SOURCES AND IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY
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Meaning of History
- History is the study of man and his activities in different periods.
- History is the study of the past events collected by historians based by verifiable facts.
- History is the study which deals with past events
- History is a record of events pertaining to human activities, his social, economic and political development from the past the present and the future.
- History refers to the study of past events, present situation and prediction of the future or it is the study of changes in the process of material production.
- History is defined as knowledge that entails chronologically presented narrations about human activities pertaining to social, economic, technological and political aspects from the past to the future.
In general, history can also refer to an academic discipline which uses a narrative to examine and analyze the sequences of past events and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them. It’s the record of human activities which enable man to survival and attain essential needs from the environment.
The basic needs of humankind include food shelter and clothing. Due to social, political, cultural, economic and technological transformations humankind's activities have to change from time to time.
Actions taken against nature aim to change natural objects into conditions that can satisfy human needs; these activities against nature are what we call material production. Material production includes can be observed in sharpening of sticks to make a spear, digging trenches to trap wild animals and many more.
IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING HISTORY
It is important to study history because it helps us:
1. To know the origin of man and his achievements and development up to the present time.
2. To understand the relationship that existed between humans, and the environment.
3. To develop an understanding and appreciation of the cultural, political, economic and technological advancements made by African societies before and after colonialism.
4. To understand how African societies were formed, how they developed and the factors that influenced this development. It also allows us to develop an understanding of the events, conditions and factors that shaped the past and those which have shaped the present conditions of the world in order to predict the future.
5. To develop the basic skills of critical thinking, reasoning, judgment, empathy and effective participation in human developmental activities. Studying history also helps us to understand and appreciate the efforts made and strategies used by African people to regain their independence and resist neocolonialism.
6. To develop, understand and appreciation the need for African unity, cooperation and interdependence, conflict resolution and effective participation in social, economic and political development of Africa. It also helps us to develop an understanding of the relationships between African’s development problems and foreign intrusion, colonial domination, cultural subjugation and economic exploitation at various stages in history.
7. To acquire knowledge for its own sake as you enjoy a novel with fiction, a film with an interesting plot. It is not clear why people are interested in these ventures and in the same way people do enjoy to know the history of particular topics.
8. To develop our patriotism, history students know their heroes and heroines and traitors. This make history a sensitive subject in places where political leaders are not sure of their legitimacy.
9. To enlightens people about the advantages of certain economic practices for example, the way the development in the world today is measured by the industrial revolution that took place in Europe in 1750.
10. To understand the level of development at different stages of human development. Without history it is very difficult to determine or to tell what humans were doing in the past. Therefore, it is through history that one can extensively understand the level of development that humans have reached at in a given period in time.
11. It helps us learn about technological transformations, for example primitive livelihood to advanced livelihood (using of stones and wood tools to iron tools)
12. To understand how humans adapted to their environment and how the struggled to earn a living from the environment. This therefore looks at the long struggle of man by exercises of his reason to understand the environment and to act up on it.
13. To acquire skills in historical issues and becoming professionals in history, some people such as archaeologists and historians study history for career purposes.
14. Historical knowledge makes the present comprehensive which is why journalists and writers of sensational stories spend some time explaining the history of a particular incident; it is only when one knows the past of a person or an incident that the present can became meaningful.
SOURCES OF HISTORY
Sources of history refers to the avenues that can be used to get historical information. It requires an inter-disciplinary approach in order to get the actual historical information. Replying on a single source of history evidence will not satisfy your curiosity as one source links you to the other. It is therefore crystal clear that no single source of history can stand on its own.
Therefore, the following are sources of history/historical knowledge:
- Oral tradition
- Historical sites
- Written records/documents
- Audio- visual record, e.g Cassets, Cd’s, Tv programs etc.
1. ORAL TRADITION
This involves the passing information by word of mouth through talking and listening. Oral tradition pass historical information into two ways, through culture practices like art, music, religion, riddles, songs, proverbs, superstition, poems and stories. and narration of past events.
1. It preserves historical information of society
2. It collects and pass historical information between generations in the society.
3. It helps researchers in data collection.
Advantages of Oral Tradition
1. It preserve and reveal historical information which are not recorded
2. Both illiterate and literate people can obtain historical information.
3. Within oral tradition there are warning and teachings.
4. Is the easiest and cheapest method of obtaining information.
5. It is more live source, since it involves physical interaction.
Disadvantages of Oral Tradition
1. It need much attention and power of memory
2. False information can be given by story teller.
3. Narration of historical events are centered to those people of status i.e Kings,Queens, Chief. White talking little about common society.
4. There is language problems when narrator use vernacular language.
5. It is difficult to distinguish what is real and what is imaginary information.
6. Translation is very difficult because some languages are no longer in existence.
2. HISTORICAL SITES
Are special places where by the past human remains can be found and shown to the public. These are places in which the remains of once lived human in the past can be found. They comprise man’s physical development, tools that were made and used from time to time. In these areas we find /see past human products and animal bones.
Examples of historical sites include:
1. Isimila, Olduvai George, Kondoa Irangi, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Kilwa, Mafia, Engaruka, Kagera etc inTanzania.
2. Nsongezi, Biggo, Ntubi, Rusinga island, Magosi and Ishago in Uganda.
2. Nsongezi, Biggo, Ntubi, Rusinga island, Magosi and Ishago in Uganda.
3. Lake Rudolf (Turkana), Lake Naivasha, Njoro, Olongesailie, Lake Magadi, Lamu, Mombasa and mt. Kenya in Kenya.
Functions of Historical Sites
1. Preserves historical information for the coming generations.
2. They are useful sources of information and to reconstruct history.
3. hey are the symbols of social cultural heritage to the society concern past human tools, rock, paints etc.
Advantages of Historical Sites
1. They helps for practical historical learning. Eg. Through observation of past human tools, rock, paints
2. They used to reveal past settlement patterns, levels of technology, economic development of political organization reached by the past societies.
3. Acts as centers of tourism.
4. They helps in transforming theoretical teaching of history to practical historical learning.
5. It acts as the resource centers to researchers.
6. It provides employment opportunities eg: guiders
Disadvantages of Historical Sites
1. It brings confusion to interpret the remains found in historical sites
2. Many of historical sites are found on remote areas hence difficult for many people to visit them.
This refers to the scientific study of past human remains. This is the study of material remain of man’s past through scientific methods The one specializes in archeology is called ARCHAEOLOGIST. Archaeology involve excavations (digging) of the remains of man’s past historical sites and Interpretation. The famous archaeologist in East Africa was Dr. Louis Leaky with his wife Mary Leakey Archaeology involves the use of carbon 14 dating to determine plants and animal remains.
Functions of Archaeology
1. Gives important information about man through different stages.
2. It is a useful method of revealing soil covered historical remains.
3. It arouse curiosity of searching past man historical information.
Advantages of Archaeology
1. It helps people to know when and how people lived in a certain place.
2. Past objects tells us about the life and culture of past people.
3. It helps us to know and reveal the technology, pastoral, agricultural and commercial activities of the past man.
4. Through excavation we get knowledge of artifacts eg. Pottery, building etc.
5. It reveal religious beliefs of the past man
6. We can compliment other sources of information through archaeology eg. History
7. We can know the past relationship between different people such as trading activities, migration, marriage, birth, death and political relation.
Disadvantages of Archaeology
1. It consumes time because of excavation.
2. It can not reveal the past people’s language.
3. It can not give out the out reasons for historical events such as wars.
4. It needs full experts and advanced technology.
5. Poorly interpreted remains can bring false information
6. It can not tell anything about the past social organization
These are places where collection of public and private documents and old record are preserved. These documents includes personal letters, early travelers and missionary records, traders writings, personal and government files, political parties documents, etc.
Functions of Archives
1. Archives preserves public and private records that has enduring value to the society.
2. The records in archives are made available for use by the public. However not all records can be viewed by everyone.
3. Archives collect records of enduring value from various places. For example, the nation archives have records from different regions of the country.
4. The archives staff maintains registers of the record in the archives.
5. Archives have facilities for restoring damaged documents of enduring value.
6. Archives have facilities for restoring damaged documents of enduring value.
7. The historical information in the archives ensures continuity. For example, company policies from previous years can still guide the employee today.
Advantages of Archives
1. Easy to identify ideas and literacy level of the past man.
2. It is easy to identify the exact date of historical event.
3. It used to store historical information.
4. Easy to get historical information from different places and different people.
Disadvantages of Archives
1. It may lead false information, if author is biased.
2. Illiterate people can not get historical information.
3. It is not easy to get information of society whose information are not documented.
4. It is difficult to get remote information from archives.
5. It is non renewable once disrupted either by wind or other external force.
These are places or buildings where information and objects are preserved. It involves all terms which shows culture, political economic and technological development from the past to the present. Objects can be early coins, clothes, mineral cowries, religious and ceremonial symbols. Museum can be national, Regional, District and village. e.g National Museums in Dar es salaam, Bagamoyo, Butiama, Kalenga Iringa in Tanzania, and Louvre in France.
The Louvre Museum in France
Functions of Museums
1. Preserve historical documents and objects.
2. Shows concreate remains of objects.
3. It is the place for tourist and study tour.
4. It is the center for cultural and national identity.
Advantages of Museums
1. It preserves objects which are used as the teaching aids.
2. Museum preserve culture and national identity.
3. It used by researcher (source of information)
4. It acts as tourist center.
5. People learn about technological development.
6. Enable learners to arouse creativity.
Disadvantages of Museums
1. It need knowledgeable people.
2. It is possible to distort information through biases by the museum attendant.
3. Poor preservation of the past items e.g coins, pieces of cloth, slaves chain can distort information.
4. It need extensive care to maintain it’s beauty or origin.
6. WRITTEN RECORDS
Are the documents which comprise written historical information. These includes books, letters, maps, magazines, journal, news paper, minutes of meetings and conferences. Written records can be found in libraries, schools, colleges, universities, internet cafes, offices etc.
Book, Newspaper and Magazine, Written Records
Functions of Written Records
1. Written records provides pictures of society.
2. These records reflect public opinion at the time of writing. For example, the letter to the editor in news paper express the readers’ feelings on current issues.
3. Written records serve as stores of a large variety of information, including discoveries, government policies, statements, religious beliefs, fashion, speeches and agreement.
4. In-depth reports of daily events are kept as written records. For example in a diary, news paper or biography.
Advantages of Written Records
1. It is easy to get information.
2. Easy to make references
3. It is helpful in doing researches.
4. They can be kept for long time.
Disadvantages of Witten Records
1. It can give false information if they are biased by the author
2. It is difficult to read everything from written records
3. They are subject to be badly written.
4. Illiterate people can not get information.
Is scientific study and analysis of language. It includes study of sound, structure, information and relationship between various language groups.
Advantages of Linguistics
1. It helps to get information from various sources.
2. Enables to discover links between different people.
3. It help to determine dates f historical event e.g “Aluta continua” (Period of struggle for independence in Mozambique)
Limitations of Linguistics
1. It consumes time and finance learning a particular language
2. Through translation one can commit some important work.
3. The present language may be corrupted.
Is the study of the society’s cultural systems, beliefs, ideas etc. The study can give important information about movements, settlements and production activities of the past. This is concerned with the study of existing social institutions and their relationships. The scientific study of the origin, behavior, physical, social and cultural development of humans. The study is concerned with present day societies but much of it can be used in interpreting the past especially where we have a good reason to believe on that societies in certain areas have not altered so much in recent times.
An anthropologist is a person who studies the above aspects of society; he has to live among those people and learn their culture thereby enabling him to understand the aspects of life of a certain society and to determine the truth about that society.
ATING HISTORICAL EVENTS
Rock Paintings, Anthropology
Therefore using the current reliable information helps us to understand how the past was.
The historian studies the information and research techniques used by the anthropologist to arrive at a certain conclusion.
Generally, anthropology enables a comparison of social institutions of various societies which helps the historian in tracing the original homeland of social features.
1. A comparison of the social institutions of various societies over a wide area might indicate the influence of one culture upon another and the time when these cultures developed and spread which may create misunderstanding and hatred between the different societies
In the present people may be living in a condition far different from what their ancestors lived; in the long run the anthropologist will not get the necessary information required in his study.
3. The knowledge of the anthropologist in this case is very important as one can easily exaggerate or underestimate or interpret basing on his knowledge a thing that will affect the whole process of trying to reconstruct history. This therefore means that objectivity of history does not mean objectivity of facts but interpretation.
The anthropologist has to live among the people and learn their culture which enables him to understand all the different aspects of life of a given society and to determine whether it is authentic and worth studying.
DATING HISTORICAL EVENTS
The Historians usually divide time into several categories, namely:
o Day – is a duration of twenty four hours (24hrs)
o A week – is a duration of seven days (7days)
o Month – is the duration of four weeks (4 weeks)
o A year – is a duration of twelve months (12 moths)
o A decade – is a duration of ten years (10 yrs)
o A century – is the duration of one hundred years(100 yrs)
o A millennium – is the duration of thousand years(1000 yrs)
o A generation – is the average differences on ages between a child and his/her parent.
o Age – is the period based on ma’s economic activities and type of tools used e.g stone age, iron age, industrial age, science and technology age, etc.
o A period – is determined by one continuous event lasting for number of years,
e.g. Period of slave trade in East Africa
Period of long distance trade
e.g. Period of slave trade in East Africa
Period of long distance trade
Period of colonial rule in Africa
Some points has chosen in order to divide time
Year ZERO – present the year when Jesus Christ was born
It is known as Anno Domino (A.D) meaning the year of the Lord
All years before zero are called (B.C) meaning (Before Christ)
HOW TO DETERMINE DATES
Dates are the durations of time in different ways:
The historians divided dates into four ways;
a) Recalling events:- here important events are recalled/remembered e.g drought, farming, floods, birth, eruption of diseases etc.
b) By studying languages:- Some names helps people to remember dates of some events. e.g Word “Karafuu” started when Cloves were introduced in Zanzibar.
c) Carbon 14: It is a scientific method of determining dates. It used in the finding dates forremains of animals or plants which died beyond 5000 years ago. Carbon 14 is a gas found in carbon-dioxide which exist in the atmosphere. It absorbed by plant and other living organisms. When died carbon 14 that starts to decay at a fixed rate from the time of death.
d) Orders of events: ways showing order of events, period and ages, among them are:- Time graph, Time chart, Time line and Family tree
1. Time Graph is a drawing that shows how dates and events are related.
2. Time Chart is a table that shows historical dates and events in the order they followed.
1884 - 1885
The Berlin Conference
1905 - 1907
The beginning of British rule in Tanganyika
Formation of ASP (Afro-Shiraz Party)
3. Time Line is a line along which dates and events are shown in the order they followed in history.
4. Family Tree shows the relationship between members of a family over a period of time.
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