The scope or range of history has been ever-changing and ever-widening. There was a time when history was a collection and transmission of fables, folktales, legends, and mythologies. It was based on imagination, memory, and tradition. It may be called a Folk story! The Greek historians were the first to delimit the scope of history. Herodotus wrote about the wars between the Greeks and the Persians, the Greco Persian wars. Thucydides death with the epic struggle between the Cities: the States of Greece, the Peloponnesian war. The Scope of history was thus limited mainly to the description of wars between two countries or struggles between cities or states. Historical postage stamps can help in understanding the scope of Archaeology.
The Roman historians inherited the Greek tradition and wrote a new kind of history by expanding its scope by narrating the Roman conquest of the world. History was conceived as a form of thought having universal value. “With this larger conception of the field of history comes a more precise conception of history itself”.
The Medieval Christian historians confined themselves strictly to the theological interpretation of historical events. Human actions were considered to be the manifestation of the Divine Will. Though the Christian historiography represented the universal character it was essentially centric. The Renaissance writers restored the classical humanistic approach and reoriented historical writing. They placed man in the center of historical writing and extended the scope of history by their secular approach. It was ethnocentric.
During the seventeenth century, when Natural Science reigned supreme, history followed the lead given by the Renaissance and freed itself from the mesh of medieval thought and found its proper function. Inspired and impelled by the irresistible scientific spirit the historians were engaged in the reconstruction of the past based on reliable and verifiable data. Bacon, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Descartes, and Vico were the more profound of this new approach to history which provided a scientific dimension to the scope of history.
The eighteenth century was an age of Enlightenment. The Enlightenment historians staged a determined revolt against the might of institutional religion and its theological interpretation of history. They endeavored to further secularize the writing of history. Following the footsteps of Voltaire, the Crusaders against Christianity, improved upon the method of historical research and writing. Montesquieu and Gibbon were the outstanding spokesmen of this mighty movement of secularization of history. The former studied the differences between nations and the latter analyzed the causes of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
Nineteenth-century historiography, while retaining the secular – rational approach to history, further widened the scope of history. Kant convincingly argued that man, as a rational being, must necessarily have a historical process to live in. He viewed history as progress towards rationality. Hegel raised history to a higher level by including in its scope philosophical interpretation of historical happenings. His philosophy of history widened the range of history; it traced the progress of mankind from primitive times to the present day. Universal history was born. Marx improved upon the Hegalian dialectic and attempted an economic interpretation of history. Marxian Concept of Dialectic Materialism immediately became immensely popular. It left an indelible influence on the principle and practice of historical writing.
History Writings can be divided into the following:
Is history one or manifold? To answer this question is not easy. It depends on how you look at history. Bauer, for instance, distinguished between narrative history, genetic history, and sociological history. Division of history must, however, be such that the parts exclude each other; that it must be adequate, and that a division must be divided into parts that have the same generic whole. It must be remembered that division of history into periods is artificial, created for the sake of convenience and not absolute or inherent in the nature of history. “the division of history into periods is not a fact, but a necessary hypothesis or tool of thought, valid in so far as it is illuminating and dependent for its validity on interpretations”.
The artwork features Archaeological Survey of India Stamps, Kalibangan seal historical postage stamps, and Pitalkhora Yakshi historical postage stamps. These commemorative stamps of India are Indus Valley Civilization Stamps. Alexander Cunningham was the founder of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Timeline:
The division of history into Ancient, Medieval, and Modern is the simplest, most obvious and widely accepted. This simplistic division of history was first made by Rausin in his Book Leodium (1639). It gained currency and became immensely popular as a result of its advocacy by Keller (1634-1701) of the University of Halle. Such a division of history reflected the mentality of the Humanists, who took pride in the Classical Age and found light and lead in it in contrast to the irrational Christian interlude.
Nobody is certain as to when exactly the Graeco – Roman Classical Age came to an end when Age yielded place to the Modern Period. Henri Pirenne, the distinguished Dutch historian, characterized these periods by saying that the Classical Period was lived around one sea, the Mediterranean; the Medieval Period round three seas, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea; and the Modern period round all the oceans of the world3. It is now generally recognized that the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D. is the dividing data between the Ancient and Medieval, as the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It divides the Medieval from the Modern Period. This division into periods applies exclusively to the history of Western Europe. It must be borne in mind that excessive insistence upon the difference should be shunned as history is a continuous process.
Horizontal and Vertical Timeline:
Metaphors like horizontal and vertical are used to the periodization of history. History is divided horizontally as well as vertically. Chronology is the backbone of horizontal division and subject, content or theme is the mainstay of vertical division. Like the division of history into Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, division of history into Horizontal and Vertical also should not be carried too far as they are interchangeable.
Pre-Historic and Historic Period:
From the angle of Chronology, history is also divided into a pre-historic period and a historic period. The former is based on archaeological relics and the latter on written records.
Wider Perspective of Archaeology:
The division of history into Ancient, Medieval, and Modern; or horizontal and Vertical; or Pre-historic and Historic is at best artificial and arbitrary, though it serves a purpose. History is organic, one, and indivisible. It is the story of human experience. Hence, no transcendental virtue can be claimed for the division of history into periods. The division is made for the sake of clarity, cogency, and convenience of better understanding and appreciation of human happenings. In the words of Renier, “A good pragmatic division of history should present us with parts which, put together, cover more than the whole”.