What is a historical context?
The historical context is the set of circumstances in history in which an event occurs, so that they exert some kind of influence on it. It is also known as a historical framework or historical referential framework.
All human things occur within a historical context, whether we speak of revolutions, discoveries, inventions, artistic works, movements, theories, laws and even our own lives.
The function of the historical context is to provide information on the material, social and cultural aspects of history that influence an event, phenomenon or subject, in order to facilitate their understanding. Sometimes the phenomena we study also influence the historical context, which deserves to be noted.
The importance of the historical context lies in the fact that it prevents prejudices, simplifications and errors of interpretation when judging the facts of the past. Likewise, it helps the researcher to weigh the importance of the phenomenon studied in its proper measure.
From the methodological point of view, the historical context is part of the structure of research work in social and human sciences. This is one of the first stages of the investigation.
Types of historical context
In some works, it is necessary to emphasize specific aspects of the historical context. In these cases, there may be different types or approaches. The most common are:
- Historical-political context: focuses attention on political systems and the tensions of power.
- Historical-economic context: describes the economic system, the distribution of wealth, business actors, etc.
- Historical-social context or socio-historical context: emphasizes social aspects of the period, such as social structure, social classes and the relationship between them, the role of men and women, the division of labor, etc.
- Historical-cultural context: it focuses on the ideas, concepts, ideologies, aesthetic values, religious thought, philosophical thought, customs, cultural assets and mentalities of the time.
In addition to these indicated types, one can also speak of a historical, religious, artistic, sports, scientific, etc. context. Everything will depend on the interests of the researcher in relation to his object of study.
How do you make a historical context?
There are different ways to develop a historical context. Even so, any historical context must include the following aspects: delimitation of space and time, description of the pertinent aspects and events, identification of the sources used and organization of the final structure.
1. Delimit the space-time context . The spatial-temporal delimitation consists of specifying the place and the period of time (the time) where the object of study is inserted.
2. Describe and analyze the pertinent historical aspects . The researcher must determine which are the pertinent aspects to contextualize the object of study, such as political-economic systems, social order, religion, ideas, values, events, discoveries, inventions, traditions and customs, among others.
It is very important to describe the relationship that is established between the aspects described and the object of study. This means making clear how they influenced each other and vice versa.
3. Identify the type of information sources. At the time of writing, the researcher must specify the origin of their sources, that is, if they will use primary and / or secondary sources.
You must also identify whether it is laws, minutes, press articles, speeches, literary works, academic books, audiovisual materials, images, objects, etc. Whenever appropriate, the author of the sources must refer.
4. Define the structure . The structure of the historical framework will depend on the nature of the content. Each researcher can shape the historical context in a way that best suits the research objectives, as long as it does so in a way that is understandable to the reader.
Examples of historical context
Historical context of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris is an expression of Gothic art, developed in Europe during the late Middle Ages (XI-XIV centuries). This period was characterized by the economic growth of the countryside, which promoted the formation of markets and boroughs (cities). With them, the bourgeoisie emerged as a social class, and little by little feudalism was displaced by a monarchical system based on the collection of taxes.
The culture was theocentric, but unlike the previous period, dominated by the fear of the final judgment, society was moving towards theological humanism, which valued the human being as a favorite work of God’s creation.
At that time there were also important advances in architecture, as the ribbed vault was created, which allowed the thick walls to be replaced by windows and to provide exterior lighting to the buildings for the first time.
The cathedrals were constructions of the city, as the bishop dictated “chair” in it. They were economically possible because all social sectors contributed by providing resources or work. Thus, new architectural findings were used to express the new spirituality.
Historical context of the cathedral from the Second World War.
The Second World War, which occurred between 1939 and 1945, occurred in a historical context dominated by tensions between different political ideologies: nationalism, liberalism and communism. The pluralistic character of liberalism and the international character of communism were perceived as a threat by the nationalist sectors.
In parallel, the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles of the First World War were felt, whose punishment measures against Germany were too severe and humiliating. At the same time, the agreements established with Italy in said treaty were unknown.
All these aspects were a breeding ground for the formation of fascism, of a strong nationalist, authoritarian, ethnocentric and conservative character. In the 1920s fascism came to power in Italy.
Other influential events were the 1929 Crack in the United States, which generated an international economic crisis and strengthened distrust against liberalism. Added to this was the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. When fascism came to power in Germany in 1933, the conditions were created for the early outbreak of an international military conflict.
Historical context of the cathedral of the artistic avant-gardes
The European artistic avant-gardes emerged at the beginning of the 20th century in response to the dramatic changes in the historical context. In Europe, the passage from the 19th century to the 20th century was marked by the ideology of progress.
Technological and industrial advances changed the perception of space and time, energizing everything around them. Trains, cars, airplanes, telegraphs, cinematographers, among many other inventions, modified society. Although science, technology and industry took a qualitative leap and society was modernizing, the arts were still tied to tradition.
Certainly, since the nineteenth century, Romanticist painters had begun to express themselves more freely on their canvases. Later, Impressionism applied new pictorial techniques based on optical theories, and Post-Impressionism revolutionized the expressive treatment of color and lines. However, the arts were still tied to the theme of representation and the imitation of nature.
Eager for progress and modernization, the artists of the new generations began to question this look, so that in addition to looking for original languages, they got rid of the imitation of nature, they gave all the importance to the plastic language itself and sought to express the change of times.