What is the importance of Ancillary Disciplines in History?

History is related to several other disciplines, and needs their assistance, just as it is helpful to a number of other disciplines. A historian must use the results achieved by workers in other fields of human knowledge. They are called ancillary disciplines such as philosophy, chronology, palaeography, graphology, sigillography, diplomatic, epigraphy, numismatics and archaeology besides a number of social sciences which have already been examined in the foregoing paragraphs.

These sciences provide a historian with what is called ‘methodical repertories of facts’. They are primarily digests of practical experience. The best way to become acquainted with them is to practise them. Ancillary sciences are departments of knowledge in their own right, and history makes use of them, and hence they become allies of history.

The need for these disciplines has arisen because all intellectual disciplines are interrelated. Even medicine requires history, because without a proper background of the case, diagnosis is impossible. The nature of historical facts is such that there are close connections between one fact and the other, and each fact requires special attention to establish its validity for which the assistance of the allied disciplines would be extremely helpful. In other words, ancillary disciplines are the handmaids. The important ancillary disciplines of history can be described as follow.

1. Chronology

Of these ancillary disciplines, chronology which helps us to fix the time, determines the very framework of the narrative. The time element is central to the concept of history without which its real perspective would be lost. What we appreciate in a child we do not in an adult. Space, time and cause are fundamental to any phenomenon or experience, and these three aspects are not things but modes of understanding and interpretation. In history, chronology arranges the significant events which took place in the past in their time order, and fixes the intervals that elapsed between them. Chronology was probably invented in the early ages for two equally utilitarian purposes, namely the fixation of dates for religious functions and for knowing the dates for agricultural operations.

A sound knowledge of chronology has become indispensable for a student of Indian history, as the dates and eras are so confusing in the records that fixation of correct chronology in respect to several dynasties of ancient Indian history has by itself become great research. For example, the chronology of the Ganga kings of Karnataka has created several controversies, and literature has developed only on this topic.

2. Graphology

Graphology is the science of estimating the character of a person by studying his handwriting. Research has shown that an undoubted connection exists between a person’s character and his handwriting, which betrays what sort of a person he is. Systematic study of this science helps a historian to form an opinion about such a person.

However, before a graphologist forms a judgment about the character of a person, he should keep an eye on a few factors such as the material used for the writing, the place and the position of the person who wrote, the mood or circumstances under which the writing was done, if the aim is to know the correct character of that person. For example, a person travelling in a moving train cannot write properly. Likewise, an agitated mood, insufficient light, bad paper or pen, or ill health are bound to affect the handwriting.

In America the widespread use of typewriters has reduced the opportunity to cultivate good handwriting. Journalism, medical profession and the nature of certain other jobs such as hard labour and mining would make people careless about their handwriting but that does not mean that their character has anything to do with it.

The cause for bad handwriting may be excessive and speedy writing or no practice at all in writing. Subject to these conditions’ graphology gives us certain very useful hints about the psychology of a person, whether he is hasty or steady or rash or artistic. It may even betray his age, sex or mood. It may even speak about laziness, needless haste, carelessness, avarice, or self-indulgence. A few students who are very frugal with their own paper become very liberal in the examination hall where there is no limit to their demand for paper

3. Philology

Philology or the study of languages both in their past and present conditions has conferred on history a lot of advantages

A thorough knowledge of language is quite essential to have a thorough knowledge of any subject. While teaching languages various stories are taken out from different pages of history. Students are quite frequently required to write essays on topics of historical importance. Oral and written expression is also very essential. In teaching history, we provide opportunities to the students for discussing, speaking, debating, paper reading as also of narrating their experiences in black and white. Thus, we find a lot of correlation existing between history and language.

It studies, the etymology or the origin of words, the proverbs and aphorisms and common phrases. It also deals with the derivation from various terms and the most authentic texts especially concerning classical literature.

History is indebted to this discipline for providing a sure clue to the past experiences and activities of man. In fact, historical method grew out the philological studies. G. B. Vico claimed that history as an autonomous science mainly on the basis of Philology. The words used by the author and his style of narration fixes his identity in the reader’s mind. Any interpolation by another person to the narrative would be easily detected. For example, Rig Veda has in all ten chapters but philologists tell us that the first and the last are later additions. Physical Sciences cannot tell us about such interpolations and additions. Philology provided a sure instrument to determine the internal proof of the contents of the narrative.

“The study of languages shows what kind of life a people were leading while its language was coming into existence. Their stock of words shows what their stock of ideas was before the new one came into existence.” Vico had showed how new words used by later generations were borrowed from agricultural vocabulary. He also showed how mythology composed in the ancient languages reflected the domestic, political and economic life of the people of ancient Greece and Rome. In India the inscription of ancient and early Medieval Period provided much material for philological studies.

4. Diplomatic

Diplomatic is the systematic study of the form of the official pattern of behaviour and writing. The word diploma which originally meant a piece of writing folded double, came to be used in course of time for a passport or letter of recommendation given to persons travelling in pro- vinces.

It changed further in its meaning as it referred to any manuscript or document of legal or historic or literary value, and finally to indicate any kind of official writing. It has currently given rise to such terms as diplomacy and diplomatic purely in the political sense. It was observed as early as the seventeenth century that official bureaux such as the Papal Chancery used in the composition of letters and documents issued by them not only a rigid order of arrangement of the subject matter but also stereo- typed formulae for every part of the document. Clearly, the clerks work- ing in these offices possessed formularies to be copied on different occasions. This is the procedure observed even today in the civil service.

If a document presents itself as originating from a certain office but does not follow the style prevalent in that office at the date which it bears, it is not genuine, and has to be criticised with the aid of every available ancillary science. On the other hand, our confidence in a document is greatly increased if the findings of palaeography and diplomatic coincide. In other words, diplomatic is a very useful aid to history in trying to find out the real meaning of a document.

5. Palaeography

Palaeography is the systematic study of old handwriting. The way in which men shaped the letters of the alphabets has varied from period to period and from region to region. Palaeography describes the evolution of each letter in time and in space.

A paleographer can not only read old manuscripts or inscriptions but also date them, and he can tell us the history of these characters and how they have changed over a period. In the past. as also today, education had the effect of standardising the shape of letters used in each centre of culture.

Even in the Roman letters used all over Europe there are variations. The Belgians write a different handwriting from the Dutch, and the English write differently from the Germans. In India the problem is still more complicated with scores of different languages and different scripts in use, and with such continuity of its history.

Palaeography also deals with the abbreviations used by the scribes Who were more in demand before the invention of printing. There are dictionaries which list the abbreviations used in manuscripts. Palaeography demands concentrated attention to detail. It gives scope to mental alertness, and to the development of empirical capacities. It develops the ability to face difficulties as they present themselves in solving puzzles and problems which do not come under any general principles.

A man who has done a good job in palaeography is less likely to be carried away by superficial resemblances to take external appearances for granted. Palaeography sharpens critical faculties. It is a science which is very much developed by modern technology. A team of scholars is attempting to decipher the script of the Indus Valley civilisation through computer science.

The rock edicts and rare manuscripts of the remote past are difficult to decipher. Palaeographists use their skill to give the correct meaning of such writings. As already pointed out above researchers have to alert in ascertaining the exact words and their meaning in the documents before them.

6. Sigillography

Sigillography is from the word ‘sigil’ meaning a seal or signature. Sigilliography is the science of the writings or inscriptions, on the seal. The seals are of different kinds shape and material. Some have impressions on clay, wax or bricks.

It also means a mark or sign supposed to exercise occult power. In history it refers to the study of seals and can be looked upon as a department of diplomatic. It is also called Sphragistic meaning the study of engraved seals including their authenticity, age, history, content and so on.

It takes into account not only the form and aspect of the seal, but also of the manner in which it is attached to the document, and of the material with which it is made. Wax was commonly used and in warm countries like Italy lead was used. The seals of the Indus Valley civilisation have re- mained undeciphered.

In Indian history, in particular during the Muslim rule, seals played a very important role in the administration, without which no document was valid. They help us a lot in giving us much in- formation about our medieval Indian history on the name of the ruler, his title, the extent of his kingdom, the date of the document, the religion or sect he belonged to, the dynasty with which he was connected, as well as the date and era of the issue. These seals indicate even the level of culture by the type of calligraphy and the material used.

7. Numismatics

Numismatics is the science of coins. Numismatics as a subsidiary of Diplomatics. In the ancient times some seals had their Significance as symbols of spirits and Semi-Gods. In the middle Ages the talisman and the rings with decorated stones suggested some cosmic power. Coins gave the idea of economic condition of the people.

8. Archaeology and Epigraphy

Besides these sciences, we have a number of other disciplines such as archaeology, epigraphy, that help history. Archaeology, epigraphy and numismatics are the hand-maids of history, and unlike the mother- discipline, these daughter-disciplines are scientific in character and precise in their methodology.

Ancient Indian history owes a good deal to these three branches for the reconstruction of many of its chapters. We owe the entire discovery of the Indus Valley culture to Sir John Marshall and his band of archaeologists. The exploration of archaeological sites, the method of excavations, the copying and reading of inscriptions, the study of coins, and determining their grains have brought to light numerous chanpers in the history of the world, almost in every country and more so in India.

Physics is helpful in determining possible archaeological sites, Engineering, chemistry and photography are summoned to the aid of the archaeologist, whose business is to dig scientifically. Archaeology is helpful in the study and preservation of ancient monuments. Epigraphy is the palaeography and diplomatic of inscriptions placed upon monuments or given to individuals on copper plates as title deeds of land gifts.

The historian should have the ability to read these records or get them deciphered and translated for him by those who know the language. In Tamil Nadu and Karnataka there are thousands of such inscriptions, and the history of this region, particularly of the ancient and medieval period is reconstructed with their help. They are a veritable mine of information on politics, literature, warfare, religion, social, economic, and administrative details, interstate relations, heroism of individuals and a host of other topics. One single archaeologist, Lewis Rice, collected as many as ten thousand inscriptions in a part of Karnataka which was then known as Mysore State. These inscriptions are found either on stone or on copper plates. These are deciphered, translated, edited with copious notes, and published in several volumes, such as Epigraphia Indica, Epigraphia Karnataka, Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica, and so on.

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