Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography by topic—such as the historiography of the United Kingdom, that of WWII, the pre-Columbian Americas, early Islam, and China—and different approaches and genres, such as political history and social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the development of academic history, there developed a body of historiographic literature. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties—such as to their nation state—remains a debated question.
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In the ancient world, chronological annals were produced in civilizations such as ancient Egypt and Ancient Near East. The discipline of historiography was established in the 5th century BC with the Histories of Herodotus, the founder of historiography. The Roman statesman Cato the Elder produced the first Roman historiography, the Origines, in the 2nd century BCE. His near contemporaries Sima Tan and Sima Qian in the Han Empire of China established Chinese historiography, compiling the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian). During the Middle Ages, medieval historiography included the works of chronicles in medieval Europe, Islamic histories by Muslim historians, and the Korean and Japanese historical writings based on the existing Chinese model. During the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, historiography in the Western world was shaped and developed by figures such as Voltaire, David Hume, and Edward Gibbon, who among others set the foundations for the modern discipline.
The research interests of historians change over time, and there has been a shift away from traditional diplomatic, economic, and political history toward newer approaches, especially social and cultural studies. From 1975 to 1995 the proportion of professors of history in American universities identifying with social history increased from 31 to 41 percent, while the proportion of political historians decreased from 40 to 30 percent. In 2007, of 5,723 faculty in the departments of history at British universities, 1,644 (29 percent) identified themselves with social history and 1,425 (25 percent) identified themselves with political history. Since the 1980s there has been a special interest in the memories and commemoration of past events—the histories as remembered and presented for popular celebration.