History & Historians | Part 1 – The Ancient World
“The earliest historians whose writings have come down to us are the authors of the records on the monuments of Egypt and Mesopotamia…these records, made in languages only recovered in the past two centuries, are full of historical interest because of the facts they narrate and the insight they hive us into the life of their times…”
“There is, indeed, one regard in which these most ancient historical records have an advantage over more recent works. They were for the most part graven in stone or stamped in clay that was burned to stonelike hardness… Their unnamed authors seem thus to speak to us directly across the centuries… The most recent of these records had been seen by no human eye for more than two thousand years…and written in a language which had ceased to be known to men…”
Historiographic Note #1: When the term “ancient” is used to describe a period in history, generally we mean the world which preceded the classical, or Greece-Roman world. Date-wise, that would typically be before c. 500 B.C.
Historiographic Note #2: The little c. before a date is the abbreviated form of the Latin word circa, meaning “about” or “approximately”. Since historical periods often overlap, it is important to communicate a degree of flexibility about dates; and the further back you go, the more flexibility is needed.
Excerpted from: The Historians' History of the World: Prolegomena; Egypt, Mesopotamia edited by Henry Smith Williams, Volume 1, 1907. (2-3)