History is a term for information about the past. When used as the name of a field of study, history refers to the study and interpretation of the record of human societies. The term history comes from the Greek "ιστορία" historia, "an account of one's inquiries," and shares that etymology with the English word story. The 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica remarked that "history in the wider sense is all that has happened, not merely all the phenomena of human life, but those of the natural world as well. It includes everything that undergoes change; and as modern science has shown that there is nothing absolutely static, therefore the whole universe, and every part of it, has its history."
Historians use many types of sources, including written or printed records, interviews (oral history), and archaeology. Different approaches may be more common in some periods than others, and the study of history has its fads and fashions (see historiography). The events that occurred prior to human records are known as prehistory.
Knowledge of history is often said to encompass both knowledge of past events and historical thinking skills.
A criticism of history as a field has been that it has too narrowly focused on political events or on individuals. Deeper and more significant changes in terms of ideas, technology, family life and culture have received too little attention. Recent developments in history have sought to redress this.
It should be noted that the term 'History' is not used to represent the entire history of our species, but events that have occured since the agricultural revolution and the appearance of civilizations, the past 10,000 years or so. Events that occur before this time are lumped together under the term prehistory (which covers more than 99% of our species' time on this planet), despite no change in the genetic make up of pre and post-historic humans.
A very large amount of historical information is available, and several different ways of classifying it are given below.
By geographic region
By geographic subregion
By time period
By ideological classification (historiography)
Although there is arguably some intrinsic bias in history studies (with national bias perhaps being the most significant), history can also be studied from narrow ideological perspectives, which practitioners feel are often ignored, such as:
A form of historical speculation known commonly as virtual history, or "counterfactual history", has also been adopted by some historians as a means of assessing and exploring the possible outcomes if certain events had not occurred or had occurred in a different way. This is somewhat similar to the alternative history genre in fiction.
Lists of false or dubious historical resources and historical myths that were once popular and widespread, or have becomes so, have also been prepared.