History according to the Webster Dictionary:
- a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes
- a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events <medieval history>
- a : events that form the subject matter of a history b : events of the past
This traditional definition is broad enough to compass the study as it is known by most people. Notice how it states that history is a “chronological record” and how “events” are emphasized in each sub-definition. Assuming this, history is grounded in the arrangement and explanation of events in the order in which they occur; that is chronology at its root. At its best, timelines can make excellent visual aids. At its worst, history becomes a field of study that one must endure endless memorization of places, figures, and dates.
History isn’t all memorization; the fact that Webster’s definition mentions “an explanation of their [the events] causes” shows that there are additional levels such as comprehension and analysis. However, there remains the problem of comprehending the scale of history, especially when given an arrangement of events on a timeline. For instance, one person’s decision to measure a year or a century as ten centimeters on a line is certainly not another’s.
One established method transcending the nature of a timeline is to look at the "big picture.” By this method, we no longer have to measure history, but think of history as a fluid process in which events and trends are inextricably intertwined. A variety of historical elements can be analyzed at this level, but all relate to the history as a whole. The author Jared Diamond, in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, stressed that geography determined the destinies of civilizations and the history as a whole. Diamond's analysis of history drew interconnected webs rather than a linear timeline. It is with this third-dimensional perspective that we can reach the upper level of historical studies.
To simplify the perception of history even further, we must investigate the perception of time itself, because at its core, history is made of time. There are number of theories and other viewpoints on how to deal with the idea of time. The conclusions that can be drawn from the study of time can allow us to approach history on a scientific basis. That is why we’ve chosen to investigate “the science of history.”