What Do Historians Do?

History is the science of the development of human society in the past. Historians study past periods and events, institutions, ideas, and people. Some specialize in specific periods of history, for example, the Middle Ages (medievalists). On the other hand, others focus on studying some phenomena or institutions during historical periods, for example, the study of economic relations, military organization, the development of political ideologies, etc. By studying a phenomenon from a historical perspective, historians contribute to a better understanding and interpretation of the present.

They establish historical facts

However, we must know that every event from the past is not considered a historical fact, but that historical facts are only those events from the past that, due to the knowledge of a historical phenomenon and process, can become the subject of research. First of all, these are all those phenomena and events in people’s lives that can be used in the scientific reconstruction of a historical event in the course of the historian’s scientific research work.

They apply research methods

Historians apply scientific research methods and collaborate with other sciences to create a complete picture of the human past. History is a science that has research methods that historians must adhere to. Historians’ job is to study and interpret historical sources. Some of the questions arising during that process are: why something happened, how that event unfolded, what were the causes and consequences, do we have different viewpoints (perspectives) about this event – what other sources or historians say about it. The role of the historian mainly involves researching and analyzing opposing ideas, facts, and supposed facts to create logical narratives that explain the past. Through this information, historian deduces what happened and why or how it happened.

The first historians collected memories of family and local traditions. The critical spirit, which in recent times takes more and more breath, directs the historian to doubt such literary products and oral traditions and forces him to use pure sources, such as old records, parchments, papyri, inscriptions on tablets and stones, whose texts had the value of an official document in their time. The modern historian, who is no longer interested only in those origins on which the events seem to depend and in the ruling social classes, begins to study nations as wholes and all the phenomena of their spiritual and material life. Like other sciences, research methods used by historians that is multifaceted and includes not only the technique of solving scientific and research questions but also a specific concept, program of knowledge, and even a view. The development of historical science led to the development of its methodology.

They reconstruct the past

The problem stems from the fact that history shares the subject of research with the other social sciences and humanities along with different research questions, and accordingly, we speak of a plurality of methodological procedures. Still, it is not in such a way that historical science submerges and denies its thinking and method in them. We can say that historical thinking is scientific if it commits itself to the principle of systematic justification, meaning there is regularity in the research. According to the above, the historical method provides knowledge from the linguistic understanding of the origin, the determination of the credibility of his testimony about the past phenomenon, and the inclusion of these statements in a wider historical connection. Using the methods of (re)construction and the starting points he takes, the historian will impose a meaning on a particular past that it may not have at all as such. Here again, we return to the historian as an interpreter because the interpreter ascribes a certain meaning to the text he interprets. Due to the “openness” of inscribing meaning based on historical “facts” as polysemic signs or traces, history is a distinctly problematic discourse, one can say that it is a compensatory discourse created at least second-hand, indirectly, but this is due to man’s constant effort to inscribe meaning, reason, cause where there are none, subject to endless uses and abuses that generally correspond to different ideological intentions, political systems, power centers that (re)structure and distribute meanings and meanings. E. Hobsbawm defends the position that what historians investigate is true, and objective and that fiction and faction can differ. Without this distinction between what is and what is not, there can be no history. How we collect and interpret a selected sample of verifiable facts is a completely different matter.

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