History is the systematic study of the human past. Events prior to the invention of written records are often regarded as prehistorical. ” Historien” is French for “historical”. “historic” is used to apply to a period that predates civilization, but that civilization did most of the important events in the human past. “historical” is therefore synonymous with “classifiable”.
It was not until the nineteenth century that serious scholars paid attention to the study of history, motivated perhaps by a desire to produce a standard textbook for the universities. It was then that the disciplines of history studies began to diverge. One group of historians concentrated their attention on studying social history, while others focused their efforts on analyzing political history, like those noted in Halley’s famous History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (first published in 1812). Then there were historians who sought to describe the rise of states in the historical vacuum left by the collapse of the Western Roman power. Others sought to describe the origins of civilization, tracing its development through various cultures and historical periods.
Modern historians have also contributed largely to the development of the discipline of history. Most historians consider themselves social scientists, using primary sources such as primary sources, diaries, memoirs, and archives. Primary sources include primary texts written by historians about the historical subject. In addition, secondary sources refer to other works, like diaries and newspapers, which offer insights about previous events and people. The combined result of having primary and secondary sources, together with the work done by historians, forms the basis of historians’ work.