What are the Written Sources of History?

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Egbert Haynes

The written sources of history They are the documents that have registered through the written word the events that have occurred in a given period of time. For example, the letters that announced the discovery of the Indies, a manuscript written by Christopher Columbus from 1493, are considered a written source. 

Written sources are composed of chronicles, diaries, books, novels, logs, periodicals, letters, maps, telegrams, censuses and other documents with statistics, yearbooks, dissertations, laws, documents issued by the government, among other printed materials, typescript or handwritten.

Written sources contrast with other narrative forms that account for past events, such as oral sources (which transmit information through the spoken word), archaeological sources (which transmit information through the remains of other civilizations: constructions , vessels, among others) and mythological sources (which convey information about the beliefs of the peoples and not about their history itself).

The existence of written sources marks the beginning of a new period in the life of human beings, since with the appearance of writing prehistory ended and history began.

This means that a civilization is making history when it is able to leave a written record of the activities it is carrying out..

Appearance of written sources

The first written sources arose with the appearance of writing. Because writing as a system arose independently in various civilizations, there is no precise date on which the activities of human beings began to be recorded in writing..

In Mesopotamia and Egypt, writing systems began to develop shortly before 4000 BC. C. Other cultures took longer to implement these systems. However, by the year 3000 a. C. most advanced and developing civilizations already handled writing.

One of the first writing systems to develop was the cuneiform script, invented in Mesopotamia. With writing, the Mesopotamian civilization began to leave records of its affairs.

Written sources from this time (which have survived the passage of time) show that in Mesopotamia writing was used to record the king's affairs: commercial transactions between cities, purchase and sale records, contracts, taxes, wills, inheritances, among others.

Likewise, other written sources of more recent times reveal that the Mesopotamians also used writing with a religious character, since sacred texts were written. Scientific texts on medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, among others are also presented..

Writing systems that used pictographic signs were developed in Egypt. These signs were to some extent the predecessors of the alphabet.

The Egyptian "alphabet" can be found in the Rosetta Stone, a written source that allowed the study of two other languages.

Since then, humans have used writing as a way to record their actions.

Types of written sources

Written sources can be classified according to the origin of the information, according to the exclusivity of the data they provide, according to the body that issues it and according to the means used to transmit information..

According to the origin of the information

According to the origin of the information, the written sources can be primary or secondary. Primary sources are those written by individuals who actively participated in the event they narrate..

For example, the diaries of Charles Darwin written aboard the Beagle are primary written sources..

For their part, secondary written sources are those in which the information comes from the analysis and comparison of primary sources..

The authors of the secondary sources did not participate in the events they narrate, but limited themselves to reporting, systematizing and criticizing what others have said..

An example of a secondary written source is "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" by Edward Gibbons..

This book analyzes primary sources for the development of the text. Likewise, history books used in educational institutions are examples of secondary written sources..

In accordance with the exclusivity of the data they provide

According to the exclusivity of the information, written sources can be of two types, exclusive or shared. Exclusive written sources are those that provide information that no other source can provide..

Treatises of ancient civilizations constitute exclusive sources, not because knowledge of these texts cannot be found in other documents, but because they reveal information about the culture..

For their part, shared sources are those that offer information that is available in two or more documents.

According to the body that issues the information

According to the body that issues the information, written sources can be official and unofficial. Official written sources are issued by trusted agents.

The national records issued by each country (such as statistical notebooks and foreign affairs diaries) are official sources..

For their part, unofficial written sources are issued by individuals or groups that do not hold positions of authority..

This does not mean that the information offered is false, but simply that it is not as reliable as that offered by an official source.

According to the means used to transmit information

According to the medium used to transmit information, written sources can be narrative, diplomatic and social..

Narrative written sources are those that convey information through stories. They can be fictional or real stories.

If they are fictitious, they can provide information on the attitudes of the time in which the author lived.

Narrative sources include diaries, biographies, autobiographies, scientific works, philosophical treatises, historical novels, among others..

For their part, diplomatic written sources are those that transmit information through legal documents, such as international treaties, contracts, among others..

Finally, social documents are socio-economic records issued by State organizations, such as birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, wills, tax records, among others..

References

  1. Recorded History. Retrieved on August 17, 2017, from en.wikipedia.org
  2. Primary source. Retrieved on August 17, 2017, from en.wikipedia.org
  3. Written sources. Retrieved on August 17, 2017, from community.dur.ac.uk
  4. Sources of History. Retrieved on August 17, 2017, from etc.ancient.eu
  5. The importance of written sources. Retrieved on August 17, 2017, from encasedinsteel.co.uk
  6. Written sources. Retrieved on August 17, 2017, from en.natmus.dk
  7. What are historical sources? Retrieved on August 17, 2017, from hist.cam.ac.uk.

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