Twentieth-century developments

At the turn of the twentieth century, Western history remained notoriously biased toward the so-called "Great Men" school of history concerning wars, diplomacy, science and politics. This point of view was inherently predisposed toward the study of a small number of powerful men within the socio-economic elite. A pronounced shift away from crude Whiggish analyses has started, in favor of a more critical and precise perspective. For example, a common myth is that Thomas Edison alone invented the electric light bulb; a traditional American history might highlight Edison's story at the expense of all others. In contrast, a modern history of Edison mentions all his predecessors and competitors, in order to show that Edison's activities were one part of a group of inventors and rivals in the commercial deployment of the technology.

Since the 1960's, history as an academic discipline has undergone several evolutions. These changes fostered advances in a number of areas previously unrecognized in historiography. Formerly neglected topics have become the subject of academic study, such as the history of popular culture, mass culture, sexuality, geographical culture and the lives of ordinary people. Historians also started investigating the histories of ideas surrounding various categories of people, such as women's studies (including an entire branch of women's history), racial minorities (like African-American history) or disabled people (e.g., a historian's study of the construction of ideas about disabled people and the results thereof, perhaps in a specific historical setting, such as Nazi Germany).

Education and profession


Many historians are employed at universities and other facilities for post-secondary education. In addition, it is common, although not required, for many historians to have a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in their chosen areas of study. During the preparation of their thesis for this degree, many develop into their first book, since regular publishing activities are essential for advancement in academia. There is currently a great deal of controversy among academic historians regarding the possibility and desirability of the neutrality in historical scholarship. The job market for graduate historians is relatively limited. Historians typically work in libraries, universities, archival centers, government agencies (particularly heritage) and as freelance consultants. Many with an undergraduate history degree also may become involved with administrative or clerical professions and an undergraduate history degree is often used as a "stepping stone" to further studies such as a law degree.

In popular culture


There has always been a class of "super historians", who can present their own views to a wider audience. This includes the likes of Leopold von Ranke, Arnold J. Toynbee, Walter Scott, and Richard Wagner. But with the advent of television and associated history programmes, there has been an expansion in the popularity of history. Modern examples of "super historians" from this rise in popularity may include Simon Schama or David Starkey.



Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: Hērodotos Halikarnāsseus) was a Greek historian from Ionia who lived in the 5th century BC (484 BCca. 425 BC) and is regarded as the "Father of History". He is almost exclusively known for writing The Histories, a record of his 'inquiries' into the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars which occurred in 490 and 480-479 BCE especially since he includes a narrative account of that period, which would otherwise be poorly documented, and many long digressions concerning the various places and peoples he encountered during wide-ranging travels around the lands of the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

Most of what is known of Herodotus' life has been gathered from his own work. There was duration of exile from his home city of Halicarnassus during which he may have undertaken the broad journeys that he describes in The Histories. These journeys took him to many places such as Egypt as far south as the first cataract of the Nile, to Ukraine, Italy and Sicily. Although his description of Babylon contains highly descriptive remarks, he does not actually claim to have visited the city. He lived for a period in Athens and became familiar with the oral traditions of the prominent families. The Athenians did not accept foreigners as citizens and Herodotus would have felt out of place there. Where he died is uncertain. That is, he was a teller of stories written in prose (the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse). It is important to emphasize that his work was originally presented orally, and was designed to have a sort of theatrical element to it. His subject matter often encompassed battles, other political incidents of note, and, especially, the marvels of foreign lands. He made tours of the Greek cities and the major religious and athletic festivals, where he offered performances and expected payment. In 431 BCE, the Peloponnesian War broke out between Athens and Sparta. It may have been that conflict that inspired him to collect his stories into a continuous narrative. Centering on the theme of Persia's imperial progress, which only a united Athens and Sparta had managed to resist, they may have been intended as a critique of, or an attack upon, the war-mongering that threatened to overwhelm the entire Greek world.

ContributionHerodotus gave us a lot of information concerning the nature of the world and the status of the sciences during his lifetime.

For example, he reports that the annual flooding of the Nile was said to be the result of melting snows far to the south, and comments that he cannot understand how there can be snow in Africa, the hottest part of the known world; he concludes that the snow must be from Mount Kilimanjaro, a very large mountain in southern Africa. Although this hypothesis proved to be wrong, if it were not for Herodotus' method of comparing all theories known to him, we might never have discovered that such speculation existed in ancient Greece.

Written between 431 BCE and 425 BCE, The Histories were divided by later editors into nine books, named after the nine Muses (the 'Muse of History', Clio, represented the first book).

As the work progresses, it becomes apparent that Herodotus is fulfilling his opening desireto 'prevent the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the Barbarians from losing their due mead of glory; and to put on record what causes first brought them into conflict.' He is attempting to discover who first made the 'west' and the 'east' mutual antagonists, and myth is the only source he can delve into for information on the subject.

The first six books deal broadly with the growth of the Persian Empire. The tale begins with an account of the first 'western' monarch to enter into conflict with an 'eastern' peopleCroesus of Lydia attacked the Greek city-states of Ionia, and then, also attacked the Persians. Croesus was defeated by Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, and Lydia became a Persian province.

The second book forms a lengthy digression concerning the history of Egypt, which Cyrus' successor, Cambyses, annexed to the Empire. The following four books deal with the further growth of the Empire under Darius, the Ionian Revolt, and the burning of Sardis. The sixth book describes the very first Persian incursion into Greece, an attack upon those who aided the Ionians and a quest for retribution following the attack upon Sardis, which ended with the defeat of the Persians in 490 BCE at the battle of Marathon, near Athens.

The last three books describe the attempt of the Persian king Xerxes to avenge the Persian defeat at Marathon and to finally absorb Greece into the Empire. The Histories end in the year 479 BCE, with the Persian invaders having suffered both a crushing naval defeat at Salamis, and near annihilation of their ground forces at Plataea.

It is possible to see the dialectic theme of Persian power and its various excesses running like a 'red thread' throughout the narrativecause and effect, hubris and fate, vengeance and violence. Even the strange and fantastic tales that are liberally sprinkled throughout the text find their source in this momentum. At every stage, a Persian monarch crosses a body of water or other luminal space and suffers the consequences: Cyrus attacks the Massagetae on the eastern bank of a river, and ends up decapitated; Cambyses attacks the Ethiopians to the south of Egypt, across the desert, and goes mad; Darius attacks the Scythians to the north and is flung back across the Danube; Xerxes lashes and then bridges the Hellespont, and his forces are crushed by the Greeks. Thus, though he strays (and sometimes strays rather far) off of this main course, he always returns to the task at handanswering the question, how and why did the Greeks and Persians enter into the greatest conflict then known, and what were the consequences.

Herodotus' invention has earned him the twin titles The Father of History and The Father of Lies. As these epithets would seem to imply, there has long been a debate concerning the veracity of his tales, and, more importantly, concerning the extent to which he knew himself to be creating fabrications. Indeed, every manner of argument has surfaced on this subject, from a devious and consciously-fictionalizing Herodotus to a gullible Herodotus whose sources 'saw him coming a long way off'. Herodotus was, however, by his day's standards, reasonably accurate in his accounts, respectful of evidence, and a master of narrative.



Thucydides (c. 460 BC c. 395 BC) was an ancient Greek historian, and the author of the History of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides has been regarded as the father of scientific history because of his strict standards of gathering evidence and his analysis in terms of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods. He also has been considered as the father of the school of political realism that views the relations between nations as based on might rather than right. More generally, he shows an interest in developing an understanding of human nature to explain human behavior in such crises as plague and civil war. Other scholars lay greater emphasis on the Historys elaborate literary artistry and the powerful rhetoric of its speeches and insist that its author exploited non-"scientific" literary genres no less than newer, rationalistic modes of explanation.

Considering his stature as a historian, we know comparatively little about Thucydides' life. The most reliable information comes from his own History of the Peloponnesian War, and consists of his nationality, paternity, and native locality. Thucydides also tells us that he fought in the war, contracted the plague, and was exiled by the democracy.

Although there is no certain evidence to prove it, the rhetorical character of his narrative suggests that Thucydides was at least familiar with the teachings of the Sophists.

It has also been asserted that Thucydides' strict focus on cause and effect, his fastidious devotion to observable phenomena to the exclusion of other factors and his austere prose style were influenced by the methods and thinking of early medical writers such as Hippocrates. These theories are inferences from the perceived character of Thucydides' History.

Inferences about Thucydides' character can only be drawn from his book. Occasionally throughout The History of the Peloponnesian War his sardonic sense of humor is evident.

Thucydides admired Pericles, approving of his power over the people, and shows a palpable distaste for the more pandering demagogues who followed him. Thucydides did not approve of the democratic mob or the radical democracy Pericles ushered in but thought that it was acceptable when in the hands of a good leader. Also, Thucydides was clearly moved by the suffering inherent in war and concerned about the excesses to which human nature is apt to resort in such circumstances. This is evident in his analysis of the atrocities committed during civil conflict on Corcyra, which includes the memorable phrase "War is a violent teacher".

The History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides wrote only one book; its modern title is the History of the Peloponnesian War. His entire contribution to history and historiography is contained in this one dense history of the twenty-seven year war between Athens and its allies and Sparta and its allies.

Thucydides is generally regarded as one of the first true historians. Like his predecessor Herodotus, Thucydides placed a high value on autopsy, or eye-witness testimony to events, and writes about many episodes in which he himself probably took part. He also assiduously consulted written documents and interviewed participants in the events that he records. Unlike Herodotus, he did not recognize divine interventions in human affairs. Certainly he held unconscious biases for example, to modern eyes he seems to underestimate the importance of Persian intervention but Thucydides was the first historian who attempted something like modern historical objectivity.

One major difference between Thucydides' history and modern historical writing is that Thucydides' history includes lengthy speeches which, as he himself states, were as best as could be remembered of what was said. These speeches are composed in a literary manner.

Classical scholars pointed out that one of Thucydides' central themes was the ethic of Athenian imperialism. So, many scholars have studied the theme of power politics, i.e. realpolitik, in Thucydides' history.

On the other hand, some authors reject the common perception of Thucydides as a historian of naked real-politik. They argue that actors on the world stage who had read his work would all have been put on notice that someone would be scrutinizing their actions with a reporter's dispassion, rather than the mythmaker's and poet's compassion and thus consciously or unconsciously participating in the writing of it. Thucydides' Melian dialogue is a lesson to reporters and to those who believe one's leaders are always acting with perfect integrity on the world stage.

Thucydides does not take the time to discuss the arts, literature or society in which the book is set and in which Thucydides himself grew up. Thucydides was writing about an event and not a period and as such took lengths not to discuss anything which he considered unrelated.

Leo Strauss argued that Thucydides had a deeply ambivalent understanding of Athenian democracy. More conventional scholars view him as recognizing and teaching the lesson that democracies do need leadership - and that leadership can be dangerous to democracy.

Thucydides versus Herodotus

Thucydides and his immediate predecessor Herodotus both exerted a significant influence on Western history writing. Herodotus records in his Histories not only the events of the Persian Wars but also geographical and ethnographical information, as well as miraculous and mythical stories ("fables") related to him during his extensive travels. If confronted with conflicting or unlikely accounts he leaves it to the reader to decide what to believe. Herodotus views history as a source of moral lessons, with conflicts and wars flowing from initial acts of injustice that propagate through cycles of revenge. In contrast, Thucydides claims to confine himself to factual reports of contemporary political and military events, based on unambiguous, first-hand, eye-witness accounts, though unlike Herodotus he actually does not reveal his sources. Thucydides views life exclusively as political life and history in terms of political history. Morality plays no role in the analysis of political events while geographic and ethnographic aspects are, at best, of secondary importance.

Thucydides was held up as the model of a truthful historian by subsequent Greek historians. Lucian refers to Thucydides as having given Greek historians their law, requiring them to say what had been done. Greek historians of the 4th century BC accepted that history was political history and that contemporary history was the proper domain of a historian though, unlike Thucydides, they continued to view history as a source of moral lessons.

Thucydides and Herodotus were largely forgotten during the Middle Ages but Herodotus became a very respected author in the 16th and 17th century because of the Reformation when the Histories provided a basis for establishing a biblical chronology. Even during the Renaissance, Thucydides attracted less interest among historians than his successor Polybius. In the 17th century, the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes advocated highly authoritarian systems of government and was an admirer of Thucydides. Thucydides, Hobbes, and Machiavelli are together considered as founding fathers of the school of political realism, according to which states are primarily motivated by the desire for military and economic power or security, rather than ideals or ethics.

The reputation of Thucydides greatly revived in the nineteenth century. Among leading historians, who developed modern source-based history writing, Thucydides was again the model historian. They valued in particular the philosophical and artistic component of his work. However, the reputation of Herodotus was high as well among German historians: the history of civilization was increasingly viewed as complementary to political history.

In the twentieth century, a different mode of historiography emphasized the study of long term cultural and economic developments, and the patterns of everyday life, over that of political history. The Annales School, which represents this direction, has been viewed as extending the tradition of Herodotus. At the same time, the influence of Thucydides became increasingly prominent in the area of international relations.


Titus Livius (traditionally 59 BC AD 17), known as Livy in English, was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, from its founding (traditionally dated to 753 BC) through the reign of Augustus in Livy's own time.

Livy was a native of Patavium (modern Padua, Italy). He was married and had at least two children. He died in his native town, some record as AD 11 or AD 1617.

The title of his most famous work, Ab Urbe Condita ("From the Founding of the City"), expresses the scope and magnitude of Livy's undertaking. He wrote in a mixture of annual chronology and narrativeoften having to interrupt a story to announce the elections of new consuls as this was the way that the Romans kept track of the years. Livy claims that lack of historical data prior to the sacking of Rome in 387 BC by the Gauls made his task more difficult.

Livy wrote the majority of his works during the reign of Augustus. However, he is often identified with an attachment to the Roman Republic and a desire for its restoration. Certainly Livy questioned some of the values of the new regime but it is likely that his position was more complex than a simple "republic/empire" preference. Augustus does not seem to have held these views against Livy, and entrusted his great-nephew, the future emperor Claudius, to his tutelage. His effect on Claudius was apparent during the latter's reign, as the emperor's oratory closely adheres to Livy's account of Roman history.

Livy's writing style was poetic and archaic in contrast to Caesar's and Cicero's styles. Also, he often wrote from the Romans' opponent's point of view in order to accent the Romans' virtues in their conquest of Italy and the Mediterranean. In keeping with his poetic tendencies, he did little to distinguish between fact and fiction. Although he frequently plagiarized previous authors, he hoped that moral lessons from the past would serve to advance the Roman society of his day. Livy's work was originally composed of 142 books, of which only 35 are extant.

ReceptionLivy's work met with instant acclaim. His highly literary approach to his historical writing renders his works very entertaining, and they remained constantly popular from his own day, through the Middle Ages, and into the modern world. Dante speaks highly of him in his poetry, and Francis I of France commissioned extensive artwork treating Livian themes. That he was chosen by Rome's first emperor to be the private tutor to his successor indicates Livy's renown as a great writer and sage. As topics from his history appear to have been used for writing topics in Roman schools, it is more than likely that his works were used as textbooks. The two ten-book sets that remained popular throughout the millennia are describing the founding of Rome and its conquest of Italy, and the third set of ten books recounting the war with Hannibal, which he himself indicates is his greatest theme. He can be looked upon as the prose counterpart of Vergil in Golden Age Latin literature.

Many of Livy's comments on Roman politics seem surprisingly modern today.


Sima Qian


Sima Qian (ca. 14590 BC) (also spelled Sou-ma Ch'ien), was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography because of his highly praised work, Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), an overview of the history of China covering more than two thousand years. His definitive work laid the foundation for later Chinese historiography.

Sima Qian was born, grew up and raised in a family of historiographers. His father served as the Prefect of the Grand Scribes. His main responsibilities were managing the imperial library and calendar. Under the influence of his father Sima Qian was well versed in old writings. He was the student of the famous Confucians. At the age of twenty, with the support of his father, Sima Qian started a journey throughout the country, collecting useful first-hand historical records. The purpose of his journey was to verify the ancient rumors and legends and to visit ancient monuments, including the renowned graves of the ancient sage kings Yu and Shun.

After his travels, he was chosen to be the Palace Attendant in the government whose duties were to inspect different parts of the country. In 110 BC Sima Qian was sent westward on a military expedition against some "barbarian" tribes. That year, his father fell ill. Suspecting his time was running out, he summoned his son back to complete the historical work he had begun. Sima Tan wanted to follow the Annals of Spring and Autumn - the first chronicle in the history of Chinese literature. Fuelled by his father's inspiration, Sima Qian started to compile Shiji in 109 BC. In 105 BC, Sima was among the scholars chosen to reform the calendar. As a senior imperial official, Sima was also in the position to offer counsel to the emperor on general affairs of state.

Although the style and form of Chinese historical writings varied through the ages, Shiji has defined the quality and style from then onwards. Before Sima, histories were written as dynastic history; his idea of a general history affected later historiographers. Historians regard Simas work as their model, which stands as the "official format" of the history of China.

In writing Shiji, Sima initiated a new writing style by presenting history in a series of biographies. His work extends over 130 chapters not in historical sequence, but was divided into particular subjects, including annals, chronicles, treatises on music, ceremonies, calendars, religion, economics, and extended biographies. Sima's influence on the writing style of histories in other places is also evident in, for example The History of Korea.

Sima's Shiji is respected as a model of biographical literature with high literary value, and still stands as a "textbook" for the study of classical Chinese worldwide. Simas writings were influential to Chinese writing, and become a role model for various types of prose within the neo-classical ("renaissance") movement. The great use of characterization and plotting also influenced fictional writing, including the classical short stories of the middle and late medieval period, as well as the vernacular novel of the late imperial period.

The influence is derived from the following key elements of his writing:

Skillful depiction

Sima portrayed many distinguished subjects based on true historical information. He would illustrate the response of the subject by placing him in a sharp contrast or juxtaposition, and then letting his words and deeds speak for him. The use of conversations in his writing also makes the descriptions more vibrant and realistic.

Innovative approach

Sima's new approach in writing involved language which was informal, humorous and full of variations. This was an innovative way of writing at that time and thus it has always been esteemed as the highest achievement of classical Chinese writing; Shiji wasregarded as "the first and last great work by historians, poems without rhyme."

Concise language

The style was simple, concise, fluent, and easy-to-read. Sima made his own comments while recounting the historical events. In writing the biographies he avoided making general descriptions, and instead tried to catch the essence of the events. He would portray the subjects concretely, giving the readers vivid images with strong artistic appeal.

Other literary works

Apart from Shiji, Sima had written eight rhapsodies, which are compiled in Hanshu, in which he expressed his suffering and his perseverance in writing Shiji.

Sima and his father were both court astrologers (taishi). At that time, the astrologer had an important role, responsible for interpreting and predicting the course of government according to the influence of the Sun, Moon, and stars, as well as other phenomena like solar eclipses, earthquakes, etc.

Before compiling Shiji, in 104 BC, Sima Qian created Taichuli (which can be translated as 'The first calendar'). Taichuli was one of the most advanced calendars of the time. The creation of Taichuli was regarded as a revolution in the Chinese calendar tradition, as it stated that there were 365.25 days in a year and 29.53 days in a month.

Sima adopted a new method in sorting out the historical data and a new approach to writing historical records to establish the relationship between heavenly law and men. He intended to find out the patterns and principles of the development of human history.

Sima emphasized the role of men in affecting the historical development of China. It is the first time in Chinese history that men were put under the spotlight in the analysis of historical development. He also denounced Emperor, who was superstitious, and prayed to gods extravagantly. In addition, he also proposed his historical perception that a country cannot escape from the fate of the boom-bust cycle. With these in-depth analyses and insight, Sima set an example for writing journalistic articles in later generations.

Unlike Hanshu, which was written under the supervision of the Imperial Dynasty, Shiji was a privately written historiography. Sima refused to write Shiji as an official historiography covering only those of high rank. The work also covers people of the lower classes and is therefore considered a "veritable record" of the darker side of the dynasty.


Rashid al-Din

Rashid al-Din Tabib also Rashid ad-Din Fadhlullah Hamadani (1247 - 1318), was a Persian physician, polymath and historian, who wrote an enormous Islamic history, the Jami al-Tawarikh, in the Persian language, often considered a landmark in intercultural historiography and a key document.

His encyclopedic knowledge of a wide range of cultures from Mongolia to China to the Steppes of Central Eurasia to Persia, the Arab lands, and Europe, provide the most direct access to information on the late Mongol era. His descriptions also highlight the manner in which the Mongol Empire and its emphasis on trade resulted in an atmosphere of cultural and religious exchange and intellectual ferment, resulting in the transmission of a host of ideas from East to West and vice versa.Rashid al-Din was born in a Jewish family. His father was an apothecary in the court. He converted to Islam around the age of thirty. Rashid was trained as a physician and started service under Hulagu's son Abaqa. He rose to become the Grand Vizier. He served as vizier and physician before he fell to court intrigues and was killed at the age of seventy.

Jami al-TawarikhHis encyclopedic history, the Jami al-Tawarikh ("Compendium of Chronicles") initially was a history of the Mongols and their dynasty, but gradually expanded to include the entire history since the time of Adam to Rashid al-Din's time (is believed to be from 1307 to 1316).

The work was executed at the elaborate scriptorium, where a large team of calligraphers and illustrators were employed to produce lavishly illustrated books. These books could also be copied, while preserving accuracy, using a printing process imported from China.

The work was at the time of completion, c. 1307, of monumental size. Unfortunately several sections have not survived or been discovered. Portions of the Jami al-Tawarikh survive in lavishly illustrated manuscripts, believed to have been produced during his lifetime and perhaps under the direct supervision of Rashid al-Din.

Historiographical significanceTwo portions of the surviving encyclopedia, volumes II and III, are of great importance for the study of the Il-Khanate. Volume II is an account of the successors of Genghis Khan while volume III describes the Il-Khans of Iran. In his narration Rashid al-Din utilized numerous now-lost Far Eastern and other sources. The Jami' al-Tawarikh is perhaps the single most comprehensive Persian source on the Mongol period.

For the period of Genghis Khan, his sources included the now lost Altan Debter (Golden Book), and historians find by comparison with material that survives in Chinese sources that he made good use of the source. His treatment of the Ilkhanid period seems to be biased, as he himself was a high official, yet it is still seen as the most valuable written source for the dynasty.

The most important historiographic legacy of the Jami-al-Tawarikh may be its documentation of the cultural mixing and ensuing dynamism that led to the greatness of the Persian and Ottoman empires, many aspects of which were transmitted to Europe and influenced the Renaissance. This was the product of the geographical extension of the Mongol Empire, and is most clearly reflected in this work by Rashid al-Din. The text describes the different peoples with whom the Mongols came into contact and is one of the first attempts to transcend a single cultural perspective and to treat history on a universal scale. The Jami attempted to provide a history of the whole world of that era, though many parts are sadly lost.

One of the volumes of the Jami al-Tawarikh deals with an extensive History of the Franks (1305/1306), possibly based on information from Europeans working under the Ilkhanates such as Dominican friars, which is a generally consistent description with many details on Europe's political organization, the use of mappae mundi by Italian mariners, and regnal chronologies derived from the chronicle of Martin of Opava (d. 1278).

Rashid al-Din also collected all of his compositions into a single volume, entitled Jami' al-Tasanif al-Rashidi ("The Collected Works of Rashid"), complete with maps and illustrations. He even had some of his shorter works, on medicine and government, translated into Chinese. Anyone who wished was given access to his works and encouraged to copy them. In order to facilitate this, he set aside a fund to pay for the annual transcription of two complete manuscripts of his works, one in Arabic and one in Persian.

The printing process used at the workshop has been described by Rashid al-Din, and bears very strong resemblance to the processes used in the large printing ventures in China under Feng Dao (932-953): when any book was desired, a copy was made by a skillful calligrapher on tablets and carefully corrected by proof-readers whose names were inscribed on the back of the tablets. The letters were then cut out by expert engravers, and all pages of the books consecutively numbered. When completed, the tablets were placed in sealed bags to be kept by reliable persons, and if anyone wanted a copy of the book, he paid the charges fixed by the government. The tablets were then taken out of the bags and imposed on leaves of paper to obtain the printed sheets as desired. In this way, alterations could not be made and documents could be faithfully transmitted.

Under this system he had copies made, lent them to friends, and urged them to transcribe them and return the originals. He had Arabic translations made of those works he composed in Persian, and Persian translations of works composed in Arabic. When the translations had been prepared, he deposited them in the mosque library of the Rab'i-Rashidi.


Ibn Khaldun


Ibn Khaldūn or Ibn Khaldoun (May 27, 1332 AD March 19, 1406 AD), was a famous Arab Muslim polymath: a social scientist, sociologist, historian, historiographer, demographer, economist, linguist, philosopher, political theorist, military theorist, Islamic scholar, theologian, diplomat and statesman born in present-day Tunisia. He is considered the father of demography, cultural history, historiography, the philosophy of history, sociology, and the social sciences, and is viewed as a father of modern economics.

Ibn Khaldun's life is relatively well-documented, as he wrote an autobiography. Generally known, he was born into an upper-class Andalusian family. His family, which held many high offices in Andalusia, had emigrated to Tunisia. Under the Tunisian Hafsid dynasty some of his family held political office; his father and grandfather however withdrew from political life and joined a mystical order. His family's high rank enabled Ibn Khaldun to study with the best teachers of the time. He received a classical Arabic education, studying the Qur'an and Arabic linguistics, mathematics, logic and philosophy, where he above all studied the works of Avicenna and al-Tusi. Following family tradition, Ibn Khaldūn strove for a political career. Ibn Khaldūn's autobiography is the story of an adventure, in which he spends time in prison, reaches the highest offices and falls again into exile.

WorksIbn Khaldūn has left behind few works other than his history of the world, al-Kitābu l-Sibār. Significantly, such writings are not alluded to in his autobiography, suggesting perhaps that Ibn Khaldūn saw himself first and foremost as a historian and wanted to be known above all as the author of al-Kitābu l-Sibār. His first book, Lubābu l-Muhassal, was a commentary on the theology of al-Razi. A work on Sufism, Sifā'u l-Sā'il, was composed around 1373. Whilst at the court of Sultan of Granada, he composed a work on logic, Sallaqa li-l-Sultān.

The Kitābu l-Sibār (Book of Evidence, Record of Beginnings and Events from the Days of the Arabs, Persians and Berbers and their Powerful Contemporaries), Ibn Khaldūn's main work, was originally conceived as a history of the Berbers. Later, the focus was widened so that in its final form (including its own methodology and anthropology), it represents a so-called "universal history". It is divided into seven books, the first of which, the Muqaddimah (the Introduction), can be considered a separate work. Books two to five cover the history of mankind up to the time of Ibn Khaldūn. Books six and seven cover the history of the Berber peoples, which for the present-day historian represent the real value, as they are based on Ibn Khaldūn's personal knowledge of the Berbers.

Concerning the discipline of sociology it is interesting to note that he conceived of a theory of social conflict. It can be suggested that the Muqaddimah is essentially a sociological work; six books of general sociology. Included topics embrace politics, urban life, economics, and knowledge. The work is based around Ibn Khaldun's central concept of 'asabiyyah ("social cohesion", "group solidarity", "blood ties," or "tribalism"). This social cohesion arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups; and it can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology. Ibn Khaldun's analysis looks at how this cohesion carries groups to power but contains within itself the seeds psychological, sociological, economic, political of the group's downfall, to be replaced by a new group, dynasty or empire bound by a stronger (or at least younger and more vigorous) cohesion. Perhaps the most frequently cited observation drawn from his work is the notion that when a society becomes a great civilization (and, presumably, the dominant culture in its region), its high point is followed by a period of decay. This means that the next cohesive group that conquers the diminished civilization is a group of barbarians. Once the barbarians solidify their control over the conquered society, however, they become attracted to its more refined aspects, such as literacy and arts, and either assimilate into or appropriate such cultural practices. Then the former barbarians will be conquered by a new set of barbarians, who will repeat the process. Some contemporary readers of Khaldun have read this as an early business cycle theory, though set in the historical circumstances of the mature Islamic empire.

Interesting also is the precursor to Marx's labour theory of value in Ibn Khaldun's work. Ibn Khaldun puts forward the insight that all value (profit) comes from labour. He outlined an early (possibly even the earliest) example of political economy. He made the distinction between "profit" and "sustenance", in modern political economy terms. He also calls for the creation of a science to explain society and goes on to outline these ideas in his major work the Muqaddimah.

Ibn Khaldūn's assessment on different civilizations in relationship to their habitation and way of life has drawn the attention of some scholars.

On the Greek contributions to science and philosophy: "The sciences of only one nation, the Greeks, have come down to us, because they were translated Eventually, Aristotle appeared among the Greeks. He improved the methods of logic and systematized its problems and details. He assigned to logic its proper place as the first philosophical discipline and the introduction to philosophy. Therefore he is called the First Teacher."

On the culture of Bedouin nomads Ibn Khaldūn writes: "Arabs dominate only of the plains, because they are, by their savage nature, people of pillage and corruption. They pillage everything that they can take without fighting or taking risks, then flee to their refuge in the wilderness, and do not stand and do battle unless in self-defense. So when they encounter any difficulty or obstacle, they leave it alone and look for easier prey. And tribes well-fortified against them on the slopes of the hills escape their corruption and destruction, because they prefer not to climb hills, nor expend effort, nor take risks."

On the Jewish civilization: "(Unlike Muslims), the other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for purposes of defense... They are merely required to establish their religion among their own people. This is why the Israelites after Moses and Joshua remained unconcerned with royal authority for about four hundred years. Their only concern was to establish their religion... During that time political leadership was entrusted to the elders among them...They did not have any royal power and were harassed by attacks from foreign nations. Therefore, they asked God through Samuel, one of their prophets, that he permit them to make someone king over them. Thus, Saul became their king. He defeated the foreign nations and killed Goliath, the ruler of Philistines. After Saul, David became king, and then Solomon. His kingdom flourished and extended to the borders of the land of the Byzantines. After Solomon, the tribes split into two dynasties. One of the dynasties was that of the ten tribes in the region of Nablus, and the other that of the children of Judah and Benjamin in Jerusalem. Their royal authority had had an uninterrupted duration of a thousand years."

Here he uses the term "Arabs" to refer to the nomadic Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula, and "Persians" to refer to the sedentary Persian culture of the Iranian plateau (including all Iranian peoples).


Dionysius Exiguus

Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Little or Dennis the Short, meaning humble) (c. 470 c. 544) was a sixth century monk born in Scythia Minor, in what is now the territory of Romania, and a member of the so called "Scythian monks" community.

Since about 500 he had lived in Rome, where, as a learned member of the Vatican's Curia, he translated from Greek into Latin 401 ecclesiastical canons, including the apostolical canons and the decrees of the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon and Sardis, and also a collection of the decretals of the popes from Siricius to Anastasius II. These collections had great authority in the West and still guide church administrations. Dionysius also wrote a treatise on elementary mathematics. Bede elevated him to an abbot (a leader of monks).

Anno DominiDionysius is best-known as the inventor of the Anno Domini era, which is used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar. He used it to identify the several Easters in his Easter table, but did not use it to date any historical event. When he devised his table he stated was 525 years "since the incarnation [conception] of our Lord Jesus Christ". How he arrived at that number is unknown. He invented a new system of numbering years to replace the Diocletian years that had been used in an old Easter table because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians. The Anno Domini era became dominant in Western Europe only after it was used by the Venerable Bede to date the events in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

Easter tablesIn 525, Dionysius prepared a table of the future dates of Easter and a set of "arguments" explaining their calculation (computus) on his own initiative, not at the request of Pope John. Note well that only the first nine arguments are by Dionysius. He introduced his tables and arguments via a letter to a bishop Petronius (also written in 525) and added another explanatory letter (written in 526).

He ignored the existing tables used by the Church of Rome complaining that they did not obey Alexandrian principles, without actually acknowledging their existence. To be sure that his own tables were correct, he simply extended a set of tables prepared in Alexandria that had circulated in the West in Latin, but were never used in the West to determine the date of Easter.

No evidence exists that the Church of Rome accepted the Dionysian tables until the tenth century, although it is possible that they were accepted sometime during the sixth century. Most of the British Church accepted them after the Synod of Whitby in 664, although quite a few individual churches and monasteries refused to accept them, the last holdout finally accepting them during the early tenth century. The Church of the Franks (France) accepted them during the late ninth century under the tutelage of Alcuin, after he arrived from Britain.

Ever since the second century, some bishoprics in the Eastern Roman Empire had counted years from the birth of Christ, but there was no agreement on the correct epoch. Because Dionysius did not place the Incarnation in an explicit year, competent scholars have deduced both AD 1 and 1 BC. Most have selected 1 BC (historians do not use a year zero). Because the anniversary of the Incarnation was 25 March, which was near Easter, a year that was 525 years "since the Incarnation" implied that 525 whole years were completed near that Easter. Consequently one year since the Incarnation would have meant 25 March 1, meaning that Dionysius placed the Incarnation on 25 March 1 BC. Because the birth of Jesus was nine calendar months later, Dionysius implied, but never stated, that Jesus was born 25 December 1 BC. Only one scholar, Georges Declerq, thinks that Dionysius placed the Incarnation and Nativity in AD 1, basing his conclusion on the structure of Dionysius's Easter tables. In either case, Dionysius ignored his predecessors, who usually placed the Nativity in the year we now label 2 BC. Kepler was the first to note that Christ was born during the reign of King Herod the Great, whose death he placed in 4 BC. Kepler chose this year because Josephus stated that a lunar eclipse occurred shortly before Herod's death.

Although Dionysius stated that the First Council of Nicaea in 325 sanctioned his method of dating Easter, the surviving documents are ambiguous. A canon of the council implied that the Roman and Alexandrian methods were the same even though they were not, whereas a delegate from Alexandria stated in a letter to his brethren that their method was supported by the council. In either case, Dionysius' method had actually been used by the Church of Alexandria (but not by the Church of Rome) at least as early as 311, and probably began during the first decade of the fourth century, its dates naturally being given in the Alexandrian calendar. Thus Dionysius did not develop a new method of dating Easter. The most that he may have done was convert its arguments from the Alexandrian calendar into the Julian calendar. Because Dionysius's method of computing Easter used dates in the Julian calendar, it is also called the Julian Easter. This Easter is still used by almost all Orthodox churches. The Gregorian Easter still uses the same definition, but relative to its own solar and lunar dates.




Bede(also Saint Bede, the Venerable Bede, or (from Latin) Beda [beda]), (c. 672 or 673 May 25, 735), was a Benedictine monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland. He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People gained him the title The father of English history.

Almost all that is known of Bedes life is contained in a notice added by himself when he was 59 to his Historia, which states that he was placed in the monastery at Wearmouth at the age of seven, that he became deacon in his nineteenth year, and priest in his thirtieth. He implies that he finished the Historia at the age of 59. It is not clear whether he was of noble birth. He was trained by the abbot Ceolfrid, and probably accompanied him to Wearmouths sister monastery of Jarrow. There he spent his life, prominent activities evidently being teaching and writing. There he also died, on 25 May 735, and was buried, although his body was later transferred to Durham Cathedral.

His works show that he had at his command all the learning of his time. It was thought that the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow was between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest and most extensive in England. It is clear that Bishop made strenuous efforts to collect books during his extensive travels.

Bedes writings are classed as scientific, historical and theological, reflecting the range of his writings from music and metrics to Scripture commentaries. He was proficient in patristic literature, and quotes Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace and other classical writers, but with some disapproval. He knew some Greek, but no Hebrew. His Latin is generally clear and without affectation, and he was a skillful story-teller. However, his style can be considerably more obscure in his Biblical commentaries.

Bedes scriptural commentaries employed the allegorical method of interpretation and his history includes accounts of miracles, which to modern historians has seemed at odds with his critical approach to the materials in his history. Modern studies have shown the important role such concepts played in the world-view of Early Medieval scholars.

The most important and best known of his works is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People), giving in five books and 400 pages the history of England, ecclesiastical and political, from the time of Caesar to the date of its completion (731). The first twenty-one chapters, are compiled from earlier writers such as Orosius, Gildas, Prosper of Aquitaine, the letters of Pope Gregory I and others, with the insertion of legends and traditions.

After 596, documentary sources, which Bede took pains to obtain throughout England and from Rome, are used, as well as oral testimony, which he employed with critical consideration of its value. He cited his references and was very concerned about the sources of all of his sources, which created an important historical chain.

Bedes use of something similar to the anno Domini era, created by the monk Dionysius Exiguus, throughout Historia Ecclesiastica was very influential in causing that era to be adopted thereafter in Western Europe. Specifically, he used anno ab incarnatione Domini (in the year from the incarnation of the Lord) or anno incarnationis dominicae (in the year of the incarnation of the lord). He never abbreviated the term like the modern AD. Within this work, he was also the first writer to use a term similar to the English before Christ. Bede lists his works in an autobiographical note at the end of his Ecclesiastical History. He clearly considered his commentaries on many books of the Old and New Testaments as important; they come first on this list and dominate it in sheer number. These commentaries reflect the biblical focus of monastic life. "I spent all my life," he wrote, "in this monastery, applying myself entirely to the study of Scriptures."

As Chapter 66 of his On the Reckoning of Time, in 725 Bede wrote the Greater Chronicle (chronica maiora), which sometimes circulated as a separate work. The dating of events in the Chronicle is inconsistent with his other works, using the era of creation, the anno mundi.

Scientific writings.The noted historian of science, George Sarton, called the eighth century "The Age of Bede"; clearly Bede must be considered as an important scientific figure. He wrote several major works: a work On the Nature of Things; a work On Time, providing an introduction to the principles of Easter computus; and a longer work on the same subject; On the Reckoning of Time, which became the cornerstone of clerical scientific education during the ninth century. He also wrote several shorter letters and essays discussing specific aspects of computus and a treatise on grammar and on figures of speech for his pupils.

On the Reckoning of Time included an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical earth influenced the changing length of daylight, of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the New Moon at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the Tides at a given place and the daily motion of the moon. Since the focus of his book was calculation, Bede gave instructions for computing the date of Easter and the related time of the Easter Full Moon, for calculating the motion of the Sun and Moon through the zodiac, and for many other calculations related to the calendar. He gives some information about the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar.

For calendar purposes, Bede made a new calculation of the age of the world since the Creation. Due to his innovations in computing the age of the world, he was accused of heresy at the table of Bishop Wilfred, his chronology being contrary to accepted calculations. His works were so influential that late in the ninth century Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the Monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland, wrote that "God, the orderer of natures, who raised the Sun from the East on the fourth day of Creation, in the sixth day of the world has made Bede rise from the West as a new Sun to illuminate the whole Earth".

His scholarship and importance to Catholicism were recognized in 1899 when he was declared the only English Doctor of the Church as St Bede the Venerable. He is also the only Englishman in Dante's Paradise, mentioned among theologians and doctors of the church.



Joseph Justus Scaliger

Joseph Justus Scaliger (August 5, 1540January 21, 1609) was a French religious leader and scholar, known for expanding the notion of classical history from Greek and Ancient Roman history to include Persian, Babylonian, Jewish and Ancient Egyptian history.

He was born at Agen. When he was twelve years old, he was sent to the College of Guienne in Bordeaux. An outbreak of the plague in 1555 caused the boy to return home, and for the next few years Joseph was his father's constant companion and amanuensis. The composition of Latin verse was the chief amusement of his father Julius, and he would daily dictate to his son between eighty and a hundred lines, and sometimes even more. Joseph was also required each day to write a Latin theme or declamation. He learned from his father to be not only a scholar, but also an acute observer, aiming not so much at correcting texts as at historical criticism.

He spent four years at the University of Paris, where he began the study of Greek. He read Homer in twenty-one days, and then went through all the other Greek poets, orators and historians. From Greek, he proceeded to attack Hebrew, and then Arabic; of both he acquired a respectable knowledge. Then Scaliger went to Rome. After visiting a large part of Italy, he moved on to England and Scotland. He was disappointed in finding only few Greek manuscripts and few learned men there. In the course of his travels he had become a Protestant. In 1570 he proceeded to Valence to study jurisprudence. Here he remained three years, profiting not only by the lectures but even more by the library, which filled no fewer than seven or eight rooms and included five hundred manuscripts. The massacre of St Bartholomew made Scaliger flee, together with other Huguenots, for Geneva, where he was appointed a professor in the academy. He lectured on Aristotle and Cicero to much satisfaction for the students, but not appreciating it himself. He hated lecturing; and in 1574 he returned to France. It was during this period of his life (1575-1577) that he composed and published his books of historical criticism. His editions of the Catalecta, of Festus, of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius, are the work of a man determined to discover the real meaning and force of his author. He was the first to lay down and apply sound rules of criticism and emendation, and to change textual criticism from a series of haphazard guesses into a "rational procedure subject to fixed laws".

But these works, while proving Scaliger's right to the foremost place among his contemporaries as Latin scholar and critic, did not go beyond mere scholarship. It was reserved for his edition of Manilius (1579), and his De emendatione temporum (1583), to revolutionize received ideas of ancient chronologyto show that ancient history is not confined to that of the Greeks and Romans, but also comprises that of the Persians, the Babylonians and the Egyptians, neglected, and that of the Jews, treated as a thing apart; and that the historical narratives and fragments of each of these, and their several systems of chronology, must be critically compared. It was this innovation that distinguished Scalinger from contemporary scholars. In Manilius Scaliger investigates ancient systems of determining epochs, calendars and computations of time. Applying the work of modern scientists, he reveals the principles behind these systems. In the remaining twenty-four years of his life he expanded on his work in the De emendatione. He succeeded in reconstructing the lost Chronicle of Eusebiusone of the most valuable ancient documents for ancient chronology. This he printed in 1606 in his Thesaurus temporum, in which he collected, restored, and arranged every chronological relic extant in Greek or Latin.

Midway through 1593 he set out for the Netherlands, where he would pass the remaining thirteen years of his life, never returning to France. During the first seven years of his residence at Leiden his reputation was at its highest point. His literary judgement was unquestioned. From his throne he ruled the learned world. At the same time, Scaliger had made numerous enemies. He hated ignorance, but he hated still more half-learning, and most of all dishonesty in argument or in quotation. His pungent sarcasm soon reached the ears of the persons who were its object, and his pen was not less bitter than his tongue. He was conscious of his power, and not always sufficiently cautious or sufficiently gentle in its exercise. Nor was he always right. Sometimes he misunderstood the astronomical science of the ancients. And he was no mathematician.

But his enemies were not merely those whose hostility he had excited by the violence of his language. The results of his method of historical criticism threatened the Catholic controversialists and the authenticity of many of the documents on which they relied. The Jesuits, who aspired to be the source of all scholarship and criticism, saw the authority of Scaliger as a formidable barrier to their claims. Scaliger was known to be an irreconcilable Protestant. As long as his intellectual supremacy was unquestioned, the Protestants had the advantage in learning and scholarship. His enemies therefore aimed, if not to answer his criticisms or to disprove his statements, yet to attack him as a man and to destroy his reputation. This was no easy task, for his moral character was strong.

In 1594 Scaliger had published his Epistola de vetustate et splendore gentis Scaligerae et JC Scaligeri vita. In 1601 Gaspar Scioppius, then in the service of the Jesuits published his Scaliger hypototimaeus ("The Supposititious Scaliger"), with all the power of his accomplished sarcasm. Every piece of scandal which could be raked together concerning Scaliger or his family is to be found there. The author professes to point out five hundred lies in the Epistola de vetustate of Scaliger, but the main argument of the book is to show the falsity of his pretensions to be of the family of La Scala, and of the narrative of his father's early life. To Scaliger the blow was crushing. He immediately wrote a reply to Scioppius, entitled Confutatio fabulae Burdonum. Scaliger undoubtedly shows that Scioppius committed more blunders than he corrected, that his book literally bristles with pure lies and baseless calumnies; but he does not succeed in adducing a single proof either of his father's descent from the La Scala family. But whether complete or not, the Confutatio had no success; the attack of the Jesuits was successful, far more so than they could possibly have hoped. Scioppius was wont to boast that his book had killed Scaliger. It certainly embittered the few remaining months of his life, and the mortification which he suffered may have shortened his days. The Confutatio was his last work. Five months after it appeared, in 1609, he died. In his will Scaliger bequeathed his renowned collection of manuscripts and books to Leiden University Library.

Edward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon (April 27, 1737 January 16, 1794) was an English historian and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. The History is known principally for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its open denigration of organized religion, though the extent of this is disputed by some critics.

Edward Gibbon was born in 1737 in the town of Putney, near London. As a youth, his health was under constant threat. He described himself as "a puny child, neglected by my Mother, starved by my nurse." At age nine, Gibbon took up residence in the Westminster School boarding house. Following a stay at Bath to improve his health, Gibbon in 1752 was sent by his father to Magdalen College, Oxford. He was ill-suited, however, to the college atmosphere and later rued his 14 months there as the "most idle and unprofitable" of his life. Within weeks, the youngster was sent to live under the care and tutelage of David Pavillard, Reformed pastor. Just a year and a half later he reconverted to Protestantism. He remained in Lausanne for five intellectually productive years, a period that greatly enriched Gibbon's already immense aptitude for scholarship and erudition: he read Latin literature; traveled throughout Switzerland studying its cantons' constitutions; and aggressively mined the works of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, and Blaise Pascal.

Upon his return to England, Gibbon published his first book, Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature, which produced an initial taste of celebrity and distinguished him as a man of letters. He embarked on the Grand Tour (of continental Europe), which included a visit to Rome. The Memoirs vividly record Gibbon's rapture when he finally neared "the great object of [my] pilgrimage". And it was here that Gibbon first conceived the idea of composing a history of the city, later extended to the entire empire, a moment known to history as the "Capitoline vision".

His father died in 1770, and after tending to the estate, Gibbon settled in London, independent of financial concerns. By February 1773 he was writing in earnest, but not without the occasional self-imposed distraction. And, he was returned to the House of Commons. He became the archetypal back-

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