The word history is derived from the Greek word historia, which means knowledge acquired through investigation. History is a subject that studies the past by methods of investigating all the sources available. These sources may be written documents, inscriptions, artifacts, paintings, buildings, etc. History studies events of the past and the economic, social, cultural, and political life of people in the past. It also tries to explain the causes of these events.
More about History
It is different from myths. Myths do not have evidence backing them, but history is based on evidence. It is, however, possible to have different interpretations of the same event, so different versions of history about the same event may be seen.
Herodotus, of 5th century BC Greece, is considered to be the father of history. He first started using methods of collecting sources of knowledge of the past and then investigating them to reach conclusions about past events.
Significance of studying History
History is what happened in the past. So naturally, the question arises, as to why study history at all. But it is important to understand that a human being derives a significant portion of his wisdom from his experiences. This helps him better understand the present and make better decisions for the future. And history is nothing but combined wisdom derived from events of several centuries. It helps us to understand present social, cultural, economic, and political situations better. It also helps individuals and nations to make better decisions about the future. A famous saying beautifully summarises this, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
History prevents us from making the mistakes we made in the past. For example, studying the 1929 financial crash helps us avoid the policies and paths that caused the crash. We can prevent another Adolf Hitler from rising to power in a country if we analyse the reasons and causes behind it.
History also helps us to understand different cultures and the reasons behind the customs of different cultures. It thus helps to build awareness about different ethnicities, races, castes, religions and thus helps in social cohesion and unity.
History helps us appreciate the freedom we have from a foreign rule. This freedom was achieved after years and years of struggle and sacrifices of our forefathers, and it should be cherished.
History of India according to different periods
- Prehistory: Prehistory is the study of events that happened before humans started writing. So, we do not have any written records of this period. The life of early man including his knowledge of starting a fire, hunting, gathering, stone tools, etc is covered in prehistory. Cave paintings, stone tools are the major sources of knowledge about these times.
- Ancient history: This starts with the invention of writing. So, there are written records of this period. Indus valley civilization, Vedas and Vedic culture, Origins of Buddhism and Jainism, Mauryan Empire (including Chandragupta and Ashoka), Gupta Empire, Chalukyan empire and Chola Empire are some of the major highlights of this period.
- Medieval history: It covers periods starting from Turkish invasions and the establishment of Delhi Sultanate in the 13th Century. They were then defeated by Babur who started Mughal Rule in India. This period also saw the rise of Sikhism, Marathas, and Mysore.
- Modern History: It starts with the coming of Europeans to India for trade. It covers the decline of the Mughal empire and the subsequent Rule of East India Company. Indian struggle for freedom of 1857, started by Mangal Pandey, was a landmark event of this period that transferred the rule of India from East India Company to the British Government. Important highlights of British Rule over India are- their policies of divide and rule, impoverishment of India, famines, princely states, the formation of Indian National Congress, various freedom movements started by Gandhiji, world wars, and subsequent freedom. This period also covers the history of post-independence India.
Scope of History
Students of humanities stream with History as a subject at the intermediate level can do Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History. It is of 3 years duration.
After doing B.A., one can do B.Ed. to become a teacher at the school level. One can also attempt the Civil services exam. You can also be a history expert, who are in demand in the movie industry. They help recreate scenes, sets, and costumes for movies that are based in the past. One can also become an archivist who helps preserve manuscripts and documents so that they are not damaged and are usable for many years. National Archive of India and its state counterparts employ archivists.
After B.A. one can go for a master’s degree (M.A.) that opens up the option of becoming a historian. A historian researches in a particular time period or field and publishes the results of this research. One can also clear the National Eligibility Test (NET) exam and teach at universities. One can also become a researcher after doing a master’s degree. A master’s degree holder can also become an archaeologist who excavates old cities and buildings and studies them. The Archaeological Survey of India and similar state government organizations employ such experts.
One can also work in museums handling different responsibilities ranging from designing and maintaining museums to dating and conserving ancient coins, paintings, vessels, toys, documents, etc.
Does a degree in history subject help in the Civil Services exam?
Civil services exam has a significant number of questions from history at the prelims stage and in General Studies paper at the mains stage of the exam. Additionally, the exam has History as an optional subject, so you do not have to learn a new subject from scratch. So, a degree in history is beneficial in the civil services exam.
How can I teach history to students?
You can do a B.A. in history and B.Ed. afterward to teach at the school level. To teach at the university level, you need an M.A. in history and you should have cleared the NET exam. If you do not have any degree in history, still you can teach history to students preparing for various government exams in coaching institutes.
What are some good universities in India offering a degree in history?
Some of the top universities for studying history are
•University of Delhi
•Christ University, Bangalore
•Presidency University, Kolkata