Historiography: Definition, Importance & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson describes the concept of historiography. First, we define it. Then, we go over some of the reasons for why it's important before showcasing a couple of examples of it. Updated: 07/13/2020

Historiography Definition

To the victor go the spoils; and so does much of history it often appears. After all, history is written by the victors as is often said.

In other words, history is factual in theory only. The way it is actually recorded, written about, and changed through time makes history quite fluid.

If this idea intrigues you, then maybe you should take a look into historiography. Historiography can very simply be defined as the history of history; meaning historiography is the study of how history was written, by whom, and why it was recorded as such. Moreover, it is a look at if and how historical events have been reinterpreted by historians over time and why.

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Coming up next: Historical Methodology: Evidence and Interpretation

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  • 0:04 Historiography Definition
  • 0:55 Historiography Importance
  • 3:21 Historiography Examples
  • 5:36 Lesson Summary
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Historiography Importance

Historiography is important for a wide range of reasons. First, it helps us understand why historical events have been interpreted so differently over time. In other words, historiography helps us examine not only history itself, but also the broader overlying characteristics that shape the recording of history itself.

For instance, did a new power come to being and did its historians alter the loser's history for generations? Or maybe economic issues caused historians to look at a historical event through a different lens.

Just as critically, historiography lets us study history with a critical eye. It helps us understand what biases may have shaped the historical period. It ensures we don't blindly trust what we read from historians 10, 100, and 1,000 years ago. Simultaneously, it ensures we don't fall victim to these same mistakes some previous historians may have made.

By extension, historiography lets us dig for and get to the factual history behind the historical myth, so to speak. It gives us a way to re-interpret the biases of a historian's perspective in a more equitable manner. So long as we remain unbiased in the process, of course.

Historiography also helps generalists and specialists alike. Think of socioeconomic history, for example. To a generalist, it's important to get an overall sense of how historians viewed the various social classes and why. Perhaps some historians thought the poor were poor because of their own doing. Why? Were those historians part of the privileged class, and did they have a clear bias?

For specialists, the study of history is important for its details. How were socioeconomic factors such as income, census reports, and related numbers recorded and by whom? Do they give an accurate representation of one social group's poverty or not? Are the numbers quite literally fudged, or can they be trusted to reflect accurately the disparity between classes?

Ultimately, historiography gives us an appreciation of how factors that shape and alter the recording of history shape and alter our interpretation of it as a result.

Historiography Examples

So let's take a look at some examples of historiography.

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