Types of Sources
Understanding the Sources
The Study of Documents
The Study of Seals
The Discipline of History
"No intelligent person imagines that everyday events should be understood or are intended to be history. It is only a particular approach, which revisits things that have happened, that makes history out of mere events" (Johann Gustav Droysen).
History comes into being in the eyes of its beholder. What a given observer notices depends on his or her interests and perceptions, and is never more - given the huge size of history's possible extent, than merely a small piece of the past. In accordance with the etymology of the name it has in each language, the discipline of history seeks to accomplish a number of related tasks: to tell a tale, a historia; or to examine events and things that happened (German Geschichte, from Old High German giskiht, event, happening).
The choice of particular events and processes that we are interesting in studying essentially also determines the number of texts, objects and facts (sources) we have available as surviving evidence that can be used to gain access to our subject. Both the object of our interest and our access to sources are themselves equally subject to change and variation over time. For instance, political history used to be limited largely to the national level, but it is now generally approached at the European level, and we are more interested than ever in social historical questions. In the following films, a number of different perspectives on the study of medieval history as a discipline are presented by active historians.