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What historians study
The content of history. Until the 1900's, historians primarily studied political events; they wrote almost exclusively about diplomacy, wars, and affairs of state. Today, historians also study many other subjects. Some examine economic and social conditions. Others trace the development of religions, the arts, or other elements of culture.
The divisions of history. The field of history is so vast that historians have traditionally split it into divisions. The three main divisions of history are based on period, nation, and topic. Periods of time form the chief divisions in the study of history. Historians divide Western history into three periods. They are:
¨ ancient times, from about 3000 B.C. to the A.D. 400's;
¨ medieval times, the 400's to the 1500's; and
¨ modern times, the 1500's to the present
Scholars may divide these periods into many shorter periods.
For example, a historian may study a particular century or a certain period, such as the High Middle Ages (about the 1200's) or the Age of Reason (1700's). The division of history into periods helps historians organize and focus their studies. However, this division may distort the evidence presented by history. For years historians considered the medieval era as a period of superstition and disorganization that came between two supposedly better periods of history. This viewpoint prevented them from realizing that the Middle Ages had a vitality of its own and formed the basis of modern European civilization.
The division of history into ancient, medieval, and modern periods applies only to European societies. Historians who study Asian or African societies base their work on entirely different periods. Even the dating system differs because Western society uses the birth of Jesus Christ as a dividing line. The years before the birth of Christ are designated B.C. (before Christ), and those thereafter are considered AD (Anno Domini—in the year of our Lord).
The division of history by nation involves, for example, the study of American, Chinese, or French history. The division by topic enables historians to deal with particular aspects of past human activity. Many historians study economic, social, and intellectual history in addition to studying traditional political history. Some historians focus on such specialized topics as the history of science, of an ethnic group, or of a city.
III. Find English equivalents of those expressions in the text:
IV. Say whether these statements correspond to the information of the text:
· The field of history is practically unlimited.
· Many historians are not unanimous in their conclusions about past events.
· History became a school subject at the beginning of the 19th century.
· Historians always studied cultural, economic, and social aspects of past human life.
· The attitude of historians to some historical periods may change.
· The division of history into ancient, medieval and modern periods can be applied to all societies.
V. Answer the questions to the text:
1. What is usually understood under the term "history"?
2. What spheres of human life do historians study?
3. Why do historians study past events?
4. Why do governments require schools to teach the country’s history?
5. In what way do historians differ from other social scientists?
6. What are the traditional divisions of Western history?
7. What event serves as the basis of such division?
8. Do you know other systems of historical division of other parts of the world?
VI. Finish the sentences according the information of the text:
Ø History is often classified as ...
Ø The past has left many traces, including …
Ø Until the 1900's, historians primarily studied …
Ø Historians may use theories from …
Ø For years historians considered the medieval era as a period of …
Ø Historians have traditionally split the field of history into ...
Ø The division of history by topic enables historians to deal with ...
VII. Insert necessary words and expressions using those from the box:
1. These records, as well as the ________________ themselves, are also ________________ called history.
2. Some historians ___________________________________ from those actions and thoughts as a guide for decisions and _________________ today.
3. History is used not only to tell students how their national way of life developed but also to _______________ and __________________ national ideals and _______________________.
4. Historians study the _________________ or events of a __________________ time.
5. This viewpoint prevented them from realizing that the Middle Ages had a _______________ of its own and formed the ________________of modern European civilization.
6. Even the _____________________ differs because Western society uses the birth of Jesus Christ as a __________________.
7. Some historians _________________ on such specialized ____________ as the history of science, of an ethnic group, or of a city.
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