What is History?

Junior Cert History > First Year > Introduction

The very first question you'll be asked at the very start of First Year is What is History? History is the study of the past, and over the next three years (and maybe more!) you'll study how we study the past, why we study the past and what we have learned from studying the past.

Your History course will take you from the Stone Age in Ireland through to the Middle Ages (where most of our castle ruins come from), to the Plantations when England started to take control over Ireland to the 20th century when Ireland finally gained independence. You'll look at Ancient Rome and move forward to the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Age of Revolutions, and finally the two World Wars and what came after them.

You'll learn about Romans, knights, soldiers and ordinary people, and you'll learn about famous figures such as Christopher Columbus, Queen Elizabeth I, Adolf Hitler and John F. Kennedy.

Most importantly, you'll learn why the world is as it is, and how it (and we) got there - and that journey is far from over!

However, before you learn any of this, you must learn some basics...

Next Stop: Archaeology

Here's a checklist to help you revise this section.
  • What is history? 
    •  History is the study of the past, using...
  • Primary Sources and Secondary Sources:
    • You must be able to tell the difference between a primary source and a secondary source, and give an example of each.
  • Types of Sources:
    • There are three main types: written, visual and oral. You must be able to give examples of all three.
  • Bias, Prejudice and Propaganda:
    • These are the most common problems with sources. You must be able to explain each one, and name some other problems that can come up when looking at sources.
  • Chronology:
    • Chronology is the study of time. When we look at years in History, some are marked BC and others are marked AD. What do we mean by this? Which comes first? And just what do we mean by prehistory?

Ordinary Level:
1.   Which date is earlier: 96 BC or 90 AD? (2012 OL)

2.   Give one reason why the information in historical documents can be sometimes incorrect.
      (2012 OL, 2010 OL)

3.   Explain what is meant by the initials B.C. in the year 178 B.C. (2015 OL)

4.   Explain what is meant by a primary source. (2008 OL)

Higher Level:
1.   Explain one of the following terms used by historians: (2011 HL)
              Propaganda;       Archive;       Bias.

2.   What is a secondary source? Give an example. (2015 HL, 2010 HL, 2007 HL)

3.   What do historians mean by the term Prehistory? (2009 HL)

A Nazi propaganda poster of Hitler.
What kind of message do you think the Nazis are trying to give about Hitler in this poster?

Captain America beating up Hitler in a WWII-era comic. Is this a kind of propaganda just like the poster? Why do you think so? What message is it giving?

The National Archives Census Records (1901 and 1911)
You'll learn in this chapter that census records are a primary source. The Irish National Archives have put the entire records for the 1901 census and the 1911 census online, where you can search them.

Do you know where your grandparents or great-grandparents were living back then? Have a look, you might find them!

Irish Genealogy
Genealogy is the study of family history. Have you ever made a family tree? The National Archives can help you for 1901 and 1911, and this site can help you for the 19th century. It has church baptismal and marriage records (Catholic and Church of Ireland), and you could find some ancestors here.

At the moment it only covers Cork, Kerry, Dublin and Carlow, but the people behind the site are working to add other areas.

Libraries in Ireland
Your nearest library has a lot of stories and kids' books, but it also has history books! Books about history aren't always big heavy books with tiny writing inside them, there are a lot geared towards younger people - especially the Horrible Histories series. Have a look at your library, see what you might find!

City libraries have newspaper collections. You can view old newspapers from years ago in big hardbound book collections, or you can view even older newspapers on microfilm. They can be useful if you're trying to find an old birth or death notice for someone in your family.

History Timelines
A timeline isn't just that new thing Facebook introduced recently. The things you learn about in History could take place over just a few years (e.g. World War II 1939 - 1945) or centuries (e.g. the Middle Ages, 5th century - 15th century). If you want to imagine such a long time in your head, writing is as a timeline can help. This site has timelines for events which have taken place throughout history. It might be useful to you studying different chapters later.

Horrible Histories
I mentioned them earlier, but Horrible Histories are a great book and TV series if you're interested in anything to do with History. Keep an eye out for it!