested in the history of coins (numismatics) or the history of human culture (anthropology), there will be something that will catch your interest!
History is a lot more diverse than Tudor Kings and Queens (although they are interesting too)! 👑
All well as having different fields of historical study, there are also different types of historical schools of thought which makes history an even more exciting subject to learn about. It was – rather ironically – recorded that Napoleon said that “history is a set of lies agreed upon”. Whether he said this can neither be proven or not, but some people (maybe historians) agreed that he did.
How much evidence do you need to declare something to be a historical truth? These are the sorts of problems that historians have to consider. Where there is a lack of evidence, what is the best practice for ‘filling the blanks’? If you have identified where potentially priceless Ancient Egyptian treasure is buried can you dig it up – considering that by digging it up you will inevitably cause irreversible damage to some of the artefacts? These are just some of the questions which rile the greatest of historians into the most heated of arguments.
History subject definition: What is history?
Ok, so you know why history is important and what some of its fields are: but what exactly is it? To put it simply, the definition of history by historians is the study of past events. Sometimes people study past events to better understand the past, sometimes people study them to better understand the present state of affairs in the world and sometimes people study the past to try and predict what will happen in the future. History is one fixed concept but can mean many different things to different people. 🤯
In the UK, history is considered to be one of the more prestigious academic subjects as it requires a range of transferable skills – importantly: critical thinking. 🧐 In other countries, history is seen as an old fashioned subject for fuddy-duddies and eccentrics who want to be history teachers.
If you are wondering whether a history degree is worth it, you might want to read our blog post about the best history courses in the UK and how to get into them!
3 different types of Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about history. 📜✍️ History is a discipline that is filled with multiple factions and parties who – as factions so often like to do – love to argue about all things related to history. You can find different definitions of history by different authors of historical books.
The study of history is both as complex as it is broad. Where best to start talking about the different types of historians than by starting with the first historian: Herodotus!
Herodotus is often credited with being the first historian all the way back in 425 BCE. He wrote accounts of the Greco-Persian War. Since his records, historians have been following the same path documenting things and studying the documents of others.
A historian is a person who studies and writes about history. But there are some historians who like to talk about different things in different ways.
What are 3 different types of historians? This list is in no way exhaustive of the different types of historians or types of history, but, rather, gives a brief introduction.
To help you get your head around some of the different approaches of different historians, we have decided to use Hadrian’s Wall as our case study.
When we say ‘psychohistorian’ we don’t mean a historian who is psycho – although the word’s construction would make it forgivable to believe so… 😅
A psychohistorian is someone who uses psychoanalytic methods to analyse history. Psychohistory can be seen as the blend of history with psychology. Our way of thinking about the world and our psychology is constructed by our cultural memory – which is in essence our history.
If a psychohistorian was looking at Hadrian’s Wall, they would be less interested in what sort of stone the bricks were made of or where the granaries were located in relation to the barracks, rather, they would be interested in what was going through Hadrian’s mind when he decided to build it in 122 AD. 🤔
Some Historians believe that Hadrian built this wall (a poorly-constructed and old-fashioned design for the time) not for defensive reasons but rather to send a message to the Roman Senate that he will not expand the Roman Empire – this was a big disagreement between Emperor Hadrian and a number of leading senators.
Similarly to psychohistorians, social historians are not historians who gregariously attend wild parties rather than stay at home snuggled in a blanket watching Netflix documentaries about Vikings. 🕺
Social historians focus on the history of societies: the way they are formed, the way they are destroyed and the way they are saved. Social historians tend to focus on the lives of ordinary people in past societies to try and understand what their lives were like, what they ate, what they spoke about and how they spent their spare time.
If a social historian was looking at Hadrian’s Wall, they would be more interested in what life was like for the soldiers, the cleaners and the small communities which formed around the military forts to provide for the Roman Army. There was even a group of Tungri soldiers stationed at the Vercovicium fort along Hadrian’s Wall.
Archaeologists specialise in history which is usually buried under the ground. Archaeologists gather artefacts and remains from past societies to better understand what those past societies were like.
An archaeologist at Hadrian's Wall would probably want to know all about the types of bricks used, how they were constructed, and what nails were used (and where they were created/imported from).
Archaeologists famously like wearing cool hats and digging things up in exotic places like outside great pyramids or hidden underground secret civilisations – spoilers: it is not really like this. The most famous archaeologist in popular culture is probably the film character Indiana Jones who said in the 1989 film that “70% of archaeology is done in the library”.
These are just 3 different types of historians. There are many many more who specialise in different time periods in different places and in different ways.
Types of historical research
According to indeed.com, historians in the UK earn on average £42,069 a year. 💸 The problem is that ‘historian’ can mean many different jobs ranging from senior curator to museum internships. All of these jobs will involve an element of historical research.
In the same way that there are different types of history and historians there are also different types of historical research. Some research focuses on sources (primary and secondary) and some focuses on historical theory. The biggest factions are probably the ‘historians’ vs the ‘classicists’. Don’t know the difference? There is a breakdown on our blogpost about UK history courses.
A historical source is something that tells us about history. It might be a physical artefact or it might just be someone telling about an event that they – or someone they know – lived through.
A primary source is something that is from the time period you are studying. A primary source can be a book, a pamphlet, a piece of pottery or a nail – literally anything that is old! A secondary source is something that comments on the history you are studying. For example, the Rosetta Stone is a primary source (because it came into existence in the time which it represents) whereas an article or summary about the Rosetta Stone would be a secondary source (irrespective of how much later it was written).
Historiography: What is the difference between history and Historiography?
To put it in the simplest terms possible: history is the study of past time periods whereas historiography is the study of the writing about history (i.e. the methods and theories which historians use to explain and understand history).
Another point of confusion for people is that they often think that historic is another word for historical – they are actually different! ‘Historic’ means that there is something old that is important to understanding history whereas ‘historical’ simply means something that is old (i.e. relating to history but maybe not all that important).
Hopefully, having reached this point, you have a clearer idea about the finer intricacies of the different types of history and the different types of historians. If you would like to know more, you can read our article about whether a history degree is worth it or check out our blog for more related content. Happy reading!