Characteristics of history refer to those things that are peculiar to history. These include:
- History deals with facts and not mere stories, rumours or spiritual beliefs: In the study of history, the historian deals with facts by interpreting and analyzing his sources. The historian would have to investigate the past events, gather information and materials, analyse them and bring out the facts. Indeed, without facts, the work of a historian has no substance. This is what E.H. Carr described in his definition of history as “an interaction between the historians and his facts.”
- History has made man as its focus: Man is the central focus of history. It is the sum total of man’s activities in any environment for a period of time that produces history. The creation of man marked the beginning of history.
- History study has scope: By scope, we mean that in studying history, we usually define the time and geographical frame or scope. There must be a particular area of study and a particular time we must cover in the study because it is not possible to study the entire history of man’s activities all over the world, from antiquity to the present within a school curriculum. Moreover, events in history happened at different times. For example, we can study the economic History of Nigeria from 1900 to 1960. History involves unfolding of events. This means history can anticipate what is coming based on past events.
- History has a relationship with several disciplines especially in arts and sciences: For example, history relates with economics because we study the economic history of different societies with the aim of understanding how man earned a living. History also relates with government because it studies political institutions. History relates with social studies because it attempts to understand the activities of man and his interaction with fellow men. In medicine, a doctor must enquire about the family medical history of his or her parent before recommending treatment.
- History must be chronological and sequential: In the study of history, the historian must always present history in an orderly manner using chronology and sequence such that events are arranged in the way they occurred. Without chronology, events would be scattered or disorganized. This is why events of 18th and 19th centuries must come before events of the 20th and 21st
- Acknowledgement of sources: Finally, in the study of history, there must be proper acknowledgement of sources of information. In other words, it is very important for the historian to always disclose how and where he got his information and facts from.