History is something that we have very little personal knowledge of since it all occurred in the past. Most of the time it involved people, places, dates and situations of which we have no familiarity. Therefore, before we can start wrestling with the deeper questions about the past, it is imperative that we first improve our overall knowledge of the historical period we are dealing with.
To do this, you need to develop the following historical knowledge skills:
While studying the past, you will encounter a wide range of words, names, people, places and dates that you have not encountered before. Before you can develop the more complex historical skills, you should attain familiarity with new information.
The very first step in grasping History is to understand chronology. ‘Chronology’ means the order in time in which events occurred. There are several rules that have been developed over time to achieve this. The terms and concepts outlined in this section of History Handbook Online can be used in your own historical writing to improve your academic vocabulary.
History is the study of change over time. All sorts of things change over time: empires, languages, ideas, technology, attitudes, etc. Historians study different types of events through time and group these events based upon topics or themes. Breaking historical events up based upon categories makes it easier for people to identify changes and study the effects on people over time.
As you study events, ideas and people throughout history, you will quickly discover that things do not simply ‘happen’ without reason. Often, the period of time leading up to the event under investigation, and the period of time immediately following it, reveals things that caused the event to occur, as well as what resulted from it.
Some events, ideas or people have had such a long-lasting impact on the world that they could be significant. Not all things are significant for the same reasons as other things. Discovering an event’s causes and its consequences helps work out if an event is significant or not.
As you study History, you will encounter a vast array of people who thought, spoke and acted in ways that are foreign to you. The world and culture which you're used to is unique and simply judging another's thoughts, words and actions based upon your own cultural norms shows a lack of empathy for their way of life.