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Linear A etched on tablets found in Akrotiri, Santorini.

Recorded history (sometimes called record history) is human history that has been written down or recorded by the use of language. It starts in the 4th millennium BC, with the invention of writing. The period before this is known as prehistory.

Recorded history begins with the accounts of the ancient world by antiquity's own historians. Although it is important to take into account the bias of each ancient author, their accounts are the basis for our understanding of the ancient past. Some of the more notable ancient writers include: Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Manetho (Greek historiography), Zuo Qiuming, Sima Qian (Chinese historiography), Livy, Sallust, Plutarch, Tacitus, Suetonius (Roman historiography).

In pre-modern societies, epic poetry, mythography, collections of legends, and religious texts were often treated as sources of historical information, and so one may see references to such writers as Homer, Vyasa, Valmiki and to such works as the Biblical Book of Exodus as historical sources; however, the authors of these texts were not concerned with determining what happened in the past, but were instead concerned with creating a cultural narrative based upon or supplementing history, and so their testimony should be used with caution.[citation needed]

Primary sources are firsthand written evidence of history made at the time of the event by someone who was present. They have been described as those sources closest to the origin of the information or idea under study.[1] These types of sources have been said to provide researchers with "direct, unmediated information about the object of study."[2] Secondary sources are written accounts of history based upon the evidence from primary sources. These are sources which, usually, are accounts, works, or research that analyze, assimilate, evaluate, interpret, and/or synthesize primary sources. Tertiary sources are compilations based upon primary and secondary sources.[3] These are sources which, on average, do not fall into the above two levels.

See also


  1. ^ "Primary, secondary and tertiary sources"; "Library Guides: Primary, secondary and tertiary sources"
  2. ^ Dalton, Margaret Steig; Charnigo, Laurie (2004), "Historians and Their Information Sources" ( – Scholar search), College & Research Libraries September: 400–25, at 416 n.3, , citing U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2003), Occupational Outlook Handbook; Lorenz, C. (2001), "History: Theories and Methods", International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavior Sciences, 10, Amsterdam: Elsevier, p. 6871 .
  3. ^ See, e.g., University of Maryland Libraries (2001) "Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources", Glossary, Using Information Resources. ("Tertiary Source" is defined as "reference material that synthesizes work already reported in primary or secondary sources") and "Library Guides: Primary, secondary and tertiary sources"

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