With a lot of history dating back century’s ago, how do we even know that certain events happened?


For example when wars happened hundreds of years ago , how do we know certain events happened when written documents could have been destroyed or people keeping records could have been killed.

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Historic events differ in their documentation, but generally, we look at the written documents that haven’t been destroyed.

More documents survive than you’d expect. People kept detailed records for many reasons.

Even hundreds of years ago, governments and bankers and other organizations had to keep track of things. Not to mention regular people keeping journals and etc.

Historians spend their entire careers piecing together what occurred based on documents and other physical evidence.

There’s often still disagreement about exactly why or how something occurred, and there are different schools of historical thought with different interpretations and focuses.

And of course there are people who try to rewrite history for their own benefit.

And often we don’t always know everything. There are big questions. For example, how exactly ancient battles were fought is often a bit unclear.

But the simple answer is: people left records and other evidence, and we have professionals who devote their careers to figuring it all out.

Libraries have preserving documents for thousands of years. A lot of documents have been destroyed but a lot have also been preserved.

We actually have a lot of documents from those times! Especially for things like wars, or anything that effect things on a national scale, you’re always going to have a lot of sources to confirm what happened.

What we don’t generally get are sources confirming how regular folk, especially the poorest people, lived. It’s all written from the perspective of those who had money/power/education (ie. They could read and write). Especially the further back you go, there’s so much we don’t know if it even happened or not.

Besides documents, there are a lot of inscriptions that survive to this day. I.e. a state would be unlikely to erect a statue or monument for something that didn’t happen.

Also archeology can date events, with methods like carbon dating.

But we don’t know for certain exactly how many events played out, surviving sources have biases that historians try to compensate for. E.g. the Roman emperor Nero was said to have played music while Rome burned in texts from the period, but modern historians aren’t so sure this happened since those texts were written by people hostile to Nero.