Auxiliary sciences of history

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Auxiliary (or ancillary) sciences of history are scholarly disciplines which help evaluate and use historical sources and are seen as auxiliary for historical research.[1] Many of these areas of study, classification and analysis were originally developed between the 16th and 19th centuries by antiquaries, and would then have been regarded as falling under the broad heading of antiquarianism.[2] "History" was at that time regarded as a largely literary skill. However, with the spread of the principles of empirical source-based history championed by Leopold von Ranke from the mid-19th century onwards, they have been increasingly regarded as falling within the skill-set of the trained historian.[3][4]

Auxiliary sciences of history include, but are not limited to:[1]

  • Archeology, the study of ancient and historic sites and artifacts
  • Chorography, the study of regions and places
  • Chronology, the study of the sequence of past events
  • Cliometrics, the systematic application of economic theory, econometric techniques, and other formal or mathematical methods to the study of history
  • Codicology, the study of books as physical objects
  • Diplomatics, the study and textual analysis of historical documents
  • Epigraphy, the study of ancient inscriptions
  • Faleristics, the study of military orders, decorations and medals
  • Genealogy, the study of family relationships
  • Heraldry, the study of armorial devices
  • Numismatics, the study of coins
  • Onomastics, the study of proper names
  • Paleography, the study of old handwriting
  • Philately, the study of postage stamps
  • Philology, the study of the language of historical sources
  • Prosopography, the investigation of a historical group of individuals through a collective study of their lives
  • Sigillography, the study of seals
  • Statistics, the study of the collection, organization, and interpretation of (historical) data
  • Toponymy, the study of place-names


  1. ^ a b Drake, Miriam A. (2003). Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. Dekker Encyclopedias Series 3. CRC Press. ISBN 0-8247-2079-2. 
  2. ^ Sweet, Rosemary (2004). Antiquaries: the discovery of the past in eighteenth-century Britain. London: Hambledon & London. p. xiv. ISBN 1-85285-309-3. 
  3. ^ Green, Anna; Troup, Kathleen, eds. (1999). The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-Century History and Theory. Manchester University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7190-5255-2. 
  4. ^ Stern, Fritz, ed. (197). The Varieties of History: From Voltaire to the Present (2nd ed.). New York: Vintage Books. p. 54. ISBN 0-394-71962-X. 

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