What is History?

History is the record of past events as people currently understand them. It is the study of all that has come before. The study of history is constantly expanding because discoveries are made every day. Therefore, the field combines facts which historians have compiled about the past, and opinions about what they presume happened based on those facts. Ideally, history courses teach the chronological order of events, with an understanding of how these events have impacted one another. However, the collective understanding of history is based on the research materials available and what the best scholars have been able to determine regarding their meaning and significance.

There are many disciplines within the field of history, including US History, World History, and European History. Each of these disciplines will typically cover a specific geographical location or time period, such as the continent of Europe or a time like the Renaissance (the 14th through 17th centuries). All levels and disciplines within the field of history rely on knowledge of historical events to develop a cohesive narrative. A historical event is any significant occurrence during a period that can be used to help define or explain its surrounding circumstances.

Historians use various theories to develop an understanding of historical events and further the written narrative of a time. Postmodernists, for example, reject all previous interpretations of a discipline to gain a more accurate understanding of historical topics. Studying history helps individuals appreciate all that has come before the present moment and gain a deeper understanding of the causes of current events.

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History Topics

History Resources

Study.com offers many compelling and informative resources on various topics in history, including US History, World History, and European History. These materials are designed for varied grade levels from kindergarten through college and can assist students and instructors. Whether you need a full course of study, additional study material to assist with in-class learning, tutoring help for personal assistance, or lesson plans to use in a classroom or homeschool; resources are available to meet your academic needs.

History Courses

Study.com's history courses allow K-12 and college students the ability to explore and study both required topics and areas of personal interest. These classes use history videos, texts, and quizzes to help students learn and engage with the material. Courses can supplement in-class learning or be used in a homeschool environment. Study.com's college-level courses provide flexible opportunities to earn college credits which are transferable to over two thousand universities. Study.com's courses may also provide supplemental study material for students needing extra help or teachers seeking professional development.

History 100: Western Civilization from Prehistory to Post-WWII

This college-level overview of Western civilization covers the ice age through the fall of the Soviet Union. Explore the Classical period, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, World Wars, and the Cold War.

History 102: Western Civilization II

This survey of Western civilization explores the 16th century to the present day. This college course teaches about the age of monarchs, revolutions, Industrialization, Nationalism, Imperialism, World War I, World War II, and the modern era.

History 103: US History I

Examine North America's first contacts in 28,000 BCE through Reconstruction in 1877. This course covers Native American history, European settlement, the American Revolution, Jacksonian democracy, Manifest Destiny, American Civil War, and Reconstruction.

History 104: US History II

This exciting college course explores US history from 1865 through the present day. Fascinating topics include Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, American Imperialism, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and contemporary America.

US History: High School

This high school-level course can be a class or a review. It covers European settlement, the Revolutionary era, Jacksonian democracy, American Civil War, Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and modern America.

For teachers and parents

Lesson Plans for History Teachers

Study.com offers hundreds of lesson plans, activities, games, and projects to aid teachers in creating exciting classes in US History, World History, and European History. Teachers can use these plans to create an entire course or as a supplement to enhance their current coursework. Resources are organized by areas of concentration and historical periods.

Lesson plans
  • US History - Civil War: Lesson Plans & Resources

    These Civil War and Reconstruction lesson plans help teachers enhance and update their US history classes. For elementary through high school, plans include essay topics, activities, games, project ideas, and more.

  • US History 1786-1860: Lesson Plans & Resources

    These lesson plans include activities and essay ideas for topics such as the Early American Republic, the War of 1812, the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny, Native Americans, the Mexican-American War, and the Antebellum era.

  • US History 1870-1940: Lesson Plans & Resources

    Topics and activities covered in this lesson plan include the Gilded Age, Women's Suffrage Movement, Progressive Era, American inventors, immigration, the 1920s, Great Depression, and Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.

  • Ancient World History: Lesson Plans & Resources

    Engage and teach students of different ages Ancient World History with these lesson plans and games. Create classes that explore historical concepts, prehistory, Mesopotamia, China, Asia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

  • World History 1600-1900: Lesson Plans & Resources

    These lesson plans enhance World History classes from elementary through high school level. Activities cover the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, Political Revolutions, Imperialism, and the Industrial Revolution.

  • World History 500-1650: Lesson Plans & Activities

    These lessons include activities, games, and more for all grades to explore regarding the empires after the Fall of Rome, Imperial China, early Africa, and Medieval Europe. Topics such as European Exploration, the Renaissance, and the Reformation are also covered.

  • World History Since 1900: Lesson Plans & Resources

    These lessons about the world since 1900 enhance Modern World History classes. Topics include World War I, the Russian Revolution, World War II, the cultural revolution in China, modern Africa, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

  • Instructional Strategies for Teaching History

    Improve critical pedagogical skills with these instructional strategies for teaching history. Learn about learning styles, instructional planning, developing learning activities, teacher tools and techniques, and more.

History Skills and Practice

Learning about history involves much more than simply studying a list of important dates, people, and events. Students should also strive to learn essential skills to analyze and interpret historical events. These skills lead to a deeper understanding of the past, and they also aid in comprehending the reasons for current events in the US and worldwide.

Some of the skills teachers can help students develop include:

  • Analyzing texts
  • Using primary sources
  • Contrasting and comparing areas before and after significant events
  • Identifying causes and effects of historical events
  • Comparing different perspectives
  • Discussing the similarities and differences of various cultures.

Analyzing texts requires an attentive and close reading of the material. It demands an understanding of the language used and the biases those creating the texts might have had. Primary sources are the foundation of historical study. These are documents and other materials created by individuals who personally experienced historical events. Contrasting and comparing eras before and after significant events helps students understand the consequences of major events or social shifts. By identifying the causes and effects of historical events, students learn how historical events develop over time and may have impacts that last far into the future. Comparing different perspectives helps develop an appreciation for various opinions and insights. No two people or groups view historical events the same way, and it is essential to look at as many viewpoints as possible. Comparing cultures can cultivate a deeper understanding of how people in different eras live, work, pray, and create, while increasing an appreciation for the human condition.

Study.com offers a selection of lessons to help students develop these critical skills to define history better, discuss various types of history, and speak and write about history in an informed manner.

Father and son doing homework

History Homeschool Curriculum

Study.com provides many resources for homeschooled students who wish to meet their academic requirements or study history independently. Younger elementary students can explore Ancient History, while middle school students can examine an survey of World History or explore World History I and World History II in more depth. They can also study US History. There are also World History and US History classes designed for high school students. Advanced high school students may use Study.com's courses to prepare for the AP exams in US History and European History.

Homeschool solutions
Father and son doing homework

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is history?

    A simple definition is that history is the study of the past. History explores the impacts of various significant events and individuals, and how they influenced their own time as well as that of the present.

  • What are the types of history?

    Six types of history are cultural history, political history, diplomatic history, economic history, social history, and intellectual history. History may also be divided into the study of geographic areas, for example, World History, US History, European History, etcetera.

  • How did the word history come about?

    The word "history" comes from the Greek word historia which means the act of seeking knowledge or inquiry. Today, history refers to the record of events that have happened up until now.

Studying History

There are lots of different ways to study, and everyone has their favorite tricks. But exactly what you're studying should factor into how you choose to learn, as certain study tactics might be a better fit for history than they would for math or science. Below, check out some helpful resources for studying history to make sure you ace your next test.

What are some fun ways to study and remember?

  • Flashcards: Obviously flashcards aren't anything new when it comes to studying, but creating flashcards to help you memorize content and the way it connects can actually help you in multiple ways. Rather than finding an existing set of flashcards you can use, try making your own using index cards or even cutting up pieces of paper. The act of writing out the information will help you remember in a different way than just reading. For many people the tactile sensation of holding and flipping the cards can also help you remember the information better than just clicking a button and watching the card flip on your screen.
  • Make it a song! Are you one of those people who can pick up song lyrics after one listen? You can do the same with information! Set the dates of a timeline to the tune of your favorite song, and all you'll need to do when you get to the test is sing it back in your head. Creating mnemonics can be great for smaller lists, but setting larger pieces of information to a tune you know well can really help keep a lot if information straight.
  • Study with a friend, even if you're studying different things: One word: Accountability. Whether you're in the same room or just keeping a video chat window open, you can keep each other on track by knowing the other person is there too. If you're on your own it's easy to pop open a new browser window or put down the book and pick up your phone. Get together and make a pact that you will spend a certain amount of time studying, and take your breaks together to make break time even more fun.
  • Learn a fancy script and your homework at the same time: Similar to flashcards, rewriting out your notes or information in your textbook can help cement the information in your brain - by why just copy it over as is? Teach yourself how to do calligraphy or perfect your bubble letters. It will help you really concentrate on what you're writing, and help keep your mind from wandering from the task at hand.
  • Make a list: Feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to learn? Try making a list that chunks it out into more manageable pieces. It might feel like the list is too long, but if you break it out into small chunks, you'll get that high of being able to quickly check things off the list, and before you know it you'll be done. Breaking things down like this also allows you to decide which pieces are the most important and start with those first, so if you only have a short time, you can make sure you're spending your time on the most valuable pieces first.
  • Read a book: If you're a reader, there are a lot of great authors of historical fiction that can make the stories come alive for you. While there are certain creative liberties these can take, the basic story is rooted in actual historical events and people, allowing you to experience them in a more vibrant and robust way. And if you're not a reader, there are also some pretty well-made movies out there that might appeal to you.