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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 study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It 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 can also refer to 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 considered within the Western tradition to be the "father of history", 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.

Selected article

A 17th century Tibetan thangka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra, part of the economic exchange between Ming dynasty China and Tibet
The exact nature of Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) of China is unclear. Analysis of the relationship is further complicated by modern political conflicts, and the application of Westphalian sovereignty to a time when the concept did not exist. Some Mainland Chinese scholars, such as Wang Jiawei & Nyima Gyaincain, assert that the Ming Dynasty had unquestioned sovereignty over Tibet, pointing to the Ming court's issuing of various titles to Tibetan leaders, Tibetans' full acceptance of these titles, and a renewal process for successors of these titles that involved traveling to the Ming capital. Scholars within the PRC also argue that Tibet has been an integral part of China since the 13th century, thus a part of the Ming Empire. But most scholars outside the PRC, such as Turrell V. Wylie, Melvin C. Goldstein, and Helmut Hoffman, say that the relationship was one of suzerainty, that Ming titles were only nominal, that Tibet remained an independent region outside Ming control, and that it simply paid tribute until the reign of Jiajing (1521–1566), who ceased relations with Tibet.

Some scholars note that Tibetan leaders during the Ming frequently engaged in civil war and conducted their own foreign diplomacy with neighboring states such as Nepal. Some scholars underscore the commercial aspect of the Ming-Tibetan relationship, noting the Ming Dynasty's shortage of horses for warfare and thus the importance of the horse trade with Tibet. Others argue that the significant religious nature of the relationship of the Ming court with Tibetan lamas is underrepresented in modern scholarship. In hopes of reviving the unique relationship of the earlier Mongol leader Kublai Khan (r. 1260–1294) and his spiritual superior Drogön Chögyal Phagpa (1235–1280) of the Tibetan Sakya sect, the Ming Chinese Yongle Emperor (r. 1402–1424) made a concerted effort to build a secular and religious alliance with Deshin Shekpa (1384–1415), the Karmapa of the Tibetan Karma Kagyu. However, Yongle's attempts were unsuccessful.

Selected biography

Photo dated pre-1939
Witold Pilecki (May 13, 1901 – May 25, 1948; Polish pronunciation: [ˈvitɔlt piˈlɛt͡skʲi]; codenames Roman Jezierski, Tomasz Serafiński, Druh, Witold) was a soldier of the Second Polish Republic, the founder of the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska) resistance group and a member of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). As the author of Witold's Report, the first intelligence report on Auschwitz concentration camp, Pilecki enabled the Polish government-in-exile to convince the Allies that the Holocaust was taking place.

During World War II, he volunteered for a Polish resistance operation to get imprisoned at Auschwitz in order to gather intelligence and escape. While in the camp, Pilecki organized a resistance movement and as early as 1941, informed the Western Allies of Nazi Germany's Auschwitz atrocities. He escaped from the camp in 1943 and took part in the Warsaw Uprising. He remained loyal to the London-based Polish government-in-exile and was executed in 1948 by the Stalinist secret police Urząd Bezpieczeństwa on charges of working for "foreign imperialism", thought to be a euphemism for MI6. Until 1989, information on his exploits and fate was suppressed by the Polish communist regime.

Did you know...

Mimoyecques2.jpg

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Astrolabe-Persian-18C.jpg

An 18th-century Persian astrolabe. Astrolabes are complicated inclinometers that used the position of the stars and planets to determine longitude and latitude; they were in use for this purpose from Roman antiquity through the Renaissance.

On this day

May 23: Lag BaOmer (Judaism, 2019)

New York Public Library in 1908
New York Public Library in 1908

William Bradford (d. 1752) · Franz Xaver von Baader (d. 1841) · Ruth Fernández (b. 1919)

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What transforms this world is — knowledge. Do you see what I mean? Nothing else can change anything in this world.

— Yukio Mishima, Japanese author

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Astrolabe-Persian-18C.jpg
History of science

"Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and of no age."
— Sir Humphry Davy

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