The meaning of History What is History?

  • History is the study of Man‟s past chronological account and record of events in reaction to his environment. Or:
  • It is a science concerned with past human actions, pursued by interpretation of evidence for the sake of human self-knowledge.
  • History is closely related to prehistory.

 What is Pre-History?

 Prehistory are the activities in which human beings engaged before the invention of writing and drawing for storing information. Identify the sources of prehistoric information.

  • Songs,
  • Myths,
  • Stories,
  • Artefacts,
  • Fossils,
  • The language of a people.

Into what three branches is History divided?

  • Social History, which deals with people‟s traditions and values, enshrined in their religion, beliefs, cultural practices, dressing, taboos and literature.
  • Political history, which deals with control systems in a society, e.g. maintenance of law and order, leadership and security. In it, famous leaders and their systems of governments are studied.
  • Economic History, which refers to people‟s means of livelihood e.g. hunting, food gathering, trade, agriculture and communication.

The meaning of government What is Government?

  • It is the practice of ruling or exercising continuous authority over one‟s subjects. Ø It is an intermediate body set up by society to ensure equity and the execution of laws while maintaining social and political liberty.

Describe the characteristics of government.

  • Rules, which govern members to ensure that life runs smoothly for the benefit of all. Ø Sovereignty i.e. the supreme authority of the government to exercise its powers within its boundaries.
  • Jurisdiction i.e. the geographical area within which the government exercises powers and rules.
  • Legitimacy I.e. being acceptable to the people over who it exercises power. Ø Law enforcement i.e. ability to take action against those who break the law.

 Describe three main arms of government.

  • The Legislature (Parliament), which makes laws. The Legislature is made up of the national assembly and the President.
  • The Executive, which is made up of the President, the Cabinet and the Civil Service. It implements laws.
  • The Judiciary (Court system), which ensures that laws made are constitutional, are followed and those who break them are punished.

 Describe four forms of Government.

  • Here, the ruler has total power over his/her subjects. Dictators are the sole authority where they rule. They make the law and execute justice. They exercise their rule forcefully, suppressing their subjects at will. They impose their will over others and interfere with or limit the freedom of their subjects. Examples of dictatorship include Germany during the rule of Adolf Hitler, Italy under Benito Mussolini and Uganda during the rule of Idi Amin Dada.
  • Democratic Government, whereby rulers regularly seek public mandate by popular vote, based on free and fair election and on the fact that elected officials represent the wishes and aspirations of the people. In such a government, matters of national importance stem from freedoms and rights provided for in the Constitution, which governs the law of the nation. Ø In this, a group of people from the highest social classes in a society rule over others. The queen or king is the head of government, whose senior positions are held by privileged members of the royal family, who are considered as a rear breed of people and who are considered superior to other human beings because of the wealthy family background they are born into in addition to their superior education.
  • In this, democracy is practised, but aristocratic power is respected. In such government, Parliament is the supreme organ, but the king and the royal family are retained in power as a tradition. The King or Queen is therefore respected as head of state.

Describe two categories into which Monarchical government is classified.

  • Absolute Monarchy, whereby the head of state is dictatorial since his/her power is unrestricted.
  • Constitutional Monarchy, whereby the power of the King or Queen is restricted, based on the provisions in the constitution.

In both cases, power is inherited within the family of the royalty.

What is the importance of studying History & Government?

  1. Studying History enables us to:
  • Learn about past political developments, which inspire nationalism.
  • Understand the origin of human beings and their various past achievements.
  • Prepare for careers in public administration, law and teaching.
  • Appreciate past experiences of human beings to understand the present.
  • Increase our knowledge about past events.
  • Understand our cultures and those of other people.
  • Acquire a sense of identity by telling us who we are and where we came from.

2. The study of government helps us to:

  • Understand the responsibilities and powers vested in different organs of government, such as the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.
  • Understand the administrative organization in our country.
  • Learn how development projects are designed and implemented.
  • Learn how conflicts in society are solved peacefully.
  • Understand how the government raises revenue and the checks and balances on government expenditure.

Understand the duties and responsibilities of citizens.

  • Understand how laws are made.
  • Learn the democratic principles that govern most countries.



Into what three main categories are sources of information on History & Government divided?

  • Unwritten sources, which refer to unrecorded historical information, whereby conclusions are based on available information.
  • Written sources i.e. recorded historical information, whereby conclusions are based on document produced by making letters or any other symbols on a surface for the purpose of communication.
  • Electronic sources i.e. information processed through devices that control and direct or operate on a small electric current, e.g. electronic calculators, computers, etc.


Describe five unwritten sources of information on History & Government.

  • Oral Tradition, i.e. the practice of passing information from one generation to the next by word of mouth. It was mainly important in societies where the art of writing was absent. Ø Linguistics, i.e. the scientific study of languages by tracing the principles of languagechange and establishment of the current genealogical classification of a particular language.
  • Anthropology, i.e. the study of human beings and their culture.
  • Genetics, i.e. the scientific study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics.
  • Archaeology, i.e. the study of man‟s past through scientific analysis of the material remains of his culture.

Name four types of Oral tradition.

  • Folk tales,
  • Proverbs,
  • Songs,

What are the advantages of Oral Tradition as a source of information on History and Government?

  • They capture information that may not be obtained through other sources. For example, one who participated in the Maumau War can vividly narrate what occurred during the period.
  • They compliment other sources of information.
  • They are short and easy to remember.
  • They are useful in training and activating one‟s memory. Jesters, Griots and other custodians of their communities‟ history had very powerful and long memories.
  • In mid 20th century, many African historians used oral traditions to reconstruct the history of Kenyan and other sub-Saharan African societies.

 Explain the limitations of Oral Traditions as a source of information on History & Government. 

(What are the disadvantages/weaknesses of Oral Tradition as a source of information on History and Government?)

  • It is difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined.
  • Some information may be forgotten or omitted as oral traditions depend on human memory.
  • Informants might deliberately distort the information.
  • They may not give the correct chronology of events.
  • It is an expensive method of getting information.
  • It is time-consuming.

Explain how the form, content, vocabulary and the historical experience of the people who speak a given language could be illustrated.

  • Distribution of languages. The smaller the distribution, the less influential or younger the language. The more widespread it is, the stronger or older it might be.
  • Relationship between languages. People who speak related languages might have a common origin, be connected, or have close contact some time in the past.
  • Variations between languages of the same family indicate how long ago the break in contact occurred. Greater variations show longer periods of separation.

State the advantages of Linguistics as a source of information on History and Government.

(In what ways is Linguistics important as a source of information on History and Government?)

  • It provides information about the movements of the people and their relationships.
  • It helps to establish theories of origin, migration and settlement of various communities. Ø They compliment oral traditions and other sources of historical information.
  • it is useful in dating people‟s migration.
  • Through Linguistics, historians discover previously unknown links between different people.

What are the limitations of linguistics as a source of information on History & Government?

(State the disadvantages/weaknesses of Linguistics as a source of information on History and Government).

  • Delayed acquisition of information since it takes long to learn a particular language.
  • Some words could be omitted or distorted while translating the language.
  • Various languages may have similar words but with different meanings.
  • The borrowing of words might corrupt or interfere with the parent-language.
  • Some languages have become extinct.

Explain why anthropologists must live among the people who they study.

(What are the advantages (or what is the importance) of anthropology as a source of information on History and Government?)

  • one would experience the people‟s way of life.
  • One understands and explains social and other structures within their society of study.
  • One explains aspects of the economy on which a given community depend.
  • One is able to determine a people‟s cultural past.
  • One has a deeper understanding of a particular aspect of a people‟s culture.

What are the limitations of Anthropology as a source of information on history & Government?

(State the disadvantages/weaknesses of Anthropology as a source of information on History and Government.)

  • It is expensive as it involves living with the people on who research is conducted.
  • It is time-consuming.
  • Researchers may not adapt to new environments.

The researcher may miss vital information as the people being studied may behave differently in the presence of the researcher.

  • The researcher risks losing his or her own culture on adapting to the environment of study.

Explain the importance of Genetics as a source of information on History and Government.

(What are the advantages of Genetics as a source of information on History and Government?)

  • We learn how human beings adapted to their environment and utilized available land and animals to meet their needs.
  • We get to know how characteristics are passed from parents to their offsprings.
  • We study appearance, domestication and movement of plants and people whose economy plants are part of.
  • Through Genetic study, botanists come up with new and more suitable crops that can resist diseases and withstand various climatic conditions.
  • We get to know where most plant varieties are.
  • We distinguish persons and indicate some relationships among people of various communities.

What are the limitations of Genetics as a source of information on History and Government?

(state the weaknesses/disadvantages of Genetics as a source of information on History and Government.)

  • It is expensive.
  • Researchers may not adapt to new environments due to health and other risks.
  • It is technologically demanding as it requires a lot of sophisticated material and equipment.
  • It is time-consuming. Apart from much fieldwork, one spends a lot more time training before becoming a Genetics specialist.

Explain how archaeologists and palaeontologists discover historical sites.

  • They look for areas where faulting or erosion have occurred, exposing surfaces that may give some clues to the point of finding fossils and artefacts. Sometimes they have to dig deep to find physical remains.
  • Identification or differentiation of the physical features of an area from those of the ground in places around. For example, a small part of an early settlement, such as a few stones in a regular pattern may be seen on the surface in such an area.
  • Enquiries on sites mentioned in a historical document or an oral narrative of the geography and other historical features of the area cited. This may lead to important insights to past civilizations, such as Troy, Ur, Babylon, Omo River valley and Olduvai Gorge.
  • Long experience in identifying a potential site for archaeological excavation. Ø Accidental exposure of ancient objects during cultivation and building construction, which could arouse the curiosity of researchers.

Explain how Archaeological study and analysis is done. (In what ways is Archaeological study and analysis done)?

  • The Archaeologist studies what evidence remains of the material culture of a people‟s past.

Activities of prehistoric people are reconstructed from various evidence, e.g. traces of weapons and tools they used, clothing, bones, earthworks, dwelling-places, etc.

  • Concepts or understanding of a people‟s civilization at the time the artefacts were in use are formulated. E.g. hunting and pastoralism could be indicated by rock paintings of certain animals on cave-walls.
  • Man‟s relationship with his environment is interpreted and dated. Here, the archaeologist works with Palaeontologists, Geologists, Ecologists, Chemists, Physicists and other natural scientists.

Identify six methods of dating fossils.

(Explain how fossils are dated.)

  • Geological periods, characterised by climatic changes and the successive types of plants and animals found.
  • Chemical dating. This is of two kinds i.e. Radio-Carbon dating and Potassium-Argon method. Radio-Carbon dating measures organic substances and the rate of decay of carbon14 in fossils. Potassium-Argon method measures the amount of potassium and the amount of Argon-40 to assist in dating volcanic ash and minerals.
  • Stratigraphy i.e. the study and interpretation of the layers of rock successively deposited at one place. It is useful in determining dates for areas affected by sedimentation.
  • Fission Track dating. This is useful in dating Pleistocene samples. The age of glass and other mineral objects is determined through this method.
  • Statistical dating. This helps in determining the length of a generation for a particular society by estimating dates for events associated with certain generations.
  • Lexico Statistics dating. This is the statistical study of the vocabulary of languages to determine their age and historical links with other languages. It is based on the assumption that all languages have a basic vocabulary that will gradually change at a common rate for all languages at all times.
  • Glotto-Chronology, which is a subdivision of Lexico Statistics, attempts to establish that languages are historically related. It helps in expressing rates of language-development by formulae precise enough to enable dates when change occurred to be calculated. More than one method of dating can be useful in order to ascertain the dates of either fossils or artefacts.

What are the advantages of using Archaeology as a source of information on History & Government?

  • Unlike other sources, it gives detailed information on material culture.
  • It provides a sense of time as artefacts are dated.
  • It complements other sources of information.
  • It provides diversified information, depending on the materials found.
  • It enables the researcher to directly observe the site and to classify the artefacts. Ø The general principle that identifies culture by an assemblage of material possession is only practicable in archaeology. Only Archaeology discovers and proves that remains are found in layers of succession, with the oldest at the bottom and the latest at the top.

State the limitations of using Archaeology as a source of information on History & Government.

(What are the disadvantages/weaknesses/shortcomings of Archaeology as a source of information on History and Government?)

  • One cannot study present materials or events.
  • Archaeological information could be inaccurate as it is often based on conclusions and reconstructions.
  • It is difficult to trace archaeological sites.
  • Archaeology estimates but does not provide precise dates.
  • It is a time-consuming venture since preparation for an excavation and transportation of artefacts to laboratories for analysis is long and laborious processes.
  • There are few archaeological experts to interpret data.
  • Some materials are fragile and could easily break, thereby misleading analysts.
  • It is expensive to excavate and analyse artefacts. This is because:

Explain why excavation and analysis of artefacts is an expensive venture.

  • Labourers have to be hired to excavate a site.
  • Transportation of artefacts to laboratories for analysis is often a cumbersome, complex and delicate venture.
  • Archaeological equipment are often costly and scarce.
  • The cost of staff-upkeep is very high.
  • Analysis of and dating artefacts is very hard.


Identify five written sources of information.

  • Books,
  • Archives,
  • Constitutions,
  • Journals,
  • Novels,
  • Plays,
  • Newspapers,
  • Magazines,
  • Documentaries,
  • Diaries,
  • Reports,
  • Periodicals,

Identify three major places where Written sources of information are found.

  • Libraries, i.e. Buildings in which collections of written or recorded information are kept for people to read, study or borrow.
  • Archives, i.e. stores or collections of historical records, especially those carrying classified information of governments or organizations.
  • Museums, i.e. buildings in which artistic, cultural, historical or scientific objects are kept and shown to the public.

Describe three categories into which written sources of information are classified.

  • Early Manuscripts.
  • Printed sources.

What are Archives? 

(Explain two meanings of the term Archives.)

  • A collection of historical records, especially those carrying classified information of government or an organization, which, after a period of time, is accessible to the public.

Places for keeping public, government and other historical records.

In Kenya, archival records are preserved at the Kenya national Archives.

What is a Manuscript?

A manuscript is an author‟s hand-written or typed text that has not been published, e.g. those on which the Bible and the Quran are based.

Identify three major forms of early manuscripts.

  • Stone tablets, i.e. flat pieces of stone with words written on them, e.g. those fixed to walls in memory of important persons or events.
  • Scrolls, i.e. long rolls of paper on which writing was done.
  • Parchments, i.e. materials made from sheep or goat skin, used in the past for writing on.

What are the advantages of Written Records?

(In what ways are written records important as a source of information on History and government?)

  • They are permanent and can be read over the years.
  • It is hard to change written information to suit one‟s own interpretation.
  • They are cheap when compared, particularly to anthropology and archaeology.
  • They are more accurate since information is preserved exactly as it was recorded.
  • Writing accommodates all available information in both original and refined form.

What are the limitations of written records?

(Explain the weaknesses/shortcomings of Written Records as a source of information on History and Government.)

  • Information may be too detailed for use in normal circumstances.
  • Information may be misunderstood or misinterpreted.
  • They are at times bulky, cumbersome and difficult to maintain.
  • They are at times very expensive to acquire and use, e.g. newspapers.
  • They are at times biased, especially when authors write from their particular point of view.


Name any three Electronic sources of information on history & Government.

  • Microfilms,
  • Films,
  • Videos,
  • Radio,
  • Television
  • Computerised data-bases.

What are the advantages of electronic sources of information on History & Government?

  • They can be clearly read when magnified.
  • They capture words and emotions of an event as it happens. Ø They combine sound, picture and motion.
  • They facilitate instant retrieval of and access to information.
  • Most are not bulky.

State the limitations of Electronic sources of information on history & Government.

  • They are subject to bias as they mostly contain foreign (European and American) material.
  • They are too expensive to buy and run. Many people cannot afford to buy radios, television sets and videos. The cost of electricity for operating these equipment is high.
  • Some acted films are unrealistic for they contain exaggerated information.
  • There is a lot of permissiveness, largely caused by improper use of electronic material.
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