Historical sources are elements that researchers and university students use to study History. That is: to investigate the origin, events and culture of people.
So, generally speaking, they are all material and immaterial items that human people produced and left behind as vestiges of past times.
This is because all these elements demarcate specific characteristics of the time in which they were produced. That is why they are fundamental to provide new information for investigations into the past.
In this context, everything produced by people can be a historical source. In other words: written texts, paintings, sculptures, constructions, photos, videos and oral reports are useful to tell a little about the past.
Types of historical sources
It is possible to classify historical sources in two ways: both in terms of form and in terms of time.
Regarding the type and form
The main classification of refers to the type and manner in which people produced them.
Then, classify between: material, oral, written and visual.
Let’s talk about each of these types.
Material historical sources
Material sources refer to physical traces of human activities.
For example: clothing, furniture, utensils and tools.
This type of source includes archaeological sources, such as ruins, ceramics and fossils.
Written historical sources
Written historical sources are all written traces that people produced in past times. For some time, written historical sources comprised only official documents. This meant only documents that the State or Government issued.
However, with the passage of time, other types of important documents emerged to translate the period. This is the case of magazines, newspapers, letters, books and diaries.
oral historical sources
These refer to materials that people have produced orally. Examples of this type of source are: interviews, recordings, reports and stories that people tell about an event.
In this type of source, one can also include legends and myths, which one generation passes on to the next.
Visual or iconographic historical sources
These refer to images of some event. Some researchers call this type of font iconographic or pictorial.
Some examples are photos, painting and maps. But they are not limited to still images. Films, videos and animations are also visual historical sources.
in relation to the time
It is also possible to classify historical sources by the time they were produced. In that sense they can be:
These produced by people at the same time as the recorded events.
For example: a book about the Holocaust written at the time of the Holocaust.
These produced based on the reports and vestiges of the time. In other words: indirect sources are built through direct sources.
For example: a current movie that tells the story of the Second World War.
What is the importance of these sources for the study of history?
These are the raw materials for the work of historians. After all, they bear traces of features from bygone eras.
This means that it is from them that people can investigate and understand the history of populations. That is to say: they are the sources of all scientific research on events.