Historic, Historical

History’s Adjectives Show Historic Events amongst Historical Events

by Owen Fourie

Historic and historical are the two adjectives of the word history. Many are confused by them, not knowing which one is the right one to use for this or that occasion. Let’s find a solution to help you to use the right word.

Ask yourself two questions concerning the person, place, document, event, etc. for which you require one of these adjectives:

  1. Is this matter an important or significant or influential part of history? If so, use historic.
  2. Is this matter, whether important or unimportant, simply about history, about something that existed in the past? If so, use historical.

Here are some examples of the distinction you should make between historic and historical.

A novel: historical or historic?

If it is a novel you are discussing, and it is set in a specific period, such as the French Revolution of the late 18th Century, it is a historical novel. If this particular novel has also become an influential work holding an important place in history, then it is also a historic novel.

Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel Gone with the Wind is historical, set as it is against the background of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction era, and it is regarded as historic by some who agree with the reviewer for The Washington Post who wrote in 1936, “The best novel to have ever come out of the South … it is unsurpassed in the whole of American writing.”

These things are historic

  • Historic house: The house where William Shakespeare was born in 1564 is a historic house.
  • Historic decision: In March 1857, the historic decision known as the Dred Scott decision widened the rift between North and South and brought the United States closer to civil war.
  • Historic victory: Although the Napoleonic Wars continued until 1815, Admiral Lord Nelson’s historic victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 meant that France was no longer able to enter into a large-scale conflict with the British navy.
  • Historic occasion: The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 was the historic occasion that ended Germany’s involvement in World War I.

These things are historical

  • Historical weapons: Swords, rapiers, daggers, knives, axes, crossbows and arrows are some of the historical weapons used in many ancient battles.
  • Historical documents: If you examine the collection of historical documents in the Library of Congress concerning the Battle of Gettysburg, you will find useful information for the book you are planning to write about famous American battles.
  • Historical photographs: Historical photographs of the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa (1899–1902) may be found on the Internet.
  • Historical events: Many people believe that before the horrifying incidents of 9/11 some historical events served as precursors of those attacks.

Consider the title of this article:

History’s Adjectives Show Historic Events amongst Historical Events

All past events are historical. Only some of those events stand out as historic events because they were, or are, important, memorable, and life-changing. Therefore, the two adjectives of the word history, historic and historical, show historic events amongst historical events.


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