What is change and continuity in history?

Palace of Versailles
"Vue du château de Versailles depuis le parc" by Marc Vassal. Used under CC BY-SA 3.0. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Versailles_chateau.jpg

History is the study of change over time. All sorts of things change over time: empires, languages, ideas, technology, attitudes, etc.

Categorising Historical Events


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.


Some general categories of events include:


Political To do with war, power, governments, and legal rights
 Economic   How people earn and spend money
Social The everyday lives of people at work and home
Technology To do with developments in technology and medicine

Watch a video explanation on the History Skills YouTube channel:


 ‘Change’ refers to something that is obviously different from what occurred previously.


Change in history usually occurs over a long period of time and it is often hard to pin-point an exact moment of change. Therefore, it is easier to choose two different moments in history and compare them. For example, comparing 2nd century AD with the 4th century AD, or the year 1600 with 1900.


However, when there is a sudden and clear change at a particular point in history, usually as the result of a single event, the event is usually referred to as a ‘Turning Point’ in history.


Not all things change over time, some things remain the same across long periods in time, sometimes lasting into the modern world.


‘Continuity’ refers to things that stay the same, relatively unchanged, over time. 

Assessing Change and/or Continuity

 As historians, we need to study what things have changed or continued over time and try to explain the reasons for these.


Example questions for assessing Change and Continuity:

  • What kind of historical development are you focusing on (e.g., religious, political, economic, cultural, etc.)?
  • What was the situation like before this occurred?

  • What was clearly different after this occurred?

  • What were the direct causes of the changes?

  • What were the reasons that some things remained the same?

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