Hence, historians try to understand the past by asking questions like “What happened”, “Why did it happen” and “How do we know these things?”
The five questions historians ask to study the past are: What, Where, When and Why. – Realonomy.
Historical questions are often complex. They ask things like how, why or to what extent? Sometimes they ask about the relationship between two phenomena. To answer such questions, research would have to be done.
When studying the past, historians ask themselves questions. The answers to the questions help historians draw conclusions about the past. For example, historians ask questions like how societies are similar and how different they are. They also ask how leaders governed societies.
What would be the most helpful question a historian could ask to learn more about the cause of the Black Death? NOT how long ago was it that the skeletons were found? When the Black Death spread across Europe, why did many people seek help from priests? They believed the plague was a punishment.
Without questioning, a historian is doomed to wander aimlessly through dark corridors of learning. Without questions of the right kind, his empirical projects are doomed to fail before they really get started. . . .
The study of history helps us to understand and tackle complex issues and dilemmas by examining how the past shaped (and continues to shape) global, national and local relationships between societies and people.
A great research-based question
addresses an authentic problem or issue. is complex and requires multiple levels of analysis. requires use of primary/secondary sources to answer them. requires the use of historical reasoning skills such as sourcing and contextualization.
How to Ask Historical Questions: The Short Version. Don’t ask what happened. Ask why it happened. Ask why that is the reason.