Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

History: Disciplinary Perspective

by Dr. Anita Gaul

Simply stated, history is the study of the past. The study of history includes all aspects of human society: social, cultural, environmental, religious, economic, political, intellectual, scientific, and many more. Because the field of history is so broad, most professional historians specialize in one geographic region (such as Russia), a certain approach to history (such as Women’s History), or one time period (such as Medieval).

You may wonder why it is important to study history. Who cares about old stuff and dead people? As the novelist Pearl Buck said, “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” The study of history helps us understand people and societies, develop a sense of empathy, understand our present world and the current state of affairs, and develop a sense of our own identity.

Additionally, as historian Peter N. Stearns writes, “History well told is beautiful.” History is the story of us, all of us. It is a collection of stories, and a story well told is moving, dramatic, exciting, and insightful. The stories of history help us understand people who lived in other times and other places far removed from our own time and place, but who were similar to us in significant ways. History teaches us about each other, and, in so doing, teaches us about ourselves.

Professional organizations

In the United States, there are two primary professional historical organizations: the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH). However, there are also dozens of organizations focused on specific areas of research, such as the Agricultural History Society, American Jewish Historical Society, Conference on Asian History, the Popular Culture Association, the Renaissance Society of America, and the World War Two Studies Association, to name a few. Most of these professional organizations hold annual conferences where attendees present papers and exchange information on scholarly projects and research. Most professional historians belong to several organizations and try to regularly attend conferences in order to learn about new research projects and developments in the field of history.