The History Portal
(c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC), often considered the "father of history"
History (from Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning 'inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation') is the study of the past. Events occurring before the invention of writing systems are considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who focus on history are called historians. The historian's role is to place the past in context, using sources from moments and events, and filling in the gaps to the best of their ability. Written documents are not the only sources historians use to develop their understanding of the past. They also use material objects, oral accounts, ecological markers, art, and artifacts as historical sources.
History also includes the academic discipline which uses narrative to describe, examine, question, and analyze a sequence of past events, investigate the patterns of cause and effect that are related to them. Historians seek to understand and represent the past through narratives. They often debate which narrative best explains an event, as well as the significance of different causes and effects. Historians also debate the nature of history and its usefulness by discussing the study of the discipline as an end in itself and as a way of providing "perspective" on the problems of the present.
Stories common to a particular culture, but not supported by external sources (such as the tales surrounding King Arthur), are usually classified as cultural heritage or legends. History differs from myth in that it is supported by evidence. However, ancient influences have helped spawn variant interpretations of the nature of history which have evolved over the centuries and continue to change today. The modern study of history is wide-ranging, and includes the study of specific regions and the study of certain topical or thematic elements of historical investigation. History is often taught as part of primary and secondary education, and the academic study of history is a major discipline in university studies.
Herodotus, a 5th-century BC Greek historian is often considered (within the Western tradition) to be the "father of history," or, by some, the "father of lies." Along with his contemporary Thucydides, he helped form the foundations for the modern study of human history. Their works continue to be read today, and the gap between the culture-focused Herodotus and the military-focused Thucydides remains a point of contention or approach in modern historical writing. In East Asia, a state chronicle, the Spring and Autumn Annals, was known to be compiled from as early as 722 BC although only 2nd-century BC texts have survived.
Topical excerpt section
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World
is an open letter
written on February 24, 1836, by William B. Travis
, commander of the Texian
forces at the Battle of the Alamo
, to settlers in Mexican Texas
. The letter is renowned as a "declaration of defiance" and a "masterpiece of American patriotism", and forms part of the history education of Texas schoolchildren.
On February 23, the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas had been besieged by Mexican forces led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Fearing that his small group of men could not withstand an assault, Travis wrote this letter seeking reinforcements and supplies from supporters. The letter closes with Travis's vow of "Victory or Death!", an emotion which has been both praised and derided by historians.
The letter was initially entrusted to courier Albert Martin, who carried it to the town of Gonzales some seventy miles away. Martin added several postscripts to encourage men to reinforce the Alamo, and then handed the letter to Launcelot Smithers. Smithers added his own postscript and delivered the letter to its intended destination, San Felipe de Austin. Local publishers printed over 700 copies of the letter. It also appeared in the two main Texas newspapers and was eventually printed throughout the United States and Europe. Partially in response to the letter, men from throughout Texas and the United States began to gather in Gonzales. Between 32 and 90 of them reached the Alamo before it fell; the remainder formed the nucleus of the army which eventually defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Joan of Arc
(French: Jeanne d'Arc pronounced [ʒan daʁk]
1412 – 30 May 1431), nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans
" (French: La Pucelle d'Orléans
), is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase
of the Hundred Years' War
, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint
. She was born to Jacques d'Arc
and Isabelle Romée
, a peasant
family, at Domrémy
in northeast France. Joan claimed to have received visions of the archangel Michael
, Saint Margaret
, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria
instructing her to support Charles VII
and recover France from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The unanointed King Charles VII sent Joan to the Siege of Orléans
as part of a relief army. She gained prominence after the siege was lifted only nine days later. Several additional swift victories led to Charles VII's consecration
. This long-awaited event boosted French morale and paved the way for the final French victory.
On 23 May 1430, she was captured at Compiègne by the Burgundian faction, a group of French nobles allied with the English. She was later handed over to the English and put on trial by the pro-English bishop Pierre Cauchon on a variety of charges. After Cauchon declared her guilty, she was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, dying at about nineteen years of age.
Did you know...
- ... that the Japanese aircraft carrier Amagi (wreck pictured) capsized on 29 July 1945 as a result of cumulative damage inflicted by American airstrikes on 24 and 28 July?
- ... that Scandinavian influence in Scotland, still evident today, was probably at its height during the time of Thorfinn the Mighty?
- ... that, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bassetki statue, which is more than 4,200 years old, was found in a cesspool?
- ... that in medieval art, angels were often depicted wearing feather tights?
- ... that 49% of German military losses happened in the last 10 months of the Second World War in Europe?
- ... that Joshua L. Goldberg, the first rabbi to serve as a World War II U.S. navy chaplain, was a Russian army deserter?
- ... that Richard Nixon chose the Wilson desk as his Oval Office desk because he believed it was used by Woodrow Wilson, but it was actually used by Henry Wilson, Vice President under Ulysses S. Grant?
- ... that some of the nominally silver Roman coins from the Bredon Hill Hoard only have a 1% silver content?
The Trinity nuclear test was the first nuclear detonation in the world. Conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, the successful test would set the stage for the coming Atomic Age. This image, captured by Berlyn Brixner, shows the fireball that developed 0.016 seconds after ignition; the explosive had a yield of 20 kilotons of dynamite.
On this day
May 31: World No Tobacco Day
- 1223 – Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus': Mongol forces defeated a combined Rus' army at the Kalka River in present-day Ukraine.
- 1775 – American Revolution: The Committee of Safety of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, adopted the Mecklenburg Resolves, which annulled and vacated all laws originating from the authority of the King or Parliament.
- 1902 – The Second Boer War came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in Pretoria, South Africa.
- 1935 – An earthquake registering 7.7 Mw struck Balochistan in the British Raj, now part of Pakistan, killing between 30,000 and 60,000 people.
- 2005 – An article in the magazine Vanity Fair revealed that the secret informant known as "Deep Throat", who had provided information about the Watergate scandal, was former FBI associate director Mark Felt (pictured).
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.
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