Historiology: what is it and what is it for

What is historiology? What is it responsible for? What differences does it present with history and historiography?

In this article, we will answer these questions about this discipline of knowledge linked to history, and we will also mention two of the most prominent authors in this field.

    Historiology: what is it?

    What is historiology? The DRAE (Dictionary of the Spanish Language) defines this discipline as “the study of the structure, laws and conditions of historical reality”.

    Etymologically, the word “historiology” comes from the Greek “iotopia” (which means history), and also from the verb “iotopeiv” (which means to investigate past knowledge) and from the term “gia” (which means science, treatise or study) . This is explained by the discipline that studies (scientifically) history or historical facts.

    It is also translated by the theory of history and has the function of studying the structure, laws and conditions of historical reality. Thus, it is a discipline of knowledge, which studies, describes and analyzes historical facts. How do you do? Through different techniques for collecting and analyzing records, historical samples, data analysis …

    Historiology is closely related to other branches or disciplines of knowledge, such as: historiography (similar to historiology, is the science that studies and writes history) and the methodology of history (which encompasses the methods used by historians to manage their sources and ultimately for work).

    Historiology encompasses all the explanations, methods and theories that allow us to understand and explain how and why certain historical events happened one way and not another.


    The word historiology was born in 1971 from the hand of the Spanish philosopher and essayist José Ortega i Gasset. More precisely, Ortega i Gasset uses this term for the first time in a text entitled History as a system (1971).

    Through this text, the philosopher exposes the human being as a historical subject, who has the intrinsic need to analyze the events of the past in order to understand the present, as well as his own identity.

    Ortega i Gasset gradually introduced the term historiology when he explained that, according to him, historical data is not important (and cannot be understood) without observation by a method that analyzes and describes it.

    Thus, he defines historiology as “the epistemology of history” (we will see later what epistemology is). According to him, historiology is the discipline which is based, among other things, on historiography, and whose mission is to identify which causes and which consequences are hidden behind historical reality.

      What does this discipline do?

      Historiology deals with describe and explain historical events that have occurred throughout human history. In addition, it also focuses on the analysis of the different aspects or logical elements that help to explain historical reality (i.e. event “X” happened in this way and why) .

      Thus, historiology has two central functions or missions: to describe and to analyze. More specifically, it is also about identifying the keys, patterns and / or causes that allow us to understand the events or processes that have taken place throughout history.

      What does a historian do?

      Historians are the professionals of historiology and, as such, they are concerned with the scientific study of historical events.

      These people are specialists in their field and know some of the philosophy and history. They are responsible for studying the rules, causes, precepts and / or conditions of history (This is called epistemology).


      For its part, epistemology is a branch of knowledge (“independent” from historiology, although linked to it) responsible for study scientific knowledge, i.e. its origin, scope, nature, foundations and possibilities.

      So, in reality, historiology and epistemology are closely linked.

      Historiology, historiography and history

      In the study of historical events and of history in general, we find disciplines and sciences so similar, with names so similar… that this can confuse us.

      Therefore, we will clarify the role of each of these disciplines: historiology, historiography and history. In addition, we will see how each one differs from the others.

      1. Historiology

      It is an epistemological domain, in the propose a theory of knowledge on historical development. This is the discipline that we describe in this article and it encompasses all the explanations, theories and methods used to explain how, when and why certain historical facts or processes occurred.

      It also analyzes socio-political trends and the reasons why they occur in some places or places and not in others.

      2. Historiography

      On the other hand, historiography (not to be confused with historiology), encompasses only the different techniques and methods used to describe historical events (already recorded). In this discipline, the historical method is essential (as well as its correct use).

      3. History

      Finally, history is the science responsible for studying historical facts, that is to say the past, as well as the influence and weight they have had on the present. Outraged, the study of these facts also serves as a basis for understanding future facts or events.

      eminent authors

      Two of the most notable authors in historiology were:

      1. José Ortega i Gasset

      Already mentioned in this article, it was he who introduced the term historiology, and what made possible, to a large extent, its birth and consolidation. Spanish philosopher and essayist, Jose Grouse and Gasset (1883-1955) he is surely the most remarkable and the most important figure in historiology.

      An important contribution of Ortega i Gasset has been the following: to assert that history has wrongly introduced the structure of scientific knowledge, and for this reason it encourages new professionals in historiology to do it correctly, that is precise interpretation of scientific knowledge.

      2. Karl Marx

      Karl Marx (1818-1883) was an intellectual, philosopher, economist and sociologist best known for his movement called “Marxism”. Marx he conscientiously analyzed historical events, through the stream of materialist philosophy.

      According to him, the way in which man has developed production (that is to say the different economic activities that we develop as a society), is what defined and allowed the different historical events of all cultures, and for everyone.

      In other words, according to Marx, the modes of production influence culture, politics, even legal laws, and allow us to approach the why (and even the how) of historical events.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Guang, J. (2007) Practical historiology. Questions of epistemology and the methodology of the study of historiology. Diary of professor from Huaiyin University.
      • Huizinga, J. (1934). On the present state of historical science. Western Magazine, Madrid
      • Martha Howell and Walter Prevenier. (2001). From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods, Cornell University Press: Ithaca.
      • Ortega and Gasset, J. (2004). Complete works, vol. I. Ed. Taurus Foundation / José Ortega i Gasset, Madrid.
      • Pedro Aullón d’Haro (ed.) (2015). Historiography and theory of the history of thought, literature and art, Madrid, Dykinson.

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