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Features of Historical Text: Time Lines

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Basics on the topic Features of Historical Text: Time Lines

In this video, you will learn all about time lines in historical texts. There are examples, practice, and worksheets at the end.

Features of Historical Text: Timelines

What are timetimes and why are timelines important? With the help of our article and the interactive video, you will learn everything about historical timelines and find multiple examples of timelines for students.

Historical Timelines in Text

Why do we use timelines? We use timelines to better imagine the sequence of events described in historical texts. For example, when we read a book about Ancient Egypt, we can look at the Ancient Egypt timeline to see the relevant events in a chronological order.

We can use timelines to show any sequence of events in history. Both in textbooks and online, you can find timelines of art, museum timelines, timelines of British or American history, world history timelines, story timelines and many more.

Timelines – Definition

Many historical texts include a special feature called a timeline. A timeline is a visual representation of events that happened in the past in a chronological order. Timelines show us which important events in history happened first and which happened after them.

Types of Timelines

There are different types of timelines. We use simple timelines to show what happened during the day, as well as complex timelines to show events that happened over hundreds of years.

Timelines can look different, too. There are vertical timelines and horizontal timelines.

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Features of Timelines

Let’s learn about the features of timelines. Knowing these features is useful when reading or creating timelines.

Timelines have a title that tells us what the timeline is showing us. The title of the timeline below is The History of Phones. This is how we know that this timeline shows us when different phones were invented.

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Timelines also show time periods when the events took place. For example, the timeline above covers the time period from 1876 to 2007. It is more than 100 years!

Another feature of timelines is intervals. An interval is the time between two events in history. In the timeline above, there are three intervals. 1876 is the first date on the timeline, which shows that a phone was invented in 1876. The first interval ends in 1963, which demonstrates that people had been using the same kind of phone before the new push-button phone was invented in 1963.

We also see description sentences next to each date that summarise what happened at that time in history. This is how we know that the first mobile phone was invented in 1980.

Finally, sometimes there are illustrations on timelines. They show us visuals of the events that happened at those points in time. On our example timeline, we see illustrations of different phones.

You can use the timeline above as a reference to create your own historical timelines.

Timelines – Summary

Let’s review what we learned about timelines today.

  • Timelines show the chronological order or sequence of events that happened in the past.
  • There are vertical and horizontal timelines.
  • Timelines usually include the following features: a title, time periods, intervals, description of events and illustrations.

Use this chart to remember the features of timelines:

Title Time periods Intervals Description of events Illustrations
tells us what the
timeline is showing
tell us when the
events took place
show the time between
two events in history
provide a summary of what
happened at that time in history
show us visuals of the events
that happened at those points in time

Now you know how timelines work! To practise more, check out our video that explains timelines for kids, and try our fun activities and worksheets!

Frequently Asked Questions about Timelines

What are history timelines?
How do timelines show historical events or periods?
Why are timelines useful?
What are timelines used for?

Transcript Features of Historical Text: Time Lines

Pearl and Otis are working the night shift at the history museum when suddenly, a shipment of boats arrive! "Otis, the new timeline exhibition should go here, and it must match the timeline in this history book." Let's look at the history book with Pearl and Otis to learn all about features of historical texts: timelines. Historical texts sometimes include a feature called a timeline. A timeline shows the chronological order, or sequence, of events that happened in the past. They are often used as a way to show the events described in historical texts. There are two types of timelines that you will usually see. One is a vertical timeline and the other is a horizontal timeline. Timelines can be simple, such as showing what happened during your school day or complex, such as showing what happened over hundreds of years. Now that you have learnt about different types of timelines, let's help Otis and Pearl identify the features so they can set up the first display, by looking at this vertical time line in Pearl's book! The title tells us what the timeline is showing us. Here we can see the time period in which the event took place. It says B.C., which means before Christ, and signals time before the year zero and ends at nineteen-ninety! This tells us that our timeline covers thousands of years! Here we see the intervals used. Intervals can be the same distance in time, though they often rely upon when things happened in history. Here we see the different events that happened at certain time intervals. Often, there is a sentence or two that summarises what happened. Finally, we see illustrations here. These show us a visual of the event that happened at that point in time! Otis and Pearl need help setting up the second display, so let's look at another timeline and see if you can identify the different features to help them! This time, we have a horizontal timeline, with a title at the top here! What other feature do we see highlighted here? Here, we see the time period. Just like the other timeline, it also covers thousands of years. What feature do we see highlighted here? This is the illustration and it shows the boat that the text is specifically talking about. This helps us to visualise what the text is describing and see what boats looked like at that point in time! What about this timeline feature? These are the intervals. We can see that there wasn't a set amount of time between each event because the events happened at different times. And finally, what about this feature? These sentences on the timeline show the event. It gives a brief description of the key event at that point in time. Now that we have learnt all about timelines with Pearl and Otis, let's review while they set up the exhibition! Remember, Aa timeline shows the chronological order, or sequence, of events. A timeline may be vertical or horizontal. Some features you might find in historical timelines include a title for the timeline, the period in time that the events took place, the space of time between each event, description of the events and illustrations! Now, let's see how Otis and Pearl did with setting up the new museum display! "I think we did a fabulous job, Pearl!" "Hey, this is our home, it's not part of the exhibition!"

Features of Historical Text: Time Lines exercise

Would you like to apply the knowledge you’ve learnt? You can review and practice it with the tasks for the video Features of Historical Text: Time Lines.
  • Can you spot these features on the timeline?

    Hints

    Descriptions tell you about the event in more detail.

    Where can you find more information about the Galley?

    Dates are the year an event happened.

    Which date is nearby the ship NS Savannah?

    Solution

    The image above shows the items correctly highlighted.

    1. Find the point on the timeline that has information on the NS Savannah. The date is just above the illustration of the ship.
    2. The description gives you more information. This is shown by the dashed lines underneath The Galley.
    3. You can spot the illustration of the Viking Longboat just under the date 1000. It's the first point on the timeline.
  • Help Otis and Pearl learn about space history.

    Hints

    Chronological means ordered from earliest to latest.

    Take a closer look at the dates. Can you tell which one is earliest?

    We know that 1957 is earliest by comparing the last two digits in each date. Compare the last two digits to order the remaining dates:

    57, 69, 61, 97

    Solution
    1. In 1957, the first dog went to space.
    2. In 1961, the first person went to space.
    3. In 1969, the first person walked on the moon.
    4. In 1997, the first robot landed on Mars.

    'Chronological' means ordered from earliest to latest.

  • Label the features of the timeline.

    Hints

    The time between two dates is the interval of time on a timeline.

    Can you find this on the timeline?

    Descriptions tell you about the event in more detail.

    The title tells you what the whole timeline is about.

    Can you find the title in the image?

    Solution

    The title is the name of the timeline. It tells you what the whole timeline is about.

    The description gives more information about the events on the timeline.

    An illustration is an image or picture of the event.

    An interval of time is the amount of time between two dates on the timeline.

  • Fill in the missing information.

    Hints

    Timelines are always chronological.

    So, check that all the events are ordered from earliest to latest.

    Look at the dates for baseball and cycling.

    The missing date for soccer must be before biking but after baseball!

    Solution

    The title is 'The Invention of Sports.

    The date of Golf is 1811.

    The sport for 1839 is Baseball.

    The date of Football is 1857.

    The sport for 1864 is Biking.

  • What is the time period in the timeline below?

    Hints

    Start by finding the earliest date on the timeline.

    The earliest date is 1876. What is the last date on the timeline?

    Solution

    1876 - 2007

    The earliest date on the timeline is 1876. The latest date is 2007.

    So, this timeline covers the years 1876 - 2007.

  • Can you spot the errors?

    Hints

    Look closely at the time intervals.

    Can you find two dates that are not in chronological order?

    'Chronological' means that events are ordered from earliest to latest.

    For example:

    Otis ate breakfast in the morning, lunch at midday and dinner in the evening!

    You read vertical timelines from top to bottom.

    You read horizontal timelines from left to right.

    Where do you start reading this timeline?

    Two dates on this timeline have been swapped my mistake, can you spot them?

    Solution

    Errors:

    A History of Dogs

    • This timeline isn't about dogs, it's about music! So, the title is not correct.
    2010
    • The date for the cassette is not in chronological order. The date should be between 1948 and 1982.
    1703
    • The date for the iPod is not in chronological order. The date should be after 1993.
    This timeline is vertical.
    • The timeline in the image is horizontal, not vertical. Horizontal timelines are read from left to right. Vertical timelines are read from top to bottom.