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Historiography refers to both the study of the methodology of historians and development of history as a discipline, and also to a body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography topically – such as the "historiography of the British Empire," the "historiography of early Islam", or the "historiography of China" – as well as different approaches and genres, such as political history or social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the ascent of academic history, a body of historiographic literature developed. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties—such as to their nation state—is a much debated question.

The research interests of historians change over time, and in recent decades there has been a shift away from traditional diplomatic, economic and political history toward newer approaches, especially social and cultural studies. From 1975 to 1995, the proportion of professors of history in American universities identifying with social history rose from 31% to 41%, while the proportion of political historians fell from 40% to 30%. In the history departments of British universities in 2007, of the 5,723 faculty members, 1,644 (29%) identified themselves with social history while political history came next with 1,425 (25%).


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