INTRODUCTION TO HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT.
THE MEANING OF HISTORY.
History is an account of events took place in the past.
It may also be defined as a branch of knowledge which deals with past events of human beings and their response to their environment over the years.
R.G. Collingwood in his book, “ the ideal of history’’ human actions in the past, pursed by interpretation of evidence for the sake of human self-knowledge.
Therefore, history is the endless story of mankind’s actions and events affecting him in the past.
Pre-history refers to the unrecorded (unwritten) history. Refers to those activities that humans engaged in before writing and drawing were invented as ways of storing information. Such knowledge is reconstructed through songs, myths, stories, artefacts, fossils and language of the people.
Branches of History.
Social history: deals with the traditions, values and cultural practises of the people.
Economic history: refers to the means of livelihood of people, such as hunting, gathering, agriculture and trade.
Political history: deals with control systems in society for example maintenance of law and order, leadership and security.
The meaning of government.
The term government is derived from the verb to govern which means to exercise authority over, to rule or control. Therefore, it means a group of people within a state or country given authority to organise direct and control the affairs of the state or country. In Kenya the government has three arms.
The legislature/ parliament.
It includes the national assembly, the senate and the president there work is to make laws.
Includes the president, the cabinet and the civil service, it implements the law.
Its responsibility is to see to that the laws made are constitutional, that they are followed and that those who break them are punished.
Forms of government.
Democratic: this type of government requires the rulers to regularly seek public mandate through popular vote. These governments are based on the promise that elections are free and fair and that the elected officials represent the wishes and aspiration of the people.
Abraham Lincoln said democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people’’. In a democratic government, freedoms and rights are provided for in the constitution that governs the law of the nation. It is there freedoms that enable discussions and debate on matters of national importance.
Greek words `aristos’ meaning best and `kratos’ meaning power. Therefore, it’s a type of government in which a group of people from the highest social class that is the loyalty, in a society rule over others. The king or queen is the head of the government while senior positions in the government are given to the privileged members from among the nobles who are considered superior because of the wealthy family background they are born into and their superior education.
Is a form of government where democracy is practised but aristocratic power is respected.
Parliament is the supreme organ but the monarchy-the royalty that are in power- be it a king or queen is retained as traditional and respected as head of state.
- Absolute monarchy- refers to the unrestricted power of the head of state. The monarchy is dictatorial.
- Constitutional monarchy- restricted monarchical power is determined by what is spelt out in the constitution E.G Britain and Lesotho.
Is a system of government where the ruler has total powers over his subjects. Dictators are the sole authority where they rule. They make law and execute justice; they exercise their rule forcefully, suppressing their subjects at will. They curtail the freedom of the subjects.
Importance of studying history.
- It helps us to know the origin of mankind, his development and progress he has made to this date.
- It helps us appreciate man achievements and learn from the failures of the past so as to manage the present better.
- It helps man to understand how to relate and depend on each other. Decisions taken by one person affects others.
- It helps understand our culture as well as other people’s culture.
- History inspire patriotism and nationalism among citizens as they team of the past political development.
- It helps to comprehend social, economic and political development of our societies.
- It helps one to be more knowledgeable as its documents information of varied importance to human development.
- It helps man to know the time, place and space of past events.
- We utilize historical records of events such as famine; clashes and civil wars to prepare people cope with and avoid a repeat of such tragedies.
- It develops a critical mind as we try to explain historical events by asking questions of WHY, HOW and WHEN.
- History provides intellectual fulfilment to the learner.
- History influences career choice.
Importance of studying government.
- It helps us to understand how laws are made.
- We also learn how development programme are formulated and implemented.
- We learn how powers vested in different organs of the government i.e. legislature, judiciary and executive are exercised.
- Through the study of government we understand and appreciate the need for a government.
- It helps us appreciate the constitution and the powers of making and reviewing laws and states.
- The study of government makes us know our role as citizens and roles of leaders who govern us. This makes us law abiding and productive.
- Government is a social contract and hence helps us understand our rights, responsibilities as well as limitations within which we must operate and protect us from dictatorship.
- The study of government just like history influences career choice.
Sources of information on history and government.
They are divided into
- Unwritten sources.
- Written sources.
- Electronic source.
Refers to historical information which is not recorded in writing. They are oral traditions, linguistics (language), anthropology (culture), archaeology, palaeontology and genetics.
- Oral traditions: refers to the practice of handing down historical information by word of mouth from one generation to the next. It includes folktales, proverbs, songs and stories.
- It is important in the study of pre-history.
- They integrate the study of history with other social studies.
- It is cheap.
- It compliments other sources of history
Limitations of oral tradition.
- The information may be exaggerated as it’s difficult to distinguish between what was real from what was imagined.
- The information may be forgotten or omitted because it depends on human memory.
- Information may deliberately conceal some important information. People tend to talk more of their successes than their failures.
- It may not provide dates and give correct chronology of events because it depends on human memory.
- It is an expensive method of gathering information as one has to pay for the information’s transportation, lunch and accommodation.
- Its time consuming, one requires a lot of time to interview one individual.
- The information may be biased.
- Linguistics: refers to the scientific study of language. Historical linguistics is the study of language as it changes in the course of time. It traces the principles of language change and establishes the current genealogical classification of a particular language. The study of a language helps in discovering its content, form and vocabulary. It can tell us the historical experience of the people who speak it. People who speak related language may be assumed to have a common origin, be connected or had been in close contact sometimes backing in the past.
Advantages of linguistics
- It gives information about the movement of people and their relationships. This assists experts in grouping languages correctly according to language families.
- Linguistics helps us understand communication better, as people with a common language may common origin.
- Language has enabled historical linguistics to discover links between different people which previously unknown.
- Language helps those using oral tradition to gather information from various sources.
- Linguistics is useful in the dating of migration of people.
Limitations of linguistics.
- It’s time consuming as it takes long to study a particular language.
- When translating the language, the historian might omit some words, in the process; vital information about people’s history may be lost.
- Different languages may have similar words with different meanings, this can confuse a researcher.
- There has been borrowing of words from other languages and this has interfered with or corrupted the parent language this leads to inaccurate information.
- A linguist may find some of the words from different groups difficult to understand.
- Some languages have become archaic or extinct and are therefore difficult to translate.
- Anthropology: is the study of human beings, their origin, development, beliefs and social relationships. To carry out their work, anthropologists have to live among the people to experience their way of life. This helps them to understand and explain structures of societies, forms of social organization, institutions, marriage, and forms of government, systems of inheritance, religious customs and cultural values. They can also explain aspects of the economic such as fishing and agriculture in which a given community depends. Anthropology is vital because it gives a deeper understanding of particular aspects of people’s culture.
- It enables historians to determine the cultural past of a community.
- Information is easily obtained from the surrounding.
- It compliments other sources.
Limitations of anthropology.
- It’s expensive because it involves living among the people you are studying or observing.
- It’s time consuming method of acquiring information.
- The researcher may find it difficult to adapt fully to the environmental during their research, and if they do, they face the risk of losing their own culture.
- People under study may try to behave differently when the researcher is around, it is hence unreliable.
- When observing a researcher may miss important details as it is mainly observing people in their own culture.
- Archaeology and palaeontology: archaeology is the study of material remains from past human life and culture through scientific analysis.
Examples of material remains include;
- Store tools
- Wooden implements
- Metal objects
It also includes
- Rock paintings
- Art work.
After studying the artefacts, the archaeologies reconstruct the activities of the people who lived in pre-historic time form various evidence such as the trace of weapons, coins, bones and traditional crafts.
Archaeologists often work with natural scientists such as palaeontologists. Palaeontologist deals with fossils. Fossils are remains of pre-historical plant and animals.
- Archaeology gives detailed information on material culture that other sources may not have.
- It gives a sense of time as the artefacts can be dated.
- It compliments other sources of information and thus gives authentic information.
- It provides varied information depending on the material found at a site.
- It is expensive source of information because of the hiring labourers to excavate a site and the need for expensive archaeological equipments.
- It is time consuming during excavation process as well as taking materials to laboratories for analysis.
- Some artefacts and fossils are fragile and can disintegrate during excavation. This results in the distortion of analysis.
- It is only laminated to the study of ancient records and not recent history.
- Information may be inaccurate resulting from wrong conclusion or reconstructions.
- It is not easy to accurately determine date when events took place. It is only estimate through method of dating fossils.
- There are few archaeological experts and facilities for interpreting archaeological evidence in Kenya.
Locating a historical site.
- Archaeologists look for areas where faulting or erosion has occurred exposing surfaces that may give clues to finding fossils and artefacts.
- Vision may help find early areas of settlements such as a few stores in a regular pattern.
- Archaeologist may use long experience and skills to identify or potential site.
- Historical research and insights to areas of past civilization is useful in identifying a site.
- Cultivation and building / construction by people may accidently expose ancient objects that curiously in researchers.
Method of dating fossils.
The following methods are used by scientists to arrive at the age of fossils remains.
- Geological Problems– scientists have names for periods of past time characterized by successive types of plants and animals, and by climatic changes.
- Chemical Dating– such as radio-carbon dating and potassium-argon method. Dating measures the use of decay potassium to give out the gas argon.
Radio-carbon dating measures the rate of decay carbon fossils and organic substance.
Hence the amount of argon-40 compared to the account of potassium gives direct measures of age.
Potassium-argon method- is used to date volcanic ash. Potassium is emitted during volcanic eruptions. This method is also used to date minerals containing potassium. As soon as the potassium is deposited, the radioactive potassium-40 immediately begins to decay into the gas argon. The argon is retained in the mineral or rock unless there is earth movement, given that the rate of decay of potassium is unknown, the amount of argon-40 compared with the amount of potassium, v=gives a direct measure of age.
- Stratigraphy-the study and interpretation layers of rocks successfully deposited at a place (sedimentation).
- Fission-Track Dating– the age of minerals and glass as estimated by observing the tracks made in them by the fission fragment of the uranium made that they contain.
- Lexico- Statistics Dating– the study of vocabulary of languages with the interest to determine their age and their historical lines with other languages.
- Statistical Dating-the use of calculation using a system of arranging the length of generation can be determined for a particular society.
- Genetics: genetics is the scientific study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics.
It therefore studies how characteristics are passed from parents to their offspring’s through their genes (this is known as hereditary).
- Characteristics can be passed on to the next generation including a detail of colour, shape, blood group or gender.
- It shows relationship between people who have a common ancestor.
- It can distinguish one person from another.
- Genetics can trace the movement of people or plants from their original habitat to other regions.
- Genetics can help locate where and when animals were domesticated and their routes of migration with the help of zoologist.
These are recorded information in the form of drawing the printed word. They could be written using pens, pencils, keyboards or computer screen or some other surface.
They can be used in many times without damaging them.
Written sources includes
- Narratives sources of first hand information or eye intern recounts or happenings, informal events, annual and newspapers.
- Private paper belonging to individuals like letters, autobiographies.
- Government records of institutions.
- Political records.
- Archives and manuscripts.
Archives– are a collection of historical documents or resources and are resources center for preserved information.
Manuscripts– are a hand written text which has not been published.
- Printed sources.
Advantages of written sources.
- They preserve history since events are recorded for future references.
- Written records can be distributed to literate people all over the world.
- They are accurate as information preserved as was recorded and not dependant in human memory.
- Written records can be translated into different languages.
- Written records are less costly compared to anthropology or archaeology.
- Braces and prejudices coming from authors are limited and hence more reliable.
Limitations of written records.
- It’s unreliable if the author omits essential information for one reason or another.
- It can be misunderstand or misinterpreted by readers to suit ones need or discredit others.
- Writers are at times biased when they write from a particular point or view e.g. early colonial writers.
- They are limited to literate people in society but not useful to illiterate.
- At times acquiring written records are expensive e.g. in Kenya many people cannot afford newspapers.
- Reading written records is often time consuming.
Electronic sources of historical information includes.
- Micro films.
- Computerized data bases.
- They provide information fast.
- The information is stored for future reference.
- Information can be conveyed to any part of the world.
- Can only be used in areas with electricity.
- They are expensive to obtain and use.
- They require experts.