Meaning of history

History is the study of man and his activities in different times.

These activities enable man to obtain his basic needs. Man’s basic needs are food, clothes, and shelter.


History is the record of human activities, which enable man to survival and attain essential needs from the environment.


  • It helps to understand how African societies were formed, how they developed and the factors that influenced this development.
  • It helps us to understand and appreciate the efforts made and strategies used by African people to regain their independence
  • It helps to understand conflict resolution and effective participation in social, economic and political development of Africa.
  • It helps us to develop an understanding of the relationships between African’s development problems and foreign intrusion
  • It develop our patriotism, as students know their heroes and traitors.
  • It enlightens people about the advantages of certain economic practices.
  • It helps to understand the level of development at different stages of human development
  • It helps us to learn about technological transformations, for example from stone ages to Iron Age.
  • It helps to understand the relationship that existed between humans and the environment.
  • It helps to understand the past, present to plan the future.


Sources of history refers to the ways that can be used to get historical information.

Sources of history/historical knowledge sources:

  1. Oral tradition
  2. Historical sites
  3. Written records/documents
  4. Archives
  5. Museums
  6. Archaeology
  7. Anthropology
  8. Linguistics
  9. Audio- visual record, e.g. Cassettes, Cd’s, and TV programs etc.


Oral tradition refers to the passing information by word of mouth through talking and listening.

Oral tradition passes historical information into two ways:

  1. culture practices
  2. Narration of past events.


  • It preserves historical information of society
  • I t collects and pass historical information between generations in the society.
  • It helps researchers in data collection.


  1. It preserve and reveal historical information which are not recorded
  2. Both illiterate and literate people can obtain historical information.
  3. Within oral tradition, there are warning and teachings.
  4. Is the easiest and cheapest method of obtaining information?
  5. It is live source, since it involves physical interaction.


  1. It needs much attention and power of memory
  2. False information can be given by storyteller.
  3. Narration of historical events are centered to those people of status i.e. Kings, Queens, Chief. White talking little about common society.
  4. There is a language problem when narrator uses vernacular language.
  5. It is difficult to distinguish what is real and what is imaginary information.
  6. Translation is very difficult because some languages are no longer in existence.


Historical sites are special places where by the past human remains can be found and shown to the public. They comprise man’s physical development, tools that were made and used from time to time.

Examples of historical sites:

In Tanzania: Isimila, Olduvai George, Kondoa Irangi, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Kilwa, Mafia, Engaruka, Kagera etc

In Uganda:  Nsongezi, Biggo, Ntubi, Rusinga Island, Magosi and Ishago.

In Kenya: Lake Rudolf (Turkana), Lake Naivasha, Njoro, Olongesailie, Lake Magadi, Lamu, Mombasa and mt. Kenya


  1. Preserves historical information for the coming generations.
  2. They are useful sources of information and to reconstruct history.
  3. They are the symbols of social cultural heritage to the society concern past human tools, rock, paints etc.


  1. They help for practical historical learning e.g. through observation of tools, rock, paints.
  2. Used to reveal past settlement patterns, levels of technology, economic development and political organization reached by the past societies.
  3. Acts as centers of tourism.
  4. They helps in transforming theoretical teaching of history to practical historical learning.
  5. It acts as the resource centers to researchers.
  6. It provides employment opportunities e.g. guiders


  1. It brings confusion to interpret the remains found in historical sites
  2. Difficult for many people to visit them because many of historical sites are found on remote areas hence.



Archaeology refers to the scientific study of past human remain. It is the study of material remains of man’s past through scientific methods.

The one specializes in archeology is called ARCHAEOLOGIST.

Archaeology involves excavations (digging) of the remains of man’s past. The famous archaeologist in East Africa was Dr. Louis Leaky with his wife Mary Leakey. Archaeology involves the use of carbon 14 dating to determine plants and animal remains.


  1. Gives important information about man through different stages.
  2. It is a useful method of revealing soil covered historical remains.
  3. It arouse curiosity of searching past man historical information.


  1. It helps people to know when and how people lived in a certain place.
  2. Past objects tell us about the life and culture of past people.
  3. It helps us to know and reveal the technology, pastoral, agricultural and commercial activities of the past man.
  4. Through excavation, we get knowledge of artifacts e.g. Pottery, building etc.
  5. It reveals religious beliefs of the past man
  6. We can complement other sources of information through archaeology e.g. History
  7. We can know the past relationship between different people such as trading activities, migration, marriage, birth, death and political relation.


  1. It consumes time because of excavation.
  2. It cannot reveal the past people’s language.
  3. It cannot give out the reasons for historical events such as wars.
  4. It needs full experts and advanced technology.
  5. Poorly interpreted remains can bring false information
  6. It cannot tell anything about the past social organization


Archives are places where collection of public and private documents and old record are preserved. These documents includes personal letters, early travelers, missionary records, traders writings, personal and government files, political parties documents, etc.


  1. Archives preserve public and private records that have enduring value to the society.
  2. The public makes the records in archives available for use. However not all records can be viewed by everyone.
  3. Archives collect records of enduring value from various places. For example, the nation archives have records from different regions of the country.
  4. The archives staff maintains registers of the record in the archives.
  5. Archives have facilities for restoring damaged documents of enduring value.
  6. Archives have facilities for restoring damaged documents of enduring value.
  7. The historical information in the archives ensures continuity.


  1. Easy to identify ideas and literacy level of the past man.
  2. It is easy to identify the exact date of historical event.
  3. It used to store historical information.
  4. Easy to get historical information from different places and different people.


  1. It may lead false information, if author is biased.
  2. Illiterate people cannot get historical information.
  3. It is not easy to get information of society whose information is not documented.
  4. It is difficult to get remote information from archives.
  5. It is nonrenewable once disrupted either by wind.


Museums are places or buildings where information and objects are preserved. It involves all terms which shows culture, political economic and technological development from the past to the present.

Objects can be early coins, clothes, and mineral cowries, religious and ceremonial symbols.

Museum can be national, Regional, District and village. Example: National Museums in Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo, Butiama, Kalenga-Iringa.


  1. Preserve historical documents and objects.
  2. Shows concrete remains of objects.
  3. It is the place for tourist and study tour.
  4. It is the center for cultural and national identity.


  1. It preserves objects, which are used as the teaching aids.
  2. Museum preserves culture and national identity.
  3. It used by researcher (source of information)
  4. It acts as tourist center.
  5. People learn about technological development.
  6. Enable learners to arouse creativity.


  1. It needs knowledgeable people.
  2. It is possible to distort information through biases by the museum attendant.
  3. Poor preservation of the past items e.g. coins, pieces of cloth, slaves chain can distort information.
  4. It needs extensive care to maintain its beauty or origin.


Written records are the documents which comprise written historical information. This includes books, letters, maps, magazines, journal, newspaper, minutes of meetings and conferences.

Written records can be found in libraries, schools, colleges, universities, internet cafes and offices.


  • Written records provide pictures of society.
  • These records reflect public opinion at the time of writing.
  • Written records serve as stores of a large variety of information
  • In-depth reports of daily events are kept as written records


  1. It is easy to get information.
  2. Easy to make references
  3. It is helpful in doing researches.
  4. They can be kept for long time.


  1. It can give false information if they are biased by the author
  2. It is difficult to read everything from written records
  3. They are subject to be badly written.
  4. Illiterate people cannot get information.


Linguistics is the scientific study and analysis of language. It includes study of sound, structure, information and relationship between various language groups.


  1. It helps to get information from various sources.
  2. Enables to discover links between different people.
  3. It helps to determine dates of historical event e.g. “Aluta continua” (Period of struggle for independence in Mozambique)


  1. It consumes time and finance learning a particular language
  2. Through translation, one can commit some important work.
  3. The present language may be corrupted.


Anthropology is the study of the society’s cultural systems such as beliefs and ideas. The study can give important information about movements, settlements and production activities of the past.


Historians usually divide time into several categories, namely

Day is a duration of twenty four hours (24hrs)

Week is a duration of seven days (7days)

Month is the duration of four weeks (4 weeks)

Year is a duration of twelve months (12 moths)

Decade is a duration of ten years (10 years)

Century is the duration of one hundred years (100 years)

Millennium is the duration of thousand years (1000 years)

Generation is the average differences on ages between a child and his/her parent.

Age is the period based on ma’s economic activities and type of tools used e.g. stone age, iron age, industrial age, science and technology age, etc.

Period is determined by one continuous event lasting for number of years E.g. Period of slave trade in East Africa, Period of long distance trade, and Period of colonial rule in Africa

Some points has chosen in order to divide time:

  • Year ZERO to present the year when Jesus Christ was born. It is known as Anno Domino (A.D) meaning the year of the Lord
  • All years before zero are called C meaning Before Christ (The years before the birth of Jesus Christ)


Dates are instrument in a science of history; these historians divided dates into four ways/there are four ways of remembering dates of an event. These are:

Recalling events

Here important events are recalled/remembered e.g. drought, farming, floods, birth, eruption of diseases etc.

By studying languages

Some names helps people to remember dates of some events. E.g., Word “Karafuu” started when Cloves were introduced in Zanzibar.

Carbon 14

Carbon 14 is a scientific method of determining dates. It used in the finding dates for remains of animals or plants, which died beyond 5000 years ago.

Carbon 14 is a gas found in carbon dioxide, which exists in the atmosphere.  It absorbed by plant and other living organisms. When died carbon 14 starts to decay at a fixed rate from the time of death.

Orders of events

Order of events refers to the ways showing order of events, period and ages, among of them are:

  • Time graph
  • Time chart
  • Time line
  • Family tree
1 1884-1885 The Britain Conference
2 1914-1918 The first World war period
3 1939-1945 The second world war period
4 1961 Tanganyika become independent
5 1962 Tanganyika became Republic
6 1992 Introduction of multiparty system in Tanzania.



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