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In a wide view, history is the entire series of past events.

This could include the earth's history or natural history, but the term is most often used to define the study of human history.

There is also the philosophy of history (not to be confused with the history of philosophy), which is the philosophical study of history and its discipline. This refers to the distinction between the speculative philosophy of history and the analytic philosophy of history, the former questioning the meaning and purpose of the historical process, while the latter examines the foundations and implications of history and the historical method.

The history of the earth refers to the study of the development of the planet from the time of formation to the current day, characterized by geological change and biological evolution.

The study of natural history examines organisms, such as plants, animals, and fungi, in their natural environment. Those who study natural history are generally known as naturalists or natural historians. Although the study of natural history includes scientific research, it is not restricted to it. It may also involve the systematic study of any category of natural objects or organisms.

The chief focus of this portion of our guide, the study of human history, is the story of the human past. Evolutionary theory holds that humans evolved in Africa approximately 300,000 years ago and migrated out of Africa during the Ice Age, also known as the Last Glacial Period, and grew to populate most of the Earth by the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago.

Soon after, in the fertile river valleys of the Near East, humans began transitioning from nomadic hunter-gatherers to a more sedentary life as farmers in permanent settlements. This era is known as the Agricultural Revolution. Writing and accounting developed during this period.

Institutional religions developed during the late Bronze Age, with Hinduism in the Indian subcontinent, while the Axial Age saw the development and growth of Buddhism, Confucianism, Jainism, Judaism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism, all of which are still active today. The Middle Ages brought the growth of Christianity and Islam. These religions have played a significant role in human history.

The Early Modern Period included the Age of Discovery and the Age of Enlightenment, from about 1500 to 1800 CE, in which human knowledge and technology grew rapidly, leading to the Industrial Revolution, which introduced the Late Modern Period, in which we continue.

Commonly, the study of human history begins with the periods from which we have a written account, with the study of earlier periods relegated to anthropology, archaeology, or other disciplines. The study of events prior to the written record is often known as prehistory. As such, history might be considered an umbrella term that includes past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of these events. Historians study a variety of historical sources, including written records, oral accounts, art, artifacts, and ecological markers. Human history is incomplete; much of it is debatable and open to various perspectives and prejudices, while other elements of human history are yet to be discovered.

Stories common to a particular culture, not supported by verifiable external sources, such as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and George Washington cutting down a cherry tree as a young boy, are usually referred to as legends or cultural heritage.

History differs from myth in that the former is supported by verifiable evidence while the latter is not. Nevertheless, it is recognized that many myths have significantly affected history, so they are often included in the historical record.

Sometime around 425 BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus published a long account of the Greco-Persian Wars entitled "The Histories." This is believed to have been the first systematic, thorough study of the past that attempted to explain the cause and effects of its events. As this work contributed greatly to the modern study of past events, he is often referred to as the "Father of History." Nevertheless, modern detractors have pointed out that portions of his history are unverified.

Historians write in the context of the time in which they live and with regard to the current dominant ideas of how to interpret the past, often with the intention of providing lessons for their own society.

Others have said that history is written by those who win the wars, and there is much to be said for that, as well.

Historians acknowledge that history is embedded with bias because events can be interpreted in various ways and because historians are often influenced by politics. Information is sometimes excluded because it doesn't fit a desired narrative.


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