If the past is what happened before, in an earlier time, History may be considered the investigation, study and explanation of the past. This study of people, origins of cultures and religions, past events, both triumphs and disasters, gives the context of our lives today. The name History comes from the Latin Historia, which also means stories. This is quite apt, since the earliest form of History was the telling and passing down through the generations of stories about the past. Historians use written documents and artefacts to reinforce their knowledge and understanding.
History can be broken down into areas of study:
(1) The people. These include rulers, emperors, kings, queens and political leaders who held great power and influence over populations and countries.
(2) The great ideas and forces that shaped how people thought and acted. These may have been started by individuals, but became driving forces in their own right which shaped and influenced society; examples are religions such as Christianity, political ideas such as Marxism and also how other elements in society or other countries in the world responded to them.
(3) The reaction of countries, their peoples and leaders, to challenges they face. These can be external, such as the threat of invasion or colonisation, new technologies in other countries affecting trade; internal, such as political pressure for change or environmental factors affecting the food supply. How the nations respond to these challenges defines the path they take in future years.
(4) The unexpected events that shape a country or peoples future and disrupt the pattern or sequence History often follows. This could be events such as the assassination of a Leader, such as Archduke Ferdinand which precipitated the First World War, or the decision of Britain to leave the EU.