History Notes

Sources of History

Sources of history imply the means or ways through which past events are known or discovered.

There are three manor sources,these are


Primary sources can be defined as a first hand information and account of a topic,these are directly gotten from the actual or real events or people involved. They are more reliable and more accurate ,it can also be defined as the original account of an event got directly from people involved.primary sources of history include the following:

  • Eye witness account: A person that witnessed the event can write detail of his experience in a book or newspaper,examples,those who witnessed Nigerian independence in 1960 can give an accurate account of what it took Nigeria to become an independent nation.
  • Nationalists like Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa ,chief obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe could give a first hand account of events leading to Nigeria independence in 1960
  • The same goes for the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970), Retired military heads of state like General yakubu Gowon and olusegun obasanjo can give details and accurate account of the civil war either in books or orally because they were eye witnesses of what happened.
  • Through Artifacts: Artifacts is a man made objects that reflects the culture of an olden day society,such artifacts in Nigeria include the Benin Ivory mask,Igbo ukwu bronze, Nok Terracotta,etc,a lot of them are kept in museums after been dug out by archaeologists.
  • Oral tradition: This could be oral history given by ancestors of a city from generation to generation.history of wars and settlements of a particular town or city are most often told as stories by the elderly people of such towns who heard the story from their forefathers,oral historians normally get such through direct interviews.
  • Legends: A legend is an ancient story passed by elders from one generation to the other,they often become the history of a place or people eventually ,some of these stories are often not verifiable but just taken to be true.for example,Oduduwa the father of the yoruba was believed to have migrated from middle east while bayajidda the father of Hausa  was also believed to have migrated from Baghdad .Many of such legend exist in Nigeria.
  • Folklore: folklore simply refers to tales people tell about places, human beings,animals,inanimate objects and spirits,folklore are traditional beliefs ,stories of a place passed through the word of mouth by the elders from one generation to the other. These include popular myth,folk tradition,etc,A Yoruba myth about creation of the world had it that a cock spread sand throughout the world which provided soil and land for all human beings ,every society in Nigeria has their myths about creation,destiny,life after death,etc.
  • Archival materials: Materials from archives could also be a major source of tracing the origin of individuals,nations and a people ,these materials could have been kept by oral historian having interviewed the eye witnesses.
  • Archaeological discoveries: Another primary source of history is major discoveries by archaologists.

Advantages of primary sources of history

It is more dependable than secondary sources.

The information is real.

It is useful for secondary sources.

Some of the disadvantages are,

It is time consuming to source.

It may be very costly to get.

It needs processing before it can be used.


  • Define sources of history
  • What do you understand by primary sources of history?
  • List two advantages of primary sources of history
  • State two advantages of primary sources of history.

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