Recorded history, sometimes referred to as written history, is a concept describing the availability of a written record or some other form of documented communication that can be used to support a specific historical narrative. For some regions of the world, written history is limited to a relatively recent period in human history whereas the earliest written history starts around the 4th millennium BC with the invention of writing. Thus recorded history in different contexts may refer to different periods of time depending on what is being recorded. Because of its dependence on written documentation, recorded history can be contrasted with other narratives of the past such as mythological, religious or oral tradition.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2011)|
Recorded history begins with the accounts of the ancient world by antiquity's own historians. The earliest chronologies date back to Mesopotamia (Sumer) and ancient Egypt (Early Dynastic). Some of the more notable ancient historians include: Josephus Flavius, Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Manetho (Greek historiography), Zuo Qiuming, Sima Qian (Chinese historiography), Livy, Sallust, Plutarch, Tacitus, Suetonius (Roman historiography). Although valuable, these accounts have significant limitations because many of them are written in a historical tradition not focused on documenting events and factual information, but instead focused on the political or ideological repercussions of stories of the past.
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.
In historical practice, the sources which create recorded history are called Primary sources. Primary sources are firsthand written evidence of history made at the time of an event by a present person. Historians think of those sources as the closest to the origin of the information or idea under study.12 These types of sources can provide researchers with, as Dalton and Charnigo put it, "direct, unmediated information about the object of study."3 Historians use other types of sources to understand history as well. 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 and often tell a more generalized account built on the more specific research found in the first two types of sources.145
- User Education Services. "Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources". University of Maryland Libraries. Retrieved 10 Jul 2013.
- "Library Guides: Primary, secondary and tertiary sources"
- Dalton, Margaret Steig; Charnigo, Laurie (2004). "Historians and Their Information Sources" (PDF). 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". In Smelser, Neil J. International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavior Sciences 10. Amsterdam: Elsevier. p. 6871
- "Glossary, Using Information Resources". ("Tertiary Source" is defined as "reference material that synthesizes work already reported in primary or secondary sources")
- "Library Guides: Primary, secondary and tertiary sources".