History and Government: Can you explain the evolution of history ?

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1 a i). Explain the Evolution of History

The concept of history was developed from the work of a Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BC.). He became the first person to write on the activities of humans based on events in a dated past, lasting for a generation and thus became the father of history. His idea of history was improved on by his contemporary Thucydides (460-400 BC.), a Greek, who emphasized on humanistic and self-revelatory function of history. He asserted that historical evidence must be based on inquiry.

A sculpture of Greek historian Herodotus by Jean-Guillaume Moitte on display in the Louvre

A century later, a Greek historian, Polybius who lived in Hellenistic period looked at history from-a broader perspective. His record of history covered five generations (150 years), His writings influenced Titus Livy (59-17 A.C) a Roman historian, who wrote the history of Rome from its origins. However, the work of Publius Cornelius Tacitus (5 5-120 A.C) in Rome was retrogression in the historical thought because he limited history to the affairs of Rome and not the Roman Empire, the known world at that time.

The Christian era. saw the writings of Pamphili Eusebius (260-340 A.C) who introduced a new understanding of history as the entire history of the world from its creation in the past to its end in the future from God’s (divine) point of view. Humans were seen as playing in the hands of God. An event happened because God willed it. This view of history was criticized by Renaissance historians of the 16th century, like Niccolo’ di Bernado Machiavelle (1469-1527) who viewed history as the history of human passions. Under his influence, Polydore Virgil in the 16th century laid the foundation of a critical history of England.

The 17th century witnessed the works of Francis Bacon (1516-1626). a British essayist philosopher and statesman. He saw history as a study-of the past, and argued that people’s interest in the past should be an interest for its own life sake. In the same century. Camden showed how unremembered history could be reconstructed from data by using topography and archaeology.

The early 18th century was influenced by the work of Vico. He saw history as being concerned with the actual structure of society in which people live, the manners and customs which people share with those around them.

Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), a French philosopher, historian, dramatist and essayist, and David Hume (1711-76), a Scottish philosopher and historian, stand at the head of a new school of historical thought – the historiography of enlightenment. Their era marked the end of the religious era of human history and the inauguration of a non-religious rational period/ However, their interest in history was limited to a specific period, the scientific age, not non-rational periods of human history.

Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804), a German philosopher. George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Karl Marx (1881-183D restricted the study of history to one aspect of human activity. Although Kant advocated for the study of a universal history, conceived as history of progress, from the beginning to modern civilization to future millennium, he restricted history to only political evolution, Hegel was concerned with history of politics, while Marx with economic history.

This view was criticized by Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) who argued that the term history should be applied to history of all races and all times. Human achievement should be viewed from remote past to the present. He saw history as a process of development from a beginning in savagery to an end in a perfectly rational and civilized society.

All the above historians and philosophers contributed to the understanding of the idea of history by the 19th and 20th centuries. The 19th-century historians and philosophers include F.H. Bradley, Robert Flint, Burkle. Herbert Spencer, etc,, while the 20th century includes personalities like J.B. Bury, Oakosshotte, Arnold Toynbee and R.G. Collingwood. Our present understanding of history depends very much on the thoughts and activities of the above scholars.

In spite of the above contributions to the historical thought, history as a discipline we know today scarcely existed before the 19th century. In England, a serious study of the subject began with Dr. Arnold of Rugby School in 1853 at primary level. It is in 1872-74 that it was taught at a secondary level and it was not until 1881 that history became optional subject fully recognized with a properly prepared syllabus.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s