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You may be here (in North Carolina) because you or some ancestor crossed an ocean several weeks, years, decades or centuries ago.
For some periods and cultures (20th century America, for example), there are tons of primary sources—political documents, newspapers, teenagers’ diaries, high school year books, tax returns, tape-recorded phone conversations, etc.
For other periods and cultures, however, historians have very few clues to work with; that’s one reason we know so little about the Aztecs.
), the broad and cultural (why do universities function as they do?
) and the purely factual (what exactly did Columbus find? The answers historians offer are all more or less educated guesses about the past, based on interpretations of whatever information trickles down through the ages.
To avoid unnecessary disagreements and survive legitimate debates, good historians explain why their question is important, exactly what sources they found, and how they analyzed those sources to reach a particular interpretation.
In other words, they prove that both their approach and answers are valid and significant.
In the big picture, however, you are here because of history, i.e., because of past events and developments.
You are here (on the planet) because two people’s lives collided—in the past.
For example: Historians know about the past because they look at what relics have trickled down through the ages.
These relics of past civilizations are called primary sources.