How do we derive information for civilizations from periods before record keeping?

How do we derive information for civilizations from periods before record keeping?

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Civilizations record their history, but how do we derive information for periods before record keeping started? How much do we know for that era of human civilization?

The invention of writing, roughly in the 4th millennium BC divides human history in two major periods:

  1. Prehistory, the period before the invention of writing, and
  2. Recorded history, the period after the invention of writing.

The divide isn't uniform for all civilizations, obviously not all civilizations invented writing at the same time. Furthermore some ancient civilizations, although they thrived in a period that's generally considered part of recorded history, didn't really do a great job recording their own history. For example, in Ancient Sparta, record keeping and any kind of written history was forbidden by law. In such cases, most of the information we have are from neighbouring civilizations.

Prehistory is distinctively different than recorded history, all the information we have for prehistoric times comes from remains and artefacts. Archaeologists studying the prehistoric era of a civilization utilize a vast array of interdisciplinary techniques, such as the study of geologic records and fossils, techniques that are more commonly associated with palaeontology and geology.

Ecuadorian History

Ecuador’s history packs a dramatic punch. It’s marked by periods of radical change, brought about suddenly by charismatic strongmen. First the conquistadores arrived, and pillaged without consequence. Inca kings defied the new rulers, no matter what the cost. Revolution then came to Ecuador, and a subsequent lineup of despots dominated the political stage.

Although Ecuador’s economy has seen massive improvement in recent decades, it’s unclear if the centuries of drama are coming to an end. At the very least, the 21st century has brought recognition of the necessity to protect natural resources and national culture.


Early development of accounting Edit

Accounting records dating back more than 7,000 years have been found in Mesopotamia, [11] and documents from ancient Mesopotamia show lists of expenditures, and goods received and traded. [1] The development of accounting, along with that of money and numbers, may be related to the taxation and trading activities of temples:

"another part of the explanation as to why accounting employs the numerical metaphor is [. ] that money, numbers and accounting are interrelated and, perhaps, inseparable in their origins: all emerged in the context of controlling goods, stocks and transactions in the temple economy of Mesopotamia." [1]

The early development of accounting was closely related to developments in writing, counting, and money. In particular, there is evidence that a key step in the development of counting—the transition from concrete to abstract counting—was related to the early development of accounting and money and took place in Mesopotamia [1]

Other early accounting records were also found in the ruins of ancient Babylon, Assyria and Sumer, which date back more than 7,000 years. The people of that time relied on primitive accounting methods to record the growth of crops and herds. Because there was a natural season to farming and herding, it was easy to count and determine if a surplus had been gained after the crops had been harvested or the young animals weaned. [11]

Expansion of the role of the accountant Edit

Between the 4th millennium BC and the 3rd millennium BC, the ruling leaders and priests in ancient Iran had people oversee financial matters. In Godin Tepe (گدین تپه) and Tepe Yahya (تپه يحيی), cylindrical tokens that were used for bookkeeping on clay scripts were found in buildings that had large rooms for storage of crops. In Godin Tepe's findings, the scripts only contained tables with figures, while in Tepe Yahya's findings, the scripts also contained graphical representations. [4] The invention of a form of bookkeeping using clay tokens represented a huge cognitive leap for mankind. [5]

During the 2nd millennium BC, [12] the expansion of commerce and business expanded the role of the accountant. The Phoenicians invented a phonetic alphabet "probably for bookkeeping purposes", based on the Egyptian hieratic script, and there is evidence that an individual in ancient Egypt held the title "comptroller of the scribes". There is also evidence for an early form of accounting in the Old Testament for example the Book of Exodus describes Moses engaging Ithamar to account for the materials that had been contributed towards the building of the tabernacle. [2]

By about the 4th century BC, the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians had auditing systems for checking movement in and out of storehouses, including oral "audit reports", resulting in the term "auditor" (from audire, to hear in Latin). The importance of taxation had created a need for the recording of payments, and the Rosetta Stone also includes a description of a tax revolt. [2]

By the time of Emperor Augustus (63 BC - AD 14), the Roman government had access to detailed financial information as evidenced by the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Latin: "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus"). The inscription was an account to the Roman people of the Emperor Augustus' stewardship, and listed and quantified his public expenditure, including distributions to the people, grants of land or money to army veterans, subsidies to the aerarium (treasury), building of temples, religious offerings, and expenditures on theatrical shows and gladiatorial games, covering a period of about forty years. The scope of the accounting information at the emperor's disposal suggests that its purpose encompassed planning and decision-making. [6]

The Roman historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio record that in 23 BC, Augustus prepared a rationarium (account) which listed public revenues, the amounts of cash in the aerarium (treasury), in the provincial fisci (tax officials), and in the hands of the publicani (public contractors) and that it included the names of the freedmen and slaves from whom a detailed account could be obtained. The closeness of this information to the executive authority of the emperor is attested by Tacitus' statement that it was written out by Augustus himself. [13]

Records of cash, commodities, and transactions were kept scrupulously by military personnel of the Roman army. An account of small cash sums received over a few days at the fort of Vindolanda circa AD 110 shows that the fort could compute revenues in cash on a daily basis, perhaps from sales of surplus supplies or goods manufactured in the camp, items dispensed to slaves such as cervesa (beer) and clavi caligares (nails for boots), as well as commodities bought by individual soldiers. The basic needs of the fort were met by a mixture of direct production, purchase and requisition in one letter, a request for money to buy 5,000 modii (measures) of braces (a cereal used in brewing) shows that the fort bought provisions for a considerable number of people. [14]

The Heroninos Archive is the name given to a huge collection of papyrus documents, mostly letters, but also including a fair number of accounts, which come from Roman Egypt in 3rd century AD. The bulk of the documents relate to the running of a large, private estate [15] is named after Heroninos because he was phrontistes (Koine Greek: manager) of the estate which had a complex and standardised system of accounting which was followed by all its local farm managers. [16] Each administrator on each sub-division of the estate drew up his own little accounts, for the day-to-day running of the estate, payment of the workforce, production of crops, the sale of produce, the use of animals, and general expenditure on the staff. This information was then summarized as pieces of papyrus scroll into one big yearly account for each particular sub-division of the estate. Entries were arranged by sector, with cash expenses and gains extrapolated from all the different sectors. Accounts of this kind gave the owner the opportunity to take better economic decisions because the information was purposefully selected and arranged. [17]

Double-entry bookkeeping Edit

In eighth century Persia, scholars were confronted with the Qur’an's requirement that Muslims keep records of their indebtedness as a part of their obligation to account to God on all matters of their life. This became particularly difficult when it came to inheritance, which demanded detailed accounting for the estate after death of an individual. The assets remaining after the payment of funeral expenses and debts were allocated to every member of the family in fixed shares, and included wives, children, fathers and mothers. This required extensive use of ratios, multiplication and division that depended on the mathematics of Hindu-Arabic numerals.

The inheritance mathematics were solved by a system developed by the medieval Islamic mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (known in Europe as Algorithmi from which we derive "algorithm"). Al-Khwarizmi's opus “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” established the mathematics of algebra, with the last chapter devoted to the double-entry bookkeeping required for solution to the Islamic inheritance allocations. [18] Al Khwarizmi's work was widely circulated, at a time that there was substantial active discourse and trade between Arabic, Jewish and European scholars. It was taught in the learning centers of Al-Andalus in Iberia, and from the tenth century forward, slowly found its way into European banking, which began slipping Hindo-Arabic numerals into accounting books, despite their prohibition as sinful by the medieval church. Bankers in Cairo, for example, used a double-entry bookkeeping system which predated the known usage of such a form in Italy, and whose records remain from the 11th century AD, found amongst the Cairo Geniza. [19] Fibonacci included double-entry and Hindo-Arabic numerals in his Liber Abaci which was widely read in Italy and Europe.

Al-Khwarizmı's book introduced al-jabr meaning "restoration” (which European translated as "algebra") to its inheritance accounting, leading to three fundamental accounting - algebreic concepts:

  1. Debits = Credits: algebraic manipulations on the left-hand and right-hand size of an equal sign had to "balance" or they were in error. This is the algebraic equivalent of double-entries "bookkeeping equation" for error control.
  2. Real accounts: These included assets for tracking wealth, weighed against liabilities from the claims of others against that wealth, and the difference which is the owner's net wealth, or owner's equity. This was al-Khwarizmi's "basic accounting equation".
  3. Nominal accounts: These tracked activity that affected wealth, and the "restoration" into the real accounts reflected accounting's closing process and the calculation of the owner's increment in wealth -- net income.

Algebra balances and restores formulas on the left and right of an equal sign. Double-entry bookkeeping similarly balances and restores debit and credit totals around an equal sign. Accounting is the balancing and restoration of algebra applied to wealth accounting. [20]

In 756, The Abbasid Caliph Al-Mansur sent scholars, merchants and mercenaries to support the Tang dynasty's Dukes of Li to thwart the An Shi Rebellion. The Abbasids and Tangs established an alliance, where the Abbasids were known as the Black-robed Arabs. The Tang Dynasty's extensive conquests and polyglot court required new mathematics to manage a complex bureaucratic system of tithes, corvee labor and taxes. Abbasid scholars implemented their algebraic double-entry bookkeeping into operations of many of the Tang ministries. The Tang dynasty expanded their maritime presence across the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea, and up the Euphrates River. [21] On land they conquered much of what is today's China.

The Tangs invented paper currency, with roots in merchant receipts of deposit as merchants and wholesalers. The Tang's money certificates, colloquially called “flying cash” because of its tendency to blow away, demanded much more extensive accounting for transactions. A fiat currency only drives value from its history of transactions, starting with government issue, unlike gold and specie. Paper money was much more portable than heavy metallic specie, and the Tang assured its universal usage under threat of penalties and possibly execution for using anything else.

The Tangs were great innovators in the widespread use of paper for accounting books, and transaction documents. They evolved the eight century Chinese printing techniques involving chiseling an entire page of text into a wood block backwards, applying ink, and printing pages by inventing early movable type, including characters chiseled in wood and the creation of ceramic print blocks. Tang science, culture, manners and clothing were widely imitated across Asia. Japan's traditional dress, as well as customs like sitting on the floor for meals, were borrowed from the Tangs. Imperial ministries adopted the Tang's double-entry bookkeeping for administration of taxes and expenditures. The Goryeo kingdom (the modern name "Korea" derives from Goryeo) donned the imperial yellow clothing of the Tangs, used the Three Departments and Six Ministries imperial system of the Tang dynasty and had its own "microtributary system" that included the Jurchen tribes of north China. The Tang's double-entry bookkeeping was essential to managing the complex bureaucracies surrounding Goryeo tribute and taxation. [22]

Later dispersion of knowledge of double-entry can be attributed to the rise of Genghis Khan and later his grandson Kublai Khan who were deeply influenced by the bureaucracy of the Tang Dynasty. The accountants were the first to enter a city conquered by Mongols, tallying up the total wealth of the city, from which the Mongols took 10%, to be allocated between the troops. Cities were conquered, then encouraged to remain going-concerns. Double entry bookkeeping played an important role in assuring the Mongols were fully informed about taxes and expenditure. [23]

Ratios, division and multiplication were difficult with Roman numerals, and were achieved though a method called "doubling." [24] Similarly, addition and subtraction involved an error-prone rearranging of Roman numerals. None of this lent itself to double-entry bookkeeping, an as a result, medieval Europe lagged Eastern and Central Asia in adopting double-entry bookkeeping. Hindu-Arabic numerals were known in Europe, but were those who used them were considered in league with the devil. The prohibition of Hindu-Arabic mathematics was incorporated into statutes proscribing the use of anything but Roman numerals. That such statutes were necessary is an indication of the attractiveness to merchants of double-entry bookkeeping. Fibbonaci’s book Liber Abaci disseminated knowledge about double-entry and Hindu-Arabic numerals widely to merchants and bankers, but because editions were hand copied, only a small group of people actually had access to its knowledge, primarily Italians. The earliest extant evidence of full double-entry bookkeeping appears in the Farolfi ledger of 1299–1300. [7] Giovanno Farolfi & Company, a firm of Florentine merchants headquartered in Nîmes, acted as moneylenders to the Archbishop of Arles, their most important customer. [25] The oldest discovered record of a complete double-entry system is the Messari (Italian: Treasurer's) accounts of the city of Genoa in 1340. The Messari accounts contain debits and credits journalised in a bilateral form and carry forward balances from the preceding year, and therefore enjoy general recognition as a double-entry system. [26]

The Vatican, and the Italian banking centers of Genoa, Florence and Venice grew wealthy in the 14th century. Their operations recorded transactions, made loans, issued receipts and other modern banking activities. Fibbonaci’s Liber Abbas was widely read in Italy, and the Italian Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici introduced double-entry bookkeeping for the Medici bank in the 14th century. By the end of the 15th century, merchant ventures in Venice used this system widely. The Vatican was an early customer for German printing technology, which they used to churn out indulgences. Printing reached a wider audience with widely available reading glasses from Venetian glassmakers (medieval Europeans tended to be far-sighted, which made reading difficult before spectacles). Italy became a center for European printing, particularly with the rise of Aldine Press editions of classics in Greek and Latin. [27]

It was in this environment that a close friend of Leonardo da Vinci, the itinerant tutor, Luca Pacioli published a book not in Greek or Latin, but in a language that merchants understood well -- Italian vernacular. Pacioli received an abbaco education, i.e., education in the vernacular rather than Latin and focused on the knowledge required of merchants. His pragmatic orientation, widespread promotion by his friend da Vinci, and use of vernacular Italian assured that his 1494 publication, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita (Everything About Arithmetic, Geometry and Proportion) would become wildly popular. Pacioli's book explained the Hindu-Arabic numerals, new developments in mathematics, and the system of double-entry was popular with the increasingly influential merchant class. In contrast to scholarly abstracts in Latin, Pacioli's vernacular text was accessible to the common man, and addressed the needs of businessmen and merchants. [28] His book remained in print for nearly 400 years.

Luca’s book popularized the words “credre” means “to entrust” and “debere” means “to owe”-- the origin of the use of the words "debit" and "credit" in accounting, but goes back to the days of single-entry bookkeeping, which had as its chief objective keeping track of amounts owed by customers (debtors) and amounts owed to creditors. Debit in Latin means "he owes" and credit in Latin means "he trusts". [29]

Ragusan economist Benedetto Cotrugli's 1458 [ citation needed ] treatise Della mercatura e del mercante perfetto contained the earliest known [ citation needed ] manuscript of a double-entry bookkeeping system. His manuscript was first published in 1573. [30]

Luca Pacioli's Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità (early Italian: "Review of Arithmetic, Geometry, Ratio and Proportion") was first printed and published in Venice in 1494. It included a 27-page treatise on bookkeeping, "Particularis de Computis et Scripturis" (Latin: "Details of Calculation and Recording"). Pacioli wrote primarily for, and sold mainly to, merchants who used the book as a reference text, as a source of pleasure from the mathematical puzzles it contained, and to aid the education of their sons. His work represents the first known printed treatise on bookkeeping and it is widely believed to be the forerunner of modern bookkeeping practice. In Summa de arithmetica, Pacioli introduced symbols for plus and minus for the first time in a printed book, symbols which became standard notation in Italian Renaissance mathematics. Summa de arithmetica was also the first known book printed in Italy to contain algebra. [31]

Ragusan economist Benedetto Cotrugli's 1458 [ citation needed ] treatise Della mercatura e del mercante perfetto contained the earliest known [ citation needed ] manuscript of a double-entry bookkeeping system, however Cotrugli's manuscript was not officially published until 1573. In fact even at the time of writing his work in 1494 Pacioli was aware of Cotrugli's efforts and credited Cortrugli with the origination of the double entry book keeping system. [32] [33]

Although Luca Pacioli did not invent double-entry bookkeeping, [34] his 27-page treatise on bookkeeping is an important work because of its wide circulation and the fact that it was printed in the vernacular Italian language. [35]

Pacioli saw accounting as an ad-hoc ordering system devised by the merchant. Its regular use provides the merchant with continued information about his business, and allows him to evaluate how things are going and to act accordingly. Pacioli recommends the Venetian method of double-entry bookkeeping above all others. Three major books of account are at the direct basis of this system:

The ledger classes as the central document and is accompanied by an alphabetical index. [36]

Pacioli's treatise gave instructions on recording barter transactions and transactions in a variety of currencies – both of which were far more common than today. It also enabled merchants to audit their own books and to ensure that the entries in the accounting records made by their bookkeepers complied with the method he described. Without such a system, all merchants who did not maintain their own records were at greater risk of theft by their employees and agents: it is not by accident that the first and last items described in his treatise concern maintenance of an accurate inventory. [37]

The Renaissance cultural context Edit

Accounting as it developed in Renaissance Europe also had moral and religious connotations, recalling the judgment of souls and the audit of sin. [38]

Financial and management accounting Edit

The development of joint-stock companies (especially from about 1600) built wider audiences for accounting information, as investors without first-hand knowledge of their operations relied on accounts to provide the requisite information. [39] This development resulted in a split of accounting systems for internal (i.e. management accounting) and external (i.e. financial accounting) purposes, and subsequently also in accounting and disclosure regulations and a growing need for independent attestation of external accounts by auditors. [8]

Modern Accounting is a product of centuries of thought, custom, habit, action and convention. Two concepts have formed the current state of the accountancy profession. Firstly, the development of the double-entry book-keeping system in the fourteenth and fifteenth century and secondly, accountancy professionalization which was created in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. [40] The modern profession of the chartered accountant originated in Scotland in the nineteenth century. During this time, accountants often belonged to the same associations as solicitors, and the latter solicitors sometimes offered accounting services to their clients. Early modern accounting had similarities to today's forensic accounting: [41]

"Like forensic accountants today, accountants then incorporated the duties of expert financial witnesses into their general services rendered. An 1824 circular announcing the accounting practice of one James McClelland of Glasgow promises he will make “statements for laying before arbiters, courts or council.” [41]

In July 1854 The Institute of Accountants in Glasgow petitioned Queen Victoria for a Royal Charter. The Petition, signed by 49 Glasgow accountants, argued that the profession of accountancy had long existed in Scotland as a distinct profession of great respectability, and that although the number of practitioners had been originally few, the number had been rapidly increasing. The petition also pointed out that accountancy required a varied group of skills as well as mathematical skills for calculation, the accountant had to have an acquaintance with the general principles of the legal system as they were frequently employed by the courts to give evidence on financial matters. The Edinburgh Society of accountants adopted the name "Chartered Accountant" for members. [42]

By the middle of the 19th century, Britain's Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and London was the financial centre of the world. With the growth of the limited liability company and large scale manufacturing and logistics, demand surged for more technically proficient accountants capable of handling the increasingly complex world of high speed global transactions, able to calculate figures like asset depreciation and inventory valuation and cognizant of the latest changes in legislation such as the new Company law, then being introduced. As companies proliferated, the demand for reliable accountancy shot up, and the profession rapidly became an integral part of the business and financial system.

To improve their status and combat criticism of low standards, local professional bodies in England amalgamated to form the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, established by royal charter in 1880. [10] Initially with just under 600 members, the newly formed institute expanded rapidly it soon drew up standards of conduct and examinations for admission and members were authorised to use the professional designations "FCA" (Fellow Chartered Accountant), for a firm partner and "ACA" (Associate Chartered Accountant) for a qualified member of an accountant's staff. In the United States the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants was established in 1887.


Historians have two major ways of understanding the ancient world: archaeology and the study of source texts. Primary sources are those sources closest to the origin of the information or idea under study. [10] [11] Primary sources have been distinguished from secondary sources, which often cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources. [12]

Archaeology Edit

Archaeology is the excavation and study of artifacts in an effort to interpret and reconstruct past human behavior. [13] [14] [15] [16] Archaeologists excavate the ruins of ancient cities looking for clues as to how the people of the time period lived. Some important discoveries by archaeologists studying ancient history include:

  • The Egyptian pyramids: [17] giant tombs built by the ancient Egyptians beginning about 2600 BC as the final resting places of their royalty.
  • The study of the ancient cities of Harappa (Pakistan), [18]Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan), and Lothal[19] in India (South Asia).
  • The city of Pompeii (Italy): [20] an ancient Roman city preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Its state of preservation is so great that it is a valuable window into Roman culture and provided insight into the cultures of the Etruscans and the Samnites. [21]
  • The Terracotta Army: [22] the mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in ancient China.
  • The discovery of Knossos by Minos Kalokairinos and Sir Arthur Evans.
  • The discovery of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann.

Source text Edit

Most of what is known of the ancient world comes from the accounts of antiquity's own historians. Although it is important to take into account the bias of each ancient author, their accounts are the basis for our understanding of the ancient past. Some of the more notable ancient writers include Herodotus, Thucydides, Arrian, Plutarch, Polybius, Sima Qian, Sallust, Livy, Josephus, Suetonius, and Tacitus.

A fundamental difficulty of studying ancient history is that recorded histories cannot document the entirety of human events, and only a fraction of those documents have survived into the present day. [23] Furthermore, the reliability of the information obtained from these surviving records must be considered. [23] [24] Few people were capable of writing histories, as literacy was not widespread in almost any culture until long after the end of ancient history. [25]

The earliest known systematic historical thought emerged in ancient Greece, beginning with Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484–c. 425 BC). Thucydides largely eliminated divine causality in his account of the war between Athens and Sparta, [26] establishing a rationalistic element which set a precedent for subsequent Western historical writings. He was also the first to distinguish between cause and immediate origins of an event. [26]

The Roman Empire was an ancient culture with a relatively high literacy rate, [27] but many works by its most widely read historians are lost. For example, Livy, a Roman historian who lived in the 1st century BC, wrote a history of Rome called Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City) in 144 volumes only 35 volumes still exist, although short summaries of most of the rest do exist. Indeed, no more than a minority of the work of any major Roman historian has survived.

Timeline of ancient history Edit

This gives a listed timeline, ranging from 3300 BC to 600 AD, that provides an overview of ancient history.

Prehistory Edit

Prehistory is the period before written history. The early human migrations [28] in the Lower Paleolithic saw Homo erectus spread across Eurasia 1.8 million years ago. The controlled use of fire first occurred 800,000 years ago in the Middle Paleolithic. 250,000 years ago, Homo sapiens (modern humans) emerged in Africa. 60–70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa along a coastal route to South and Southeast Asia and reached Australia. 50,000 years ago, modern humans spread from Asia to the Near East. Europe was first reached by modern humans 40,000 years ago. Humans migrated to the Americas about 15,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic.

The 10th millennium BC is the earliest given date for the invention of agriculture and the beginning of the ancient era. Göbekli Tepe was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC (c. 11,500 years ago), before the advent of sedentism. Together with Nevalı Çori, it has revolutionized understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic. In the 7th millennium BC, Jiahu culture began in China. By the 5th millennium BC, the late Neolithic civilizations saw the invention of the wheel and the spread of proto-writing. In the 4th millennium BC, the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the Ukraine-Moldova-Romania region develops. By 3400 BC, "proto-literate" cuneiform is spread in the Middle East. [29] The 30th century BC, referred to as the Early Bronze Age II, saw the beginning of the literate period in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Around the 27th century BC, the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the First Dynasty of Uruk are founded, according to the earliest reliable regnal eras.

Middle to Late Bronze Age Edit

The Bronze Age forms part of the three-age system. It follows the Neolithic Age in some areas of the world. In most areas of civilization bronze smelting became a foundation for more advanced societies. There was some contrast with New World societies, who often still preferred stone to metal for utilitarian purposes. Modern historians have identified five original civilizations which emerged in the time period. [30]

The first civilization emerged in Sumer in the southern region of Mesopotamia, now part of modern-day Iraq. By 3000 BC, Sumerian city states had collectively formed civilization, with government, religion, division of labor and writing. [31] [32] Among the city states Ur was among the most significant.

In the 24th century BC, the Akkadian Empire [33] [34] was founded in Mesopotamia. From Sumer, civilization and bronze smelting spread westward to Egypt, the Minoans and the Hittites.

The First Intermediate Period of Egypt of the 22nd century BC was followed by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt between the 21st to 17th centuries BC. The Sumerian Renaissance also developed c. the 21st century BC in Ur. Around the 18th century BC, the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt began. Egypt was a superpower at the time. By 1600 BC, Mycenaean Greece developed and invaded the remains of Minoan civilization. The beginning of Hittite dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean region is also seen in the 1600s BC. The time from the 16th to the 11th centuries BC around the Nile is called the New Kingdom of Egypt. Between 1550 BC and 1292 BC, the Amarna Period developed in Egypt.

East of the Iranian world, was the Indus River Valley civilization which organized cities neatly on grid patterns. [35] However the Indus River Valley civilization diminished after 1900 BC and was later replaced with Indo-Aryan peoples who established Vedic culture.

The beginning of the Shang dynasty emerged in China in this period, and there was evidence of a fully developed Chinese writing system. The Shang Dynasty is the first Chinese regime recognized by western scholars though Chinese historians insist that the Xia dynasty preceded it. The Shang dynasty practiced forced labor to complete public projects. There is evidence of massive ritual burial.

Across the ocean, the earliest known civilization of the Americas appeared in the river valleys of the desert coast of central modern day Peru. The Norte Chico civilization's first city flourished around 3100 BC. The Olmecs are supposed to appear later in Mesoamerica between the 14th and 13th centuries.

Early Iron Age Edit

The Iron Age is the last principal period in the three-age system, preceded by the Bronze Age. Its date and context vary depending on the country or geographical region. The Iron Age over all was characterized by the prevalent smelting of iron with ferrous metallurgy and the use of carbon steel. Smelted iron proved more durable than earlier metals such as copper or bronze and allowed for more productive societies. The Iron Age took place at different times in different parts of the world, and comes to an end when a society began to maintain historical records.

During the 13th to 12th centuries BC, the Ramesside Period occurred in Egypt. Around 1200 BC, the Trojan War was thought to have taken place. [36] By around 1180 BC, the disintegration of the Hittite Empire was under way. The collapse of the Hitties was part of the larger scale Bronze Age Collapse which took place in the ancient Near East around 1200 BC. In Greece the Mycenae and Minona both disintegrated. A wave of Sea Peoples attacked many countries, only Egypt survived intact. Afterwards some entirely new successor civilizations arose in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In 1046 BC, the Zhou force, led by King Wu of Zhou, overthrew the last king of the Shang dynasty. The Zhou dynasty was established in China shortly thereafter. During this Zhou era China embraced a feudal society of decentralized power. Iron Age China then dissolved into the warring states period where possibly millions of soldiers fought each other over feudal struggles.

Pirak is an early iron-age site in Balochistan, Pakistan, going back to about 1200 BC. This period is believed to be the beginning of the Iron Age in India and the subcontinent. [37] Around the same time came the Vedas, the oldest sacred texts for the Hindu religion.

In 1000 BC, the Mannaean Kingdom began in Western Asia. Around the 10th to 7th centuries BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire developed in Mesopotamia. [38] In 800 BC, the rise of Greek city-states began. In 776 BC, the first recorded Olympic Games were held. [39] In contrast to neighboring cultures the Greek City states did not become a single militaristic empire but competed with each other as separate polis.

Axial Age Edit

The preceding Iron Age is often thought to have ended in the Middle East around 550 BC due to the rise of historiography (the historical record). The Axial Age is used to describe history between 800 and 200 BC of Eurasia, including ancient Greece, Iran, India and China. Widespread trade and communication between distinct regions in this period, including the rise of the Silk Road. This period saw the rise of philosophy and proselytizing religions.

Philosophy, religion and science were diverse in the Hundred Schools of Thought producing thinkers such as Confucius, Lao Tzu and Mozi during the 6th century BC. Similar trends emerged throughout Eurasia in India with the rise of Buddhism, in the Near East with Zoroastrianism and Judaism and in the west with ancient Greek philosophy. In these developments religious and philosophical figures were all searching for human meaning. [40]

The Axial Age and its aftermath saw large wars and the formation of large empires that stretched beyond the limits of earlier Iron Age Societies. Significant for the time was the Persian Achaemenid Empire. [41] The empire's vast territory extended from modern day Egypt to Xinjiang. The empire's legacy include the rise of commerce over land routes through Eurasia as well as the spreading of Persian culture through the middle east. The Royal Road allowed for efficient trade and taxation. Though Macedonian Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire in its entirety, the unity of Alexander's conquests did not survive past his lifetime. Greek culture, and technology spread through West and South Asia often synthesizing with local cultures.

Formation of empires and fragmentation Edit

Separate Greek kingdoms Egypt and Asia encouraged trade and communication like earlier Persian administrations. [42] Combined with the expansion of the Han dynasty westward the Silk Road as a series of routes made possible the exchange of goods between the Mediterranean Basin, South Asia and East Asia. In South Asia, the Mauryan empire briefly annexed much of the Indian Subcontinent though short lived, its reign had the legacies of spreading Buddhism and providing an inspiration to later Indian states.

Supplanting the warring Greek kingdoms in the western world came the growing Roman Republic and the Iranian Parthian Empire. As a result of empires, urbanization and literacy spread to locations which had previously been at the periphery of civilization as known by the large empires. Upon the turn of the millennium the independence of tribal peoples and smaller kingdoms were threatened by more advanced states. Empires were not just remarkable for their territorial size but for their administration and the dissemination of culture and trade, in this way the influence of empires often extended far beyond their national boundaries. Trade routes expanded by land and sea and allowed for flow of goods between distant regions even in the absence of communication. Distant nations such as Imperial Rome and the Chinese Han Dynasty rarely communicated but trade of goods did occur as evidenced by archaeological discoveries such as Roman coins in Vietnam. At this time most of the world's population inhabited only a small part of the earth's surface. Outside of civilization large geographic areas such as Siberia, Sub Saharan Africa and Australia remained sparsely populated. The New World hosted a variety of separate civilizations but its own trade networks were smaller due to the lack of draft animals and the wheel.

Empires with their immense military strength remained fragile to civil wars, economic decline and a changing political environment internationally. In 220 AD Han China collapsed into warring states while the European Roman Empire began to suffer from turmoil in the 3rd-century crisis. In Persia regime change took place from Parthian Empire to the more centralized Sassanian Empire. The land based Silk Road continued to deliver profits in trade but came under continual assault by nomads all on the northern frontiers of Eurasian nations. Safer sea routes began to gain preference in the early centuries AD

Proselytizing religions began to replace polytheism and folk religions in many areas. Christianity gained a wide following in the Roman Empire, Zoroastrianism became the state enforced religion of Iran and Buddhism spread to East Asia from South Asia. Social change, political transformation as well as ecological events all contributed to the end of ancient times and the beginning of the Post Classical era in Eurasia roughly around the year 500.

A Brief History of Fairies

As a child, my parents told me that when a tooth fell out, I should place it under the pillow and the tooth fairy would come and take it away.

Not only that, the fairy would leave a shiny five-penny piece in exchange.

That night I dreamt of little people with wings, scampering about and annoying the cat.

Cat among the Fairies by John Anster Christian Fitzgerald (1819 – 1906)

Lo and behold, the next morning the tooth had gone and there was a shiny five-pence coin in its place.

I felt like Peter Pan: “I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!”

The word “fairy” derives from the Latin fata, meaning “fate”, and Old French faerie, meaning “enchantment”.

No wonder Cinderella is such an enduring and popular story. With a magical spell, her Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella’s fate from one of drudgery to one of enchantment.

Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother by William Henry Margetson (1861 – 1940)

Originating in English folklore, the earliest mentions of fairies are in the writings of Gervase of Tilbury, a 12th-century English scholar and canon lawyer.

During his many travels to different kingdoms and provinces, Gervase compiled a compendium of hundreds of stories about the unexplained marvels of the natural world.

Called Recreation for an Emperor (Otia Imperialia), many of the stories had moral lessons about being a good Christian and a good king.

He wrote about enchanted places with animals that had human characteristics, and spirits that were both good and evil—like fairies.

Fairy Twilight by John Anster Christian Fitzgerald, (1819 – 1906)

When we think of fairies, most of us probably think of the good fairies like those featured in Walt Disney movies.

But there was a time when people genuinely feared fairies.

The Fairy Court by Robert Huskisson (1820 – 1861)

Much of the folklore of fairies revolves around protection from their malice.

Back in a time when the world was a much more mysterious place, people feared offending fairies who could cast evil spells or curses on a whim.

In Ireland in particular, such was the fear of upsetting the fairies, that instead of referring to them by name, they were euphemistically called the Little People, the Gentry, or the Neighbors.

Fairy Hordes Attacking a Bat by John Anster Christian Fitzgerald (1819 – 1906)

C. S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, knew of a haunted cottage that was feared more for its reported fairies than its ghosts.

Fairy paths were avoided and digging in fairy hills forbidden. Some homes even had corners removed for fear of blocking the fairy path.

Cottages were sometimes built with the back door directly aligned with the front, both being left open at night whenever it was deemed necessary to let the fairies pass through.

Irish Cottage by Helen Allingham

In traditional stories and legends, fairies didn’t have wings. Flying varieties grew in popularity much later.

Pixies, Elves, Goblins, Trolls, and Leprechauns were the most common species of folklore.

The Fairy Tree by Richard Doyle, 1865

Most of us can’t see fairies. They live in a parallel universe called the “realm of the fey.”

According to legend, fairies went into hiding to avoid us because … well, we invaded their lands, so what else could they do?

As we modernized the world with electricity, built roads and cities, and cut down trees, the fairies were forced to “go underground” and hide in caves, burrows, underwater fortresses, and finally into the spirit world.

Fairy Glen, Betws-y-Coed by Reginald Aspinwall, 1876 Fairy Arch, Mackinac Island by Henry Chapman Ford, 1874

The Fairy That Disappeared by Theodor Kittelsen, 1857 – 1914)

Shakespeare knew all too well that the best time to see fairies is Midsummer’s Eve.

This is when the invisible veil that separates us from the fairies is thin enough to allow people to see and interact with them.

Midsummer Eve by Edward Robert Hughes, 1908

You might even be lucky enough to watch them dancing. But be patient—you could be waiting hours just for one glimpse.

Fairy Dance by Hans Zatzka (1859 – 1945)

In 1917, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths—two young cousins from Cottingley in West Yorkshire, England—caught some fairies on camera.

Literary giant Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—creator of Sherlock Holmes—believed they were clear evidence of psychic phenomena, setting the public imagination alight.

Here at last, was clear evidence of the existence of fairies.

Cottingley Fairies by Elsie Wright, 1917

Some 63 years later, Elsie and Frances admitted to using cardboard cutouts copied from a popular children’s book of the time.

But there was a twist to the tale.

Altogether, they had taken five photographs, admitting the first four were fake, but insisting the fifth was real.

Fairies and Their Sun-Bath, the fifth and last photograph taken of the Cottingley Fairies, the one that Frances Griffiths insisted was genuine.

It was the Victorians and Edwardians who made the present-day notion of flying fairies so popular.

Scottish Novelist James. M. Barrie (1860 – 1937) lost an older brother, David, in an ice-skating accident when he was just 6 years old.

David was his mother’s favorite and James tried to comfort her by pretending to take his brother’s place.

The comfort it gave his mother inspired James to go on to write his most famous work about a free-spirited young boy who could fly, lived on a mystical island called Neverland, and never had to grow up.

Peter Pan has spawned blockbuster movies from Disney to Spielberg, and it’s even been speculated that Barrie’s creation inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s Elves of Middle Earth.

Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things by Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823 – 1903)

The Fairy King and Queen (Artist Unknown) The Realms of Fairydom by John Anster Christian Fitzgerald, (1819 – 1906) The Enchanted Forest by John Anster Christian Fitzgerald, (1819 – 1906)

So why are we still fascinated with fairies in our modern age?

Could it be we cling to the fairy stories our parents read to us before bed?

The Fairy Tale by James Sant, R.A. (1820 – 1916) The fairy tale by Walther Firle, 1929

Or could it be that fairies are real and they steal away our imaginations to a magical place—one that we rather enjoy. A land of adventure, of mystique, of enchantment. A land where we struggle to overcome evil, yet prevail.

And that could be their greatest appeal, for fairy stories usually have a happy ending.

Do you believe in fairies?

The Fairytale Forest by Edvard Munch, 1902

The Fairy Tale by William Merritt Chase, 1892

Understanding Accounting

Accounting is a language that dates back thousands of years and one that has been used in many parts of the world. The earliest evidence of this language comes from Mesopotamian civilizations. The Mesopotamians kept the earliest records of goods traded and received, and these activities are related to the early record-keeping of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. The Mesopotamians used primitive accounting methods, keeping records that detailed transactions involving animals, livestock, and crops. In India, philosopher and economist Chanakya wrote "Arthashasthra" during the Mauryan Empire around the second century B.C. The book contained advice and details on how to maintain record books for accounts.

The Bookkeepers

Bookkeepers most likely emerged while society was still using the barter system to trade (pre-2000 B.C.) rather than a cash and commerce economy. Ledgers from these times read like narratives with dates and descriptions of trades made or terms for services rendered.

Below are two examples of what these ledger entries may have looked like:

  • Monday, May 12: In exchange for three chickens, which I provided today, William Smallwood (laborer) promised a satchel of seed when the harvest is completed in the fall.
  • Wednesday, May 14: Samuel Thomson (craftsman) agreed to make one chest of drawers in exchange for a year's worth of eggs. The eggs are to be delivered daily once the chest is finished.

All of these transactions were kept in individual ledgers. If a dispute arose, they provided proof when matters were brought before magistrates. Although tiresome, this system of detailing every agreement was ideal because long periods could pass before transactions were completed.

New and Improved Ledgers

As currencies became available and tradesmen and merchants began to build material wealth, bookkeeping evolved. Then, as now, business sense and ability with numbers were not always found in one person, so math-phobic merchants would employ bookkeepers to maintain a record of what they owed and who owed debts to them.

Until the late 1400s, this information was arranged in a narrative style with all the numbers in a single column, whether an amount was paid, owed, or otherwise. This is called single-entry bookkeeping.

Here's a sample of a bookkeeper's single-entry system. You can see how the entries are laid out with a date, description, and whether it was owed or received by the symbols in the amount column.

Date Item Details Amount
Monday, May 12 Bought one sack of seeds -$48.00
Monday, May 12 Sold three chickens +$48.00
Wednesday, May 14 Bought a chest of drawers -$900.00
Wednesday, May 14 Sold one year's worth of eggs +$900.00

The bookkeeper had to read the description of each entry to decide whether to deduct or add the amount when calculating something as simple as monthly profit or loss. This was a time-consuming and inefficient tallying method.

The Mathematical Monk

As part of the tradition of learned monks conducting high-level scientific and philosophical research in the 15th century, Italian monk Luca Pacioli revamped the common bookkeeping structure and laid the groundwork for modern accounting. Pacioli, who is commonly known as the father of accounting, published a textbook called "Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita" in 1494, which showed the benefits of a double-entry system for bookkeeping. The idea was to list an entity's resources separately from any claims on those resources by other entities. In the simplest form, this meant creating a balance sheet with separate debits and credits. This innovation made bookkeeping more efficient and provided a clearer picture of a company's overall strength. This record, however, was only for the owner who hired the bookkeeper. The general public had no access to such records—at least not yet.

Here is what the double-entry system may have looked like. You can see the two separate columns for debits and credits, along with the description of each transaction and how it was paid—cash or commodities. In this case, it was chickens, seeds, eggs, and furniture.

Debit Credit
Sold Chickens Debit Cash $48.00 -
Sold Chickens Credit Chickens - $48.00
Bought Seeds Debit Seeds $48.00 -
Bought Seeds Credit Cash - $48.00
Sold Eggs Debit Cash $900.00 -
Sold Eggs Credit Eggs - $900.00
Bought Chest of Drawers Debit Furniture $900.00 -
Bought Chest of Drawers Credit Cash - $900.00

Coming to America

Bookkeeping migrated to America with European colonization. Although it was sometimes referred to as accounting, bookkeepers were still doing basic data entry and calculations for business owners. However, the businesses in question were small enough that the owners were personally involved and aware of the financial health of their companies. Business owners did not need professional accountants to create complex financial statements or cost-benefit analyses.

The American Railroad

The appearance of corporations in the United States and the creation of the railroad were the catalysts that transformed bookkeeping into the practice of accounting. Of the two factors, the railroad was by far the most powerful. For goods and people to reach their destinations, you need distribution networks, shipping schedules, fare collection, competitive rates, and some way to evaluate whether all of this is being done in the most efficient way possible. Enter accounting with its cost estimates, financial statements, operating ratios, production reports, and a multitude of other metrics to give businesses the data they needed to make informed decisions.

The railroads also allowed information to be passed from city to city at great speed. Business transactions could be settled in a matter of days rather than months. Even time was uneven across the country before the railroad. Previously, each township decided when the day began and ended by general consensus. This was changed to a uniform system because it was necessary to have goods delivered and unloaded at certain stations at predictable times.

The shrinking of the country thanks to the railroads and the introduction of uniformity encouraged investment, which, in turn, put more focus on accounting. Up to the 1800s, investing had been either a game of knowledge or luck. People acquired issues of stock in companies with which they were familiar through industry knowledge or acquaintanceships with the owners. Others blindly invested according to the encouragement of relatives and friends. There were no financials to check if you wanted to invest in a corporation or business thus, the risks involved ensured that investing was only for the wealthy—a rich man's sport tantamount to gambling. This image persists today.

Early Financial Statements

To attract investors, corporations began to publish their financials in the form of a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. These documents were proof of a company's profit-making abilities. Although investment capital stimulated operations and profits for most corporations, it also increased the pressure on management to please their new bosses—the shareholders. For their part, the shareholders did not completely trust management, which exposed the need for independent financial reviews of a company's operations.

Birth of a Profession

Accountants were already essential for attracting investors, and they quickly became essential for maintaining investor confidence. The accounting profession was recognized in 1896 with the establishment of the professional title of certified public accountant (CPA). The title is awarded to those who pass state examinations and have three years of experience in the field. The creation of professional accountants came at an opportune time. Less than 20 years later, the demand for CPAs skyrocketed as the U.S. government, in need of money to fight a war, began charging income tax.

Accounting Today

Technology has changed accounting today. Bookkeeping is now automated. Since the first records were kept in America, bookkeepers have used a number of tools. The adding machine in 1890 helped early accountants calculate receipts and quickly reconcile their books. When IBM released the first computer in 1952, accountants were among the first to use them. Today, technology has brought accounting software such as Quickbooks. These new advancements are much more intuitive, helping accountants do their job quicker, more accurately, and with more ease.

Time Periods

Early humans used symbols, ideograms, and drawings to record their world and to aid in the practice of ritual.

Early Civilization

Farming and trade in Egypt and Mesopotamia form large competing cultures.

Classical World

Art and illustration of the Mediterranean and Aegean civilizations.

The Middle Ages

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Europe sank into a 700 year period of instability and then began a gradual recovery that led to the Renaissance.


The Renaissance brings a division between fine art and craft.

Early 18th Century

Illustrations in prints and books reflect society.

Late 18th Century

Illustration at the time of the Industrial Revolution becomes a more common part of the printed materials that are seen daily.

Early 19th Century

Social and political illustration reaches the public through satirical prints, newspapers and journals. Illustrated novels become more common as does fiction intended for children.

Late 19th Century

Illustrated children's literature and illustrated magazines bring the beauty and pleasure of art into daily life.

The Decade 1900-1910

Magazines extend their media dominance and take advantage of new color printing capabilities.

The Decade 1910-1920

Full-color printing is adopted by all the major magazines, and book publishers produce novels and classic literature with illustrated plates.

The Decade 1920-1930

New illustration stylizations join traditional ones to portray post-war American culture in the "Roaring Twenties."

The Decade 1930-1940

The illustration profession in the 1930s was radically affected by the Great Depression and new forms of entertainment.

The Decade 1940-1950

Illustrators depict war-time adventure and romance stories in magazines and use their talents to help support the war effort.

The Decade 1950-1960

The decade of the 1950s is a bridge between pre- and post-war illustration and the new illustration styles of the 1960s.

The Decade 1960-1970

Contemporary social and political issues dominate American culture and are reflected by the art of illustration as the post-war generation comes of age.

The Decade 1970-1980

The 1970s were the beginning of a two-decade long "renaissance" in illustration.

The Decade 1980-1990

The illustration profession changes as new communication technologies affect the ways that art and business are conducted.

The Decade 1990-2000

Illustrators take up new digital tools and struggle in an economy adjusting to technological change.

The Decade 2000-2010

Technological innovation opens up new opportunities for illustrators.

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Quick Links

Why should anyone bother learning about things that happened far away and long ago? Who cares about Cleopatra, Charlemagne, Montezuma or Confucius? And why worry about George Washington, or how democratic government and industrial society arose? Isn't there quite enough to learn about the world today? Why add to the burden by looking at the past? Historians ought to try to answer such questions by saying what the study of history is good for, and what it cannot do. But since no one can speak for the historical profession as a whole, this essay is no more than a personal statement, commissioned by the American Historical Association in the hope of convincing all concerned that the study of history is indeed worthwhile and necessary for the education of effective citizens and worthy human beings. Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory. As such it can both make us wiser in our public choices and more richly human in our private lives.

Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory.

Without individual memory, a person literally loses his or her identity, and would not know how to act in encounters with others. Imagine waking up one morning unable to tell total strangers from family and friends! Collective memory is similar, though its loss does not immediately paralyze everyday private activity. But ignorance of history-that is, absent or defective collective memory-does deprive us of the best available guide for public action, especially in encounters with outsiders, whether the outsiders are another nation, another civilization, or some special group within national borders.

Often it is enough for experts to know about outsiders, if their advice is listened to. But democratic citizenship and effective participation in the determination of public policy require citizens to share a collective memory, organized into historical knowledge and belief. Otherwise, agreement on what ought to be done in a given situation is difficult to achieve. Agreement on some sort of comfortable falsehood will not do, for without reasonably accurate knowledge of the past, we cannot expect to accomplish intended results, simply because we will fail to foresee how others are likely to react to anything we decide on. Nasty surprises and frustrating failures are sure to multiply under such circumstances.

This value of historical knowledge obviously justifies teaching and learning about what happened in recent times, for the way things are descends from the way they were yesterday and the day before that. But in fact, institutions that govern a great deal of our everyday behavior took shape hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Having been preserved and altered across the generations to our own time, they are sure to continue into the future. The United States government is such an institution so is the world market, armies and the Christian church. Skills like writing, and devices like bureaucracy are even older than Christianity, and concerns that bother us still can be read into the cave paintings left behind by Stone Age hunters as much as twenty thousand years ago. Only an acquaintance with the entire human adventure on earth allows us to understand these dimensions of contemporary reality.

Memory is not something fixed and forever. As time passes, remembered personal experiences take on new meanings. A bitter disappointment may come to seem a blessing in disguise a triumph may later turn sour, while something trivial may subsequently loom large-all because of what happens later on. Collective memory is quite the same. Historians are always at work reinterpreting the past, asking new questions, searching new sources and finding new meanings in old documents in order to bring the perspective of new knowledge and experience to bear on the task of understanding the past. This means, of course, that what we know and believe about history is always changing. In other words, our collective, codified memory alters with time just as personal memories do, and for the same reasons.

When teachers of history admit that their best efforts at understanding the past are only tentative and sure to be altered in time to come, skeptics are likely to conclude that history has no right to take student time from other subjects. If what is taught today is not really true, how can it claim space in a crowded school curriculum?

But what if the world is more complicated and diverse than words can ever tell? What if human minds are incapable of finding' neat pigeon holes into which everything that happens will fit? What if we have to learn to live with uncertainty and probabilities, and act on the basis of the best guesswork we are capable of? Then, surely, the changing perspectives of historical understanding are the very best introduction we can have to the practical problems of real life. Then, surely, a serious effort to understand the interplay of change and continuity in human affairs is the only adequate introduction human beings can have to the confusing flow of events that constitutes the actual, adult world.

Since that is the way the world is, it follows that study of history is essential for every young person. Systematic sciences are not enough. They discount time, and therefore oversimplify reality, especially human reality. Current events are not enough either. Destined to almost instant obsolescence, they foreshorten and thereby distort the time dimension within which human lives unfold and, thanks to memory, are conducted.

Memory, indeed, makes us human. History, our collective memory, carefully codified and critically revised, makes us social, sharing ideas and ideals with others so as to form all sorts of different human groups. Each such group acts as it does largely because of shared ideas and beliefs about the past and about what the past, as understood and interpreted by the group in question, tells about the present and probable future.

BUT, you may say: suppose we agree that some sort of knowledge of history is essential for an adult understanding of the world, what actually belongs in our classrooms? The varieties of history are enormous facts and probabilities about the past are far too numerous for anyone to comprehend them all. Every sort of human group has its own history so do ideas, institutions, techniques, areas, civilizations, and humanity at large. How to begin? Where to start? How bring some sort of order to the enormous variety of things known and believed about the past?

Teachers of history have always had to struggle with these questions. Early in this century, teachers and academic administrators pretty well agreed that two sorts of history courses were needed: a survey of the national history of the United States and a survey of European history. This second course was often broadened into a survey of Western civilization in the 1930s and 1940s. But by the 1960s and 1970s these courses were becoming outdated, left behind by the rise of new kinds social and quantitative history, especially the history of women, of Blacks, and of other formerly overlooked groups within the borders of the United States, and of peoples emerging from colonial status in the world beyond our borders. These, and still other new sorts of history, enhanced older sensibilities and corrected older biases but, being both new and different, did not fit smoothly into existing surveys of U.S. national history and western civilization.

Teachers found it exciting to teach the new kinds of history in special courses that allowed them time to develop the subject properly. It was less satisfying and much harder to combine old with new to make an inclusive, judiciously balanced (and far less novel) introductory course for high school or college students.

But abandoning the effort to present a meaningful portrait of the entire national and civilizational past destroyed the original justification for requiring students to study history. As specialized electives multiplied, historians could not convince others that random samples from the past, reflecting each teacher's special expertise or interests, belonged in everyone's education. For if one sample was as good as another, none could claim to be essential. Competing subjects abounded, and no one could or would decide what mattered most and should take precedence. As this happened, studying history became only one among many possible ways of spending time in school.

Level I. Personal-Local History

The costs of this change are now becoming apparent, and many concerned persons agree that returning to a more structured curriculum, in which history ought to play a prominent part, is imperative. But choice of what sort of history to teach remains as difficult as ever. Clearly we need careful reflection about, and search for, enduring patterns and critical turning points in the past, for these are the historical facts that everyone needs to know, not what happens to interest a particular teacher or aspiring specialist. Whether historians will rise to the occasion and successfully bring old and new sorts of history together into an understandable whole remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, a few obvious suggestions are all that can be offered here.

Amongst all the varieties of history that specialists have so energetically and successfully explored in recent decades, three levels of generality seem likely to have the greatest importance for ordinary people. First is family, local, neighborhood history: something often transmitted orally, but worth attention in school for all that. This would seem especially important for primary school years, when children start to experience the world outside their homes. Second is national history, because that is where political power is concentrated in our time. Last is global history, because intensified communications make encounters with all the other peoples of the earth increasingly important. These levels belong to high school and college, in the years when young people start to pay attention to public affairs and prepare to assume the responsibilities of citizenship. Other pasts are certainly worth attention, but are better studied in the context of a prior acquaintance with personal-local, national, and global history. That is because these three levels are the ones that affect most powerfully what all other groups and segments of society actually do.

Can such courses be taught and fitted into the curriculum? The answer is yes, if teachers and administrators try hard to put first things first and achieve a modicum of clarity about what everyone ought to know. National history that leaves out Blacks and women and other minorities is no longer acceptable but American history that leaves out the Founding Fathers and the Constitution is not acceptable either. What is needed is a vision of the whole, warts and all. Global history is perhaps more difficult. Certainly our traditional training sidesteps the problem of attaining a satisfactory vision of the history of humanity, since few historians even try for a global overview. Still, some have made the attempt. Moreover, every scale of history has its own appropriate patterns which, once perceived, are as definite and as easily tested by the evidence as are the meaningful patterns that emerge on any other scale. This means, I think, that careful and critical world history is attainable just as surely as is a careful and critical national history that does not omit the important and newly self-conscious groups that were previously overlooked.

Level II: National History

But consensus is slow to come, and may never be achieved. In the meanwhile, teachers and curriculum planners have a difficult task. Authoritative models for courses in national and global history are not readily available. Personal and neighborhood history, too, must be worked out independently for each classroom and locality. But questions to be asked and the range of information that can be handled by children in the primary grades is, perhaps, less difficult to agree upon than at the high school and college levels. Serious and concentrated effort is clearly called for. Only so can history and historians deserve and expect to regain the central place in the education of the young that once was theirs.

THREE points remain. First, the study of history does not lead to exact prediction of future events. Though it fosters practical wisdom, knowledge of the past does not permit anyone to know exactly what is going to happen. Looking at some selected segment from the past in order to find out what will occur "next time" can mislead the unwary, simply because the complex setting within which human beings act is never twice the same. Consequently, the lessons of history, though supremely valuable when wisely formulated, become grossly misleading when oversimplifiers try to transfer them mechanically from one age to another, or from one place to another. Anyone who claims to perform such a feat is sadly self-deceived. Practical wisdom requires us instead to expect differences as well as similarities, changes as well as continuities-always and everywhere. Predictable fixity is simply not the human way of behaving. Probabilities and possibilities-together with a few complete surprises-are what we live with and must learn to expect.

Second, as acquaintance with the past expands, delight in knowing more and more can and often does become an end in itself. History offers innumerable heroes and villains. Reading about what people did in far away times and places enlarges our sense of human capacities both for good and evil. Encountering powerful commitments to vanished ideas and ideals, like those that built the pyramids, puts our personal commitment to our own ideals into a new perspective, perhaps bitter-sweet. Discovering fears and hopes like our own in pages written by the medieval Japanese courtier, Lady Murasaki, or reading about the heroic and futile quest for immortality undertaken by the ancient Mesopotamian king, Gilgamesh, stirs a sense of shared humanity that reaches back to the beginning of civilization and across all cultural barriers.

On the other hand, studying alien religious beliefs, strange customs, diverse family patterns and vanished social structures shows how differently various human groups have tried to cope with the world around them. Broadening our humanity and extending our sensibilities by recognizing sameness and difference throughout the recorded past is therefore an important reason for studying history, and especially the history of peoples far away and long ago. For we can only know ourselves by knowing how we resemble and how we differ from others. Acquaintance with the human past is the only way to such self knowledge.

. ignorance of history--that is, absent or defective collective memory--does deprive us of the best available guide for public action .. .

Finally, for those especially attracted to it, search into odd corners and contemplation of the main outlines of history can develop into a hunt for understandings of one's own, as new ideas about connections between one thing and another spring to mind. This sort of historical research and creativity is, of course, the special province of graduate school and of the historical profession at large. Reinterpretations and modifications of received notions about what really happened result from such personal venturing and new ideas and meanings, tested against the evidence available to other historians, feed into high school and college classrooms by providing teachers with an ever-evolving understanding of the past to set before the young.

In such interaction between research and teaching, eternal and unchanging truth does not emerge. Only inspired, informed guesses about what mattered and how things changed through time. That is all human minds can do to unravel the mystery of humanity and of human groups' encounters with one another and with the world. Not very good, perhaps simply the best we have in the unending effort to understand ourselves and others, and what happens and will happen to us and to them, time without end.


A civilization is a complex human society that may have certain characteristics of cultural and technological development.

Anthropology, Archaeology, Sociology, Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations

Mandalay Myanmar

This forest of Buddhist shrines remains at Myanmar's (Burma's) first capital.

A civilization is a complex human society, usually made up of different cities, with certain characteristics of cultural and technological development. In many parts of the world, early civilizations formed when people began coming together in urban settlements. However, defining what civilization is, and what societies fall under that designation, is a hotly contested argument, even among today&rsquos anthropologists.

The word &ldquocivilization&rdquo relates to the Latin word &ldquocivitas&rdquo or &ldquocity.&rdquo This is why the most basic definition of the word &ldquocivilization&rdquo is &ldquoa society made up of cities.&rdquo But early in the development of the term, anthropologists and others used &ldquocivilization&rdquo and &ldquocivilized society&rdquo to differentiate between societies they found culturally superior (which they were often a part of), and those they found culturally inferior (which they referred to as &ldquosavage&rdquo or &ldquobarbaric&rdquo cultures). The term &ldquocivilization&rdquo was often applied in an ethnocentric way, with &ldquocivilizations&rdquo being considered morally good and culturally advanced, and other societies being morally wrong and &ldquobackward.&rdquo This complicated history is what makes defining a civilization troublesome for scholars, and why today&rsquos modern definition is still in flux.

Still, most anthropologists agree on some criteria to define a society as a civilization. First, civilizations have some kind of urban settlements and are not nomadic. With support from the other people living in the settlement, labor is divided up into specific jobs (called the division of labor), so not everyone has to focus on growing their own food. From this specialization comes class structure and government, both aspects of a civilization. Another criterion for civilization is a surplus of food, which comes from having tools to aid in growing crops. Writing, trading, artwork and monuments, and development of science and technology are all aspects of civilizations.

However, there are many societies that scholars consider civilizations that do not meet all of the criteria above. For example, the Incan Empire was a large civilization with a government and social hierarchy. It left behind a wealth of art, and had highly developed architecture­­­&mdashbut no written language. This is why the concept of &ldquocivilization&rdquo is hard to define however, it is still a helpful framework with which to view how humans come together and form a society.

This forest of Buddhist shrines remains at Myanmar's (Burma's) first capital.

How Do Scientists Study Ancient Climates?

Scientists study Earth&rsquos climate and the ways that it changes in a variety of different ways, using satellite, instrumental, historical, and environmental records. One challenge of using satellite and instrumental data is that their lifespans have been rather short when compared to Earth&rsquos life. The satellite record is only a little over 20 years old and the instrumental record only extends back into the 19th century. Both of these records can be too short to study certain climate processes that occur over hundreds to thousands of years.

To extend those records, paleoclimatologists look for clues in Earth&rsquos natural environmental records. Clues about the past climate are buried in sediments at the bottom of the oceans, locked away in coral reefs, frozen in glaciers and ice caps, and preserved in the rings of trees. Each of these natural recorders provides scientists with information about temperature, precipitation, and more. Many of these have some type of layers, bands, or rings that represent a fixed amount of time, often a year or growing season. The layers vary in thickness, color, chemical composition, and more, which allows scientists to extrapolate information about the climate at the time each layer formed.

Scientists can then take the records left by many different types of natural records and combine them to get an overall picture of the global climate. Typically, records that have large timespans have less detail about short-term climate changes, while shorter records are often more detailed. To combine them, scientists must use records with similar levels of temporal detail or account for these disparities to accurately paint a picture of ancient climates.

Visit the Paleoclimatology Data page to learn more about and access all of the historical data NCDC&rsquos Paleoclimatology Program stewards. Or visit What is Paleoclimatology? to learn more about the study of ancient climates.

Watch the video: 1ο σεμινάριο για την τέχνη και τον πολιτισμό στο ΠΠΙΕΔ