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Portal:History

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The History Portal

Historia, 1892 painting by Nikolaos Gyzis

History (from Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.

History can also refer to the academic discipline which uses a narrative to examine and analyse a sequence of past events, and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them. Historians sometimes debate the nature of history and its usefulness by discussing the study of the discipline as an end in itself and as a way of providing "perspective" on the problems of the present.

Stories common to a particular culture, but not supported by external sources (such as the tales surrounding King Arthur), are usually classified as cultural heritage or legends, because they do not show the "disinterested investigation" required of the discipline of history. Herodotus, a 5th-century BC Greek historian is considered within the Western tradition to be the "father of history", and, along with his contemporary Thucydides, helped form the foundations for the modern study of human history. Their works continue to be read today, and the gap between the culture-focused Herodotus and the military-focused Thucydides remains a point of contention or approach in modern historical writing. In East Asia, a state chronicle, the Spring and Autumn Annals was known to be compiled from as early as 722 BC although only 2nd-century BC texts survived.

Ancient influences have helped spawn variant interpretations of the nature of history which have evolved over the centuries and continue to change today. The modern study of history is wide-ranging, and includes the study of specific regions and the study of certain topical or thematical elements of historical investigation. Often history is taught as part of primary and secondary education, and the academic study of history is a major discipline in university studies.

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The Great Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza are among the most recognizable symbols of the civilization of ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3500 BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh. The history of ancient Egypt occurred in a series of stable Kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age. Egypt reached the pinnacle of its power during the New Kingdom, in the Ramesside period, after which it entered a period of slow decline. Egypt was conquered by a succession of foreign powers in this late period. In the aftermath of Alexander the Great's death, one of his generals, Ptolemy Soter, established himself as the new ruler of Egypt. This Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt until 30 BC, when it fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province.

The success of ancient Egyptian civilization came partly from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River Valley. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which fueled social development and culture. With resources to spare, the administration sponsored mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions, the early development of an independent writing system, the organization of collective construction and agricultural projects, trade with surrounding regions, and a military intended to defeat foreign enemies and assert Egyptian dominance. Motivating and organizing these activities was a bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, and administrators under the control of a Pharaoh who ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people in the context of an elaborate system of religious beliefs.

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Painting, ca. 1485. An artist's interpretation, since the only portrait for which she is known to have sat has not survived.
Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d'Arc; French pronunciation: ​[ʒan daʁk]; 6 January c. 1412 – 30 May 1431), nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" (French: La Pucelle d'Orléans), is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years' War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. She was born to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée, a peasant family, at Domrémy in north-east France. Joan claimed to have received visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent Joan to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence after the siege was lifted only nine days later. Several additional swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims. This long-awaited event boosted French morale and paved the way for the final French victory.

On 23 May 1430, she was captured at Compiègne by the Burgundian faction, a group of French nobles allied with the English. She was later handed over to the English and put on trial by the pro-English bishop Pierre Cauchon on a variety of charges. After Cauchon declared her guilty she was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, dying at about nineteen years of age.

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Buzz Aldrin's footprint, taken by himself on Apollo 11, the first manned mission to the moon, on July 20, 1969. The print was part of an experiment to test the properties of the lunar regolith, but today it is known for being one of the most iconic things left on the moon by humans.

On this day

November 14: World Diabetes Day

The ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral
The ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral

Marie François Xavier Bichat (b. 1771) · John Lumsden (b. 1869) · Andrew Inglis Clark (d. 1907)

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Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

— Sun Tzu, Ancient Chinese military strategist

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Crusades

"High ideas were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self righteousness, and the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God, which is a sin against the Holy Ghost."
Steven Runciman

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