History and Government: What are Written Sources

CHAPTER ONE

1 x). Define Written sources of History and government and give examples.

Written Sources

Written sources refer to what is drawn or printed in conventional signs on any kind of support, whether it is papyrus, parchment or paper (UNESCO. General History of Africa, [Vol.1] Abridged Edition: 1990). These are the most popular and useful sources of history. In historical process, written work is very important because it has permanence that the spoken word lacks. Written sources fall into two groups:

  • A narrative source, e g. chronicles, annals, accounts of travels, newspapers, journals and books.
  • Archival sources
  • Private documents, e.g. letters, business correspondence, diaries, autobiography and biography.
  • Official and legal documents comprising administrative correspondence, legislature, financial records, the constitution, Education Act and Government Commissions/reports etc
  • Religious documents.

The written source was used in Europe, Asia and Arabia for many years before it was introduced in Africa (except for Egypt which used hieratic Egyptian papyrus before the Christian era). The written documents contained thehistory of the people of Europe, Asia, America and Africa.

Ancient Egyptian writings on papyrus

Some of the written documents on Africa can be found in libraries of North Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Armenia, and in the homes of prominent Africans and scholars in the Sahel. Recently, Ahmed Baba Centre at Timbuktu was established as a centre of African history with the responsibility of collecting all written documents in the world on African history.

The first written record on East Africa appeared tinder the title “The Periplus of the Eritrean Sea” an anonymous work composed about 230 before the Christian era.

This was followed by other written works by Arab geographers, European explorers, traders, missionaries, administrators and scholars and lastly African writers.

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