The History Portal

Herodotus (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC), often considered the "father of history"

History (from Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning 'inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation') is the past as it is described in written documents, and the study thereof. Events occurring before written records are considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.

History also includes the academic discipline which uses a narrative to examine and analyse a sequence of past events, and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them. Historians sometimes debate the nature of history and its usefulness by discussing the study of the discipline as an end in itself and as a way of providing "perspective" on the problems of the present.

Stories common to a particular culture, but not supported by external sources (such as the tales surrounding King Arthur), are usually classified as cultural heritage or legends, because they do not show the "disinterested investigation" required of the discipline of history. Herodotus, a 5th-century BC Greek historian is often considered within the Western tradition to be the "father of history", or by some the "father of lies", and, along with his contemporary Thucydides, helped form the foundations for the modern study of human history. Their works continue to be read today, and the gap between the culture-focused Herodotus and the military-focused Thucydides remains a point of contention or approach in modern historical writing. In East Asia, a state chronicle, the Spring and Autumn Annals, was known to be compiled from as early as 722 BC although only 2nd-century BC texts have survived.

Ancient influences have helped spawn variant interpretations of the nature of history which have evolved over the centuries and continue to change today. The modern study of history is wide-ranging, and includes the study of specific regions and the study of certain topical or thematical elements of historical investigation. Often history is taught as part of primary and secondary education, and the academic study of history is a major discipline in university studies.

Topical excerpt section

Selected article

Facsimile of the Act of February 16
The Act of Independence of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Nepriklausomybės Aktas) or Act of February 16 was signed by the Council of Lithuania on February 16, 1918, proclaiming the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania, governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital. The Act was signed by all twenty representatives, chaired by Jonas Basanavičius. The Act of February 16 was the end result of a series of resolutions on the issue, including one issued by the Vilnius Conference and the Act of January 8. The path to the Act was long and complex because the German Empire exerted pressure on the Council to form an alliance. The Council had to carefully maneuver between the Germans, whose troops were present in Lithuania, and the demands of the Lithuanian people.

The immediate effects of the announcement of Lithuania's re-establishment of independence were limited. Publication of the Act was prohibited by the German authorities, and the text was distributed and printed illegally. The work of the Council was hindered, and Germans remained in control over Lithuania. The situation changed only when Germany lost World War I in the fall of 1918. In November 1918 the first Cabinet of Lithuania was formed, and the Council of Lithuania gained control over the territory of Lithuania. Independent Lithuania, although it would soon be battling the Wars of Independence, became a reality.

Selected biography

John Treloar in 1922
John Linton Treloar, OBE (10 December 1894 – 28 January 1952) was an Australian archivist and the second director of the Australian War Memorial (AWM). During World War I he served in several staff roles and later headed the First Australian Imperial Force's (AIF) record-keeping unit. From 1920 Treloar played an important role in establishing the AWM as its director. He headed an Australian Government department during the first years of World War II, and spent the remainder of the war in charge of the Australian military's history section. Treloar returned to the AWM in 1946, and continued as its director until his death.

Treloar's career was focussed on the Australian military and its history. Prior to World War I he worked as a clerk in the Department of Defence and, after volunteering for the AIF in 1914, formed part of the Australian Army officer Brudenell White's staff for most of the war's first years. He was appointed commander of the Australian War Records Section (AWRS) in 1917. In this position, he improved the AIF's records and collected a large number of artefacts for later display in Australia. Treloar was appointed the director of what eventually became the AWM in 1920, and was a key figure in establishing the Memorial and raising funds for its permanent building in Canberra. He left the AWM at the outbreak of World War II to lead the Australian Government's Department of Information, but was effectively sidelined for much of 1940. In early 1941 he was appointed to command the Australian military's Military History and Information Section with similar responsibilities to those he had held during World War I. He attempted to intervene in the management of the AWM during his absence, however, to the increasing frustration of its acting director. Treloar worked intensely in all his roles and suffered periods of ill-health as a result. Following the war, he returned to the Memorial in 1946 but his performance deteriorated over time, possibly due to exhaustion. He died in January 1952.

Did you know...

Beak Doctor.jpg

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Jacques-Louis David, The Coronation of Napoleon edit.jpg

The Coronation of Napoleon I as Emperor of the French took place on December 2, 1804. After a referendum showed overwhelming French support for the action, Napoleon designed an elaborate coronation ceremony, France's first since before the French Revolution, with a combination of Roman pageantry and the purported memory of Charlemagne. During the ceremony, as Pope Pius VII readied the crown for Napoleon, the future emperor turned around, took it from the pope, and placed it on his own head, an unprecedented action of state over church.

On this day

February 23: The Emperor's Birthday in Japan

Scene of the Grayrigg derailment
Scene of the Grayrigg derailment

Balthazar Gerbier (b. 1592) · Anna Hofman-Uddgren (b. 1868) · Lotika Sarkar (d. 2013)

Selected quote

My heart is a stone: heavy with sadness for my people; cold with the knowledge that no treaty will keep whites out of our lands; hard with the determination to resist as long as I live and breathe.

— Tecumseh, Native American tribal chief

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