FET History

History is the study of change and development in society over time. The study of history enables us to understand how past human action affects the present and influences our future, and it allows us to evaluate these effects. So, history is about learning how to think about the past, which affects the present, in a disciplined way. History is a process of enquiry.

Therefore, it is about asking questions of the past: What happened? When did it happen? Why did it happen then? What were the short-term and long-term results? It involves thinking critically about the stories people tell us about the past, as well as the stories that we tell ourselves.

The study of history also supports citizenship within a democracy by:

  • upholding the values of the South African Constitution and helping people to understand those values;
  • reflecting the perspectives of a broad social spectrum so that race, class, gender and the voices of ordinarypeople are represented;
  • encouraging civic responsibility and responsible leadership, including raising current social and environmental concerns;
  • promoting human rights and peace by challenging prejudices that involve race, class, gender, ethnicity and xenophobia; and
  • preparing young people for local, regional, national, continental and global responsibility.


The specific aims of history are to create:

  • an interest in and enjoyment of the study of the past;
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shaped it;
  • the ability to undertake a process of historical enquiry based on skills; and
  • an understanding of historical concepts, including historical sources and evidence.


In the study of History, the following concepts are pertinent:

  • Historical sources and evidence: History is not the past itself. It is the interpretation and explanation of information from various sources. Evidence is created when sources are used to answer questions about the past.
  • Multi-perspectivity: There are many ways of looking at the same thing. These perspectives may be the result of different points of view of people in the past according to their position in society, the different ways in which historians have written about them, and the different ways in which people today see the actions and behaviour of people of the past.
  • Cause and effect: This is the reason for events and the results of them. The consequences of something drive future events and help explain human behaviour.
  • Change and continuity: Over a period of time, it is possible to contrast what has changed and what has remained the same. Closely related contrasts that are used to teach history are ‘similarity and difference’, ‘related tothen and now’, which help to make sense of the past and the present.
  • Time and chronology: History is studied and written in time sequence. It is important to be able to place events in the order in which they happened. Timelines are often used to develop this concept.