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The Difference Between History and Historiography

What is History?


When most people think of history they think about remembering facts and regurgitating those facts. They think it’s the study of who, what, when, where, and how, but that is not entirely true. History is the study of the who, what, when, where, and the how's of the past to create an argument on why something happened the way it did. For example, The atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Enola Gay of the United States on August 6th and 9th, 1945. This answers the 4 W’s and the H, but the why has to be created by an individual’s opinion. Some people believe that the atomic bombs were dropped because Japan was not going to surrender, but others believe the United States wanted to show they were a super-power.


What is Historiography?


While History is the study of the who, what, when, where, and how to form the why, Historiography is the study of the arguments that have been made during the study of history and how the arguments have changed over time. For example, when Aristotle argued that the Earth was the center of the universe, it was believed to be a fact, but then Copernicus argued that the Sun was the center of the universe, and then that was believed to be true. Finally, it was discovered that there are millions of galaxies and the Milky Way is not even close to the center. The change of the opinions and studying how they changed over time due to advancements in knowledge and technology is what historiography is.

What Does it Mean to “Do” History


To “do” history is not what most people think when they are asked this question. Most people believe that it is just doing worksheets and remembering trivial facts, but that is not doing or studying history. Doing history is to find primary sources and compare how they differ and form questions on why they differ and what caused them to be so different. For example, a letter from a king that was being overthrown would have a very different point of view from someone that is overthrowing a king. The study of these different view points allows historians to have greater insight into why these events happened.

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