Historiography

Introduction of History and Historiography

The word ‘history’ originates from the Greek historia, meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation”. It corresponds to the study of the past and throws light on various past events of significance which shaped and evolved human experiences.

Historiography is the study of the methods and criterion followed by historians in understanding and developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic shows how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. In other words, historiography can be understood as the writing of history based on the critical examination of source the selection of particulars from the authentic material. In the simplest form, Historiography is an art of writing history after collecting all related shreds of evidence and facts about a particular event that occurred in history.

The early colonial historians such as S James Mill, V.A. Smith, and HH Wilson emphasized that the knowledge of history writing was absent during ancient age. It was emphasized that no historical work was composed in India before the Establishment of Turkish rule and Indians team the art of history writing from Turks.

Though Ancient India didn’t have great historians like Herodotus at the same time it’s not correct to say that knowledge of historiography was completely absent during ancient age.

Puranas have the element of historical work because in these books the subject matter is classed into five parts. Puranas contains names of rulers and dynasty in chronological manners. “Itihas Puranas” highlights about the subject matter of history.

Though chronological work was not found in most of the ancient work at the same time it should be emphasized that work like Vedas & Arthashastra, Nitisar & Harshacharita are important historical sources for understanding life in Ancient.

Kalhana can be termed as the 1st true historian as he wrote the complete history of the Kashmir in the correct sequence. He was the native of Kashmir in 12th Century AD. He wrote the book named as “Rajatarangini”, in which he explained the various attributes of true historian & true historical work. The art of the historiography witnessed remarkable progress in India during the Medieval age. This may be because of the art of history writing for more development in Persia & Central Asia who invaded and ruled India in that period. The rulers of Delhi Sultanate maintained the court historians who were assigned with the duty of compiling important details and events. Even though literary sources are quite scattered and unavailable but it will not be right to say that Ancient Indians were not aware of historiography completely.

Importance of Historiography

Historiography is considered important for a wide range of reasons.

  1. Historiography helps us to understand why historical events have been interpreted in various manner over different periods. In other words, historiography helps us examine not only history itself overlying characteristics that shape the recording of history itself.
  2. Historiography allows us to study history with critical thinking and help us to assert various logical reasons related to a historical event. It helps us understand what all possible biases may have shaped the historical record. It ensures we don’t blindly follow or believe what we read from various historians 10, 100, and 1,000 years ago. It ensures we don’t fall prey to these same mistakes some previous historians may have made either intentionally or unintentionally.
  3. For historians, the study of history is important for its details. How were social and economic factors such as income, census reports, and related numbers recorded, and by whom? Do they give an accurate representation of one social group’s poverty or not? Are the numbers, quite literally, fudged, or can they be trusted to reflect accurately the disparity between classes? These questions which need to ask timely to understood our past resulted in various methods of writing history.
  4. We can say that historiography gives us an appreciation and motivation of how factors shape and alter the recording of history shape and alter our interpretation of it as a result.

While understanding the significance of Historiography, one must consider how history can be written, previous works of historiography, and schools of writings of history which we can find archaeological sources, literary sources, and School of writings. Thes sections will help aspirants to initiate preparation of history for GS-1 (Prelims) and will also help to understand ancient Indian history.