History is a notion which connects people with their past. Therefore, it is highly important to understand the meaning of the word “history” and the role of the major theorists of history and historians. The paper will provide the definitions of “history”, “historiography”, and “historicism” as well as interrogate major historians and theorists of history.
Major Definitions – History, Historiography, and Historicism
The word “history” (from the Greek language historia, stands for “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation”) is considered to be doctrine of the foretime, particularly the ways how it pertain human beings (Tosh, 2006).
In this type of sense, Aristotle utilized this word in his “Inquiries about Animals”. The word “history” is known to be an umbrella term, which resides bygone occurrences together with the recollections, inventions, assemblages, establishments, presentations, and interpretations of data concerning these occurrences.
Researches who scribe about history are defined historians. The most explicit and the most appropriate interpretation of the word “history” goes as follows: “the bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians, together with everything that is involved in the production, communication of, and teaching about that knowledge” (Tosh, 2006, p. 18).
According to John J. Anderson’s definition, which appeared in A Manual of General History in 1876, history is “a narration of the events which have happened among mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations, as well as of other great changes which have affected the political and social condition of the human race” (Stearns, Seias & Wineburg, 2000, p. 56).
On the other hand, W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman wrote the following phrase in the “1930 Preface, 1066 and All That”: “history is not what you thought. It is what you remember. All other history defeats itself” (Tosh, 2006, p. 47).
“Historiography” addresses the historians’ methodology doctrine together with the evolvement of “history” as a discipline. Moreover, historiography also eludes the matter of historical performance on a specific subject. Researchers consider historiography on a topical basis, including historiography of different nations and countries, which the emerging of such topics as the “historiography of the British Empire”, or the “historiography of early Islam” (Popkin, 2005).
A body of historiographic literature evolved at the beginning of nineteenth century. It had a strong ascension of the academic history as such. In the early modern period, the term historiography had a tendency to be utilized in a more fundamental purport; therefore, it simply meant ‘the writing of history”.
Thus, historiographer denoted “historian” as such. Furay and Salevouris identify historiography as “the study of the way history has been and is written – the history of historical writing” (Clark, 2004, p. 78). Thus, when a person studies historiography, they do not learn about the occurrences of the foretime immediately, but the altering definitions and explanations of those occurrences in the writings of particular historians (Tosh, 2006).
“Historicism” is a way of intellection, which appropriates a fundamental and major importance to a particular contexture, including historical period, geographical location and domestic civilization and culture. Historicism stands in distinction from the knowledge individualist theories, including both rationalism and empiricism, which despise the function of traditions.
Thus, historicism has a tendency to be hermeneutical, due to the fact that it puts significant essence on provident, stringent and contextualized explanation of data, or relativist, as it renounces conceptions of universal, basic and constant definitions (Hamilton, 2003).
The term has evolved various and distinct, however hardly cognated, senses. Some constituents of historicism may be found in the works of Italian philosopher G. B. Vico together with Michel de Montaigne who is know to be a French essayist .
They actually became completely evolved with the dialectic of G. W. F. Hegel. The works of Karl Marx, which had been impacted by Hegel, also include historicism elements. In addition, the term is also conjoined with the empirical social doctrines and the writings of Franz Boas (Hamilton, 2003).
Main Historians and Theorists of History
Historians are those people who provide the whole world with the history of their nations and societies. Therefore, it is very important to know their most significant writings and understand their reasons of becoming historians or theorists of history. Moreover, it is highly crucial to analyze both Western and Eastern world historians and their causes of becoming historians.
Herodotus is broadly known as “The Father of History” (Banner & Gillis, 2009). Cicero conferred the phrase for the first time. Herodotus was the first historian reputed to compile the materials in a systematic and critic order and later arrange them into a historiographic chronicle.
He is also known as Father of Lies, as the information presented is not accurate (Hoffer, 2008). His masterpiece is known as “The Histories”. This is the only writing, which he gave to the world. “The Histories” is an enrollment of his so-called “inquiry”, which is an analysis of the Greco-Persian Wars origins.
Despite the fact that a number of his stories were mythic and some were apparently imprecise, Herodotus declared that he was writing only the data, which had been told to him (Banner & Gillis, 2009).
The major reason for writing “The Histories” was defined by Herodotus himself as following: “this is the showing-forth of the inquiry of Herdotus of Halicarnassus, so that neither what has come to be from man in time might become faded, nor that great and wondrous deeds, those shown forth by Greeks and those by barbarians, might be without their glory; and together with all this, also through what cause they warred with each other” (Herodotus, 2003, p. 33).
In a number of sections of The Histories, Herodotus depicts the Persian Achaemenid empire expansion. These sections describe several kings of this empire, incorporating Cyrus the Great (the first book), Cambyses (the second and partly third book) and Darius I the Great (partly the third book, and 4-6 books), reaching its climax in king Xerxes’ expedition against Greeks (books 7-9) (Hoffer, 2008).
The work of Herodotus demonstrates the evolvement of civilization as inevitable development towards a serious encounter between Persia and Greece, which are defined as the centers, accordingly, of Eastern and Western culture (Banner & Gillis, 2009).
On the contrary to the western historian, Ibn Khaldun is an Eastern, meaning an Arab Muslim historiographer and historian. He is actually reckoned to be among the major fathers of contemporary historiography, economics, and sociology. He is broadly and extensively hailed for his book “The Muqaddimah”.
This book impacted such 17th century Ottoman historians as Mustafa Naima and Ḥajj Khalifa who utilized the theories from the book in order to decompose the increase and fall of the Ottoman Empire as such (Banner & Gillis, 2009). In addition, 19th century European researchers also recognized the importance of the book and believed that Ibn Khaldun was one of the largest philosophers to appear in the Muslim world (Hoffer, 2008).
Thus, Ibn Khaldun is known to be a historian, who evolved one of the earliest non-religious philosophies of history. In the introduction to “The Muqaddimah”, Ibn Khaldun analyzed historical method and dispensed the indispensable criteria for differentiating the historical truth from false. “The Muqaddimah” is believed to be one of the most phenomenal and notable writings on the philosophy of history ever written. In fact, Ibn Khaldun also composed a complete history of Muslim North Africa (Banner & Gillis, 2009).
Arnold Joseph Toynbee
The science of historiography has been developed within the whole history of human kind. Both previous historians belong to ancient times, whereas Arnold Toynbee is known to be a modern British historian, and philosopher of history. He is widely renown for his “A Study of History” (1934–61), which consists of twelve volumes.
This is a book, through which Arnold Toynbee investigated the increase and the decline of 26 civilizations during the entire human being history. In fact, the author concluded that the civilizations increased by reputing in a successful manner to difficulties under the ruling of originative minorities created from the elite commanders (Hoffer, 2008).
In fact, Toynbee is considered to be the most read and discussed scholar around the globe in the period between 19340s-1950s. Nevertheless, his writings has been occasionally read or cited during the recent years (Banner & Gillis, 2009).
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
In fact, a lot of philosophers had become serious theorists of history. In fact, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is known to be a significant German philosopher, and a main persona in the German Idealism.
As a matter of fact, his historicist and idealist understanding of actuality transmogrified European philosophy. In fact, Hegel evolved an in-depth philosophical structure, or “system”, of unmitigated idealism in order to attribute to a consolidated and developmental method for the correlations of the mentality and nature, the object and subject of cognition, psychics, the nation, history, art, religion, and philosophy (Banner & Gillis, 2009).
The historicism position of Hegel proposes that any human community and all human operations, including philosophy, doctrines, or art are outlined by their history (Hoffer, 2008). At the same time, their essentiality may be found only with the help of that history cognition. Moreover, the history of any human eagerness not only formulates on but also responds to events, which appeared previously (Hoffer, 2008).
On a contrary to the Western philosopher, Malek Bennabi is renown as a serious Eastern philosopher and theorists of history. He is an Algerian scripter and philosopher, who wrote about human being community, especially Muslim society. His major focus was concentrated on the causes behind the decline of Muslim civilization as such.
He is widely renown for the notion of “coloniability”, which stands for the internal predisposition of a number of societies or communities to be colonized (especially Black-African) (Hoffer, 2008). The decline of the Almohad dynasty, which actually controlled and commanded North Africa and Muslim Spain stigmatized an innovative decimating tendency of disrupting concepts and notions.
The shortage of innovative notions and concepts simultaneously ridiculed the death of fresh civilizations. In accordance with Malek Bennabi, this reality led to a so-called “civilizational bankruptcy”. Actually, Malek Bennabi is considered to be one of the most crucial Muslim speculators of the modern world. Even, concerning the notions of history and civilization, Malek is believed to be the greatest Muslim speculator after Ibn Khaldun (Banner & Gillis, 2009).
History is like time. Everybody believes that this word can be easily defined, but the word is ambiguous. A lot of historians have already provided the definitions to the major terms, including “history”, “historiography”, and “historicism”. The role of historians and theorists of history is highly crucial. These are the people who provide the whole world with the historic events and chronicles. On the one hand, they might be a greatest source of information, on the other hand, they might become the biggest liars. The historians’ major subject is a significant human happening.
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Herodotus (2003). The histories. London: Penguin Books Limited.
Hoffer, P. (2008). The historians’ paradox: The study of history in our time. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Popkin, J. (2005). History, historians, and autobiography. Chicago, Il: The University of Chicago.
Stearns, P., Seixas, P., & Wineburg, S. (Eds.). (2000). Knowing, teaching and learning history, national and international peerspectives. New York, NY: New York University Press.
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