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History vs. Social Studies: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 17, 2023
History is the study of past events, while social studies is an interdisciplinary field encompassing history, geography, politics, and other social sciences.

Key Differences

History focuses on examining and interpreting past events, people, and civilizations to understand how they have shaped the present. Social studies, in contrast, is a broader field that includes history but also integrates geography, political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology to provide a comprehensive understanding of societies.
In history, the emphasis is on chronological events, cause and effect relationships, and historical contexts. Social studies, however, looks beyond just historical events to examine the cultural, social, political, and economic factors that influence societies and human behavior. Both disciplines are crucial in understanding the complexities of the world.
Historians primarily use primary and secondary sources to study the past, focusing on accuracy, evidence, and interpretation. Social studies educators and researchers adopt an interdisciplinary approach, combining methods from various social science disciplines to analyze current and past societal issues.
The study of history is vital for understanding the roots and evolution of current world situations, providing a time-bound perspective. Social studies, by encompassing a wider range of subjects, helps in understanding contemporary societal structures, relationships, and issues from a multidisciplinary perspective.
History often provides a narrative of human experiences and events over time, emphasizing key historical figures and milestones. Social studies, on the other hand, aims to build civic competence and prepare students to participate actively in society, offering a more practical application in education and citizenship.

Comparison Chart

Primary Focus

Past events, people, civilizations
Interdisciplinary study of society and human behavior


Analyzing primary and secondary sources
Integrating methods from history, geography, political science, and other social sciences

Purpose in Education

Understanding the past to inform the present
Building civic competence and understanding societal dynamics


Time-bound study of human history
Broad, encompassing current and past societal issues

Key Elements

Chronology, causality, context
Cultural, economic, political, and social aspects

History and Social Studies Definitions


History is the academic discipline that analyzes and interprets past events.
He teaches European history at the university.

Social Studies

Social studies involves the exploration of relationships among individuals and societies.
In social studies, students learn about different cultural practices around the world.


History refers to the recorded events of the past, particularly human affairs.
She specializes in the history of ancient Greece.

Social Studies

Social studies is the study of how societies work and interact with each other.
Social studies teachers encourage students to understand global issues and cultural diversity.


History is the narrative of human experiences over time.
Her documentary explored the history of jazz music.

Social Studies

Social studies is the integrated study of social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence.
The social studies curriculum includes geography, history, and government.


History is the study of past events and their impact on the present.
The history book detailed the causes and effects of World War II.

Social Studies

Social studies is a field encompassing various disciplines like history, geography, and economics.
Her social studies project examined the economic development of Asian countries.


History is the chronological documentation of significant past events.
The museum's exhibit depicted the history of the civil rights movement.

Social Studies

Social studies is an educational discipline focusing on aspects of human society.
Social studies classes often discuss current events and their historical context.


A chronological record of events, as of the life or development of a people or institution, often including an explanation of or commentary on those events
A history of the Vikings.


What is the purpose of teaching history in schools?

The purpose of teaching history is to provide an understanding of past events and their influence on current and future scenarios.

What is the main focus of history?

The main focus of history is to study and understand past events and their impact on the present.

Can history stand alone without social studies?

History can stand alone as a discipline focused on past events, but it gains broader context within social studies.

Is history limited to studying human affairs?

Primarily, history is concerned with human affairs, though it can intersect with areas like environmental history.

How do social studies contribute to understanding cultures?

Social studies help in understanding different cultures by examining their historical, social, and political contexts.

Do social studies include economic studies?

Yes, economics is an important part of social studies, understanding how societies organize and distribute resources.

How do history and social studies differ in methodology?

History primarily uses historical sources and analysis, while social studies integrates methods from various social sciences.

What does social studies encompass?

Social studies encompass a range of disciplines including history, geography, political science, economics, and sociology.

What skills does studying history develop?

Studying history develops critical thinking, analytical, and interpretive skills.

Are history and social studies interrelated?

Yes, history is a component of social studies, providing a temporal context to understand societal developments.

Why are social studies important in education?

Social studies are important for building civic competence and preparing students for active participation in society.

Do social studies focus on current events?

Social studies often include current events, providing them with historical, geographical, and political context.

How do historians gather information?

Historians gather information through primary and secondary sources, including documents, artifacts, and other historical records.

How does social studies prepare students for future roles in society?

Social studies prepare students by teaching them about societal structures, civic responsibilities, and global issues.

Are historical events always interpreted the same way in history?

Historical events can be subject to varying interpretations and perspectives in history.

What role does geography play in social studies?

Geography in social studies helps understand physical landscapes, environments, and spatial relationships in human societies.

Can history change over time?

The interpretation and understanding of history can evolve as new evidence or perspectives emerge.

What is the importance of political science in social studies?

Political science in social studies examines government systems, political behavior, and public policies.

Are social studies important for understanding global issues?

Yes, social studies are crucial for understanding and addressing global issues from a comprehensive perspective.

What distinguishes history from other social sciences?

History is distinct in its focus on chronological events and the past, whereas other social sciences may focus more on current societal dynamics.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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