Sources of Historical Information

We can obtain historical information through various sources. The main sources are:


  • Oral tradition
  • Historical sites
  • Written records/ documents
  • Archives
  • Museums
  • Archeology
  • Audio – Visual record , g : C assets,Cd’s,TV Programs etc.
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics




This involves the passing information by word of mouth through talking and listening. Oral Tradition pass historical information into two ways

  1. Through culture practices like art, music, religion, riddles, songs, proverbs, superstition, poems and
  2. Narration of past FUNCTIONS OF ORAL TRADITION


  1. It preserves historical information of
  2. It collects and pass historical information between generations in the
  3. It helps researchers in data ADVANTAGES OF ORAL TRADITION


  1. It preserves and reveal historical information which are not
  2. Both illiterate and literate people can obtain historical
  3. Within oral tradition there are warnings and
  4. It is the easiest and the cheapest method of obtaining information.
  5. It is more live source, since it involves physical DISADVANTAGE OF ORAL TRADITION


  1. It needs much attention and power of
  2. False information can be given by a story – teller.
  3. Narration of past events are centered to those people of status e kings, Queens, chief. White talking little about common society.
  4. There is language problems when narrators use vernacular
  5. It is difficult to distinguish what is real and what is imaginary
  6. Translation is very difficult because some languages are no longer in existence.




Are special places where by the past human remains can be found and shown to the public?


These are places in which the remains of once lived human in the past can be found.


  1. They comprise man’s physical development, tools that were made and used from time to
  2. In these areas we find/see past human products and animal


Example of historical sites include Ismila, Olduvai Gorge, Kondoa Irangi, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Kilwa, Mafia, Engaruka, Kagera etc in Tanzania.


Nsongezi, Biggo, Ntubi, Rusinga island, Magosi and Ishago in Uganda.


lake Rudolf (Turkana), Lake Naivasha, Njoro, Olongesailie, Lake Magadi, Lamu, Mombasa and Mt. Kenya. In kenya. FUNCTIONS OF HISTORICAL SITES


  1. Preserve historical information for the coming
  2. They are useful sources of information and to reconstruct
  3. They are the symbols of social cultural heritage to the society concern past human tools, rock, paints ADVANTAGE OF HISTORICAL SITES


  1. They helps for practical historical learning

e.g Through observation of the past human tools, rock, paints.

  1. Used to reveal past settlement patterns, levels of technology, economic development of political organization-reached by the past societies.
  2. Act as centers of
  3. They help in transforming theoretical teaching of history to practical historical
  4. It acts as the resource centers to
  5. It provides employment opportunities: eg DISADVANTAGES OF HISTORICAL SITES


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




Is the scientific study of past human remains


  • This is the study of the material remains of man’s past through scientific
  • The one specializes in archaeology is called ARCHAEOLOGIST.
  • Archaeology involve excavations (digging) of the remains of man’s past historical sites and interpretation.
  • The famous archaeologist in East Africa was Dr, Louis Leaky with his wife Mary
  • Archaeology involves the use of carbon 14 dating to determine plants and animal


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


  1. It helps to know when and how people lived in a certain place.
  2. Past objects tells 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 g pottery, building etc.
  5. It reveal the religious beliefs of the past man.
  6. We can compliment other sources of information through archaeology. history.
  7. We can know the past relationship between different people such as trading activities, Migration, Marriage, Birth, death and political relation. DISADVANTAGES OF ARCHAEOLOGY


  • It consumes time because of
  • It can not reveal the past people’s
  • It can not give out reasons for historical events such as
  • It needs full experts and advanced technology.
  • Poorly interpreted remains can bring false


It can not tell anything about the past social organization.




These are places where collection of private and public documents and old records are preserved.


These documents includes personal letters, Early Travelers and Missionary records, Traders writings, personal and government files, political parties documents, etc. FUNCTION OF ARCHIVES

  • Archives preserve public and private records that have enduring value to the


  • The records in the archives are made available for use by the public. However not all records can be viewed by everyone.


  • Archives collect records of enduring value from various For example,the nation archives have records from different regions of the country.


  • The archives staff maintains registers of the record in the archives.


  • Archives promote awareness of the availabilities and use of non – current records to the public


  • Archives have facilities for restoring damaged documents of enduring value


  • The historical information in the archives ensures continuity . For example,company policies from previous years can still guide the employees today ADVANTAGES OF ARCHIVES


  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
  4. Easy to get historical information from different places and different people. DISADVANTAGES OF ARCHIVES


  1. It may lead false information, if Author is
  2. Illiterate people can not get historical
  3. It is not easy to get information of the society whose information are not
  4. It is difficult to get remote information from archives.
  5. It is non renewable once disrupted either by wind or other external


1.1.5. MUSEUMS

  • These are places or buildings where information and objects are
  • It involves all terms which shows culture, political economic and technological development from the past to present.
  • Objects can be Early coins, clothes, minerals cowries, religious and ceremonial
  • Museums can be national, Regional, Districts and


e.g National Museums in Dar es salaam, Bagamoyo, Butiama, Kalenga – Iringa FUNCTIONS OF MUSEUMS


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


  1. It preserve objects which are used as teaching aids.
  2. Museums preserve culture and national
  3. It used by researchers (source of information).
  4. It acts as tourist
  5. People learn about technological
  6. Enable learners to arouse creativity DISADVANTAGES OF MUSEUMS


  1. It needs knowledgeable people.


  1. It is possible to distort information through biasesby the museum
  2. Poor preservation of the past items eg .coins,pieces of cloth,slaves chain can distort


  1. It needs extensive care to maintain it’s beauty or




Are the the documents which comprise written historical information.

  • These includes books,letters,maps, magazines,journal, newspaper,minutes of meetings and conferences
  • Written records can be found in libraries schools,colleges,universities,internet cafes,offices etc. FUNCTION OF WRITTEN RECORDS

  • Written records provides pictures of


  • These records reflect public at the time of writing. For example, the letters to the editor in newspaper express the readers ‘ feelings on current issue


  • Written records serve as stores of a large variety of information, including discoveries, government policies,statements, religious beliefs,fashion,speeches and


  • In-depth reports of daily events are kept as written records,. For example, in a diary,newspaper or biography. ADVANTAGES OF WRITTEN RECORDS

  • It is easy to get information.
  • Easy to make references.
  • It is helpful in doing
  • They can be kept for a long time. DISADVANTAGES OF WRITTEN RECORDS

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




Is the scientific study and analysis of language.


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


  1. It helps to get information from various
  2. Enable to discover links between different people
  3. It help to determine dates of historical event g “Aluta Continua” (period of struggle for independence in Mozambique). LIMITATIONS OF LINGUISTICS


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




Is the study of the society’s cultural systems, beliefs, ideas etc.


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)
  • A week – is a duration of seven days (7 days)
  • Month – is a duration of four weeks (4 weeks)
  • A year – is a duration of twelve months (12 months)
  • A decade- is a duration of ten years (10 yrs)
  • A century – is a duration of of one hundred years (100 yrs)
  • A millennium – is a duration of thousand years (1000 yrs)
  • A generation – is the average differences on ages between a child and his/her parent.
  • Age – is a period based on man’s economic activities and the type of tools used g stone age, iron age, Industrial age, Science and Technology age, ect.
  • A period – is determined by one continuous event lasting for a number of


e.g     Period of slave trade in East Africa Period of long distance trade

Period of colonial rule in Africa


Some points have been chosen in order to divide time


  • Year ZERO –present the year when Jesus Christ was
  • It is known as Anno Domino


(A.D) meaning the year of the Lord


All years before Zero are called (B.C) meaning (Before Christ) HOW TO DETERMINE DATES


Dates are instrument in the science of History, this historians divided dates into four ways: –


  1. Recalling events : – here important events are recalled/remembered g drought, farming, floods, birth, eruption of diseases etc.
  2. By studying languages: – some names help people to remember dates of some E.g word “Karafuu”- started when cloves were introduced in Zanzibar.
  3. Carbon 14 – Is scientific method of determining dates. It used in the finding dates for remains of animals or plants which died beyond 5000 years


  • Carbon 14 is a gas found in carbon-dioxide which exist in the
  • It absorbed by plant or other living organisms. When died carbon 14 that has already observed starts to decay at a fixed rate from the time of death.


  1. Orders of events: Ways of showing order of events, periods and ages, among them are: –


  • Time graph
  • Time chart
  • Time line
  • Family tree

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