The purpose of historical inquiry is not simply to present facts but to search for an interpretation of the past. Historians attempt to find patterns and establish meaning through the rigorous study of documents and artifacts left by people of other times and other places.The study of history is vital to a liberal arts education. History is unique among the liberal arts in its emphasis on historical perspective and context. Historians insist that the past must be understood on its own terms; any historical phenomenon--an event, an idea, a law, or a dogma for example--must first be understood in its context, as part of a web of interrelated institutions, values, and beliefs that define a particular culture and era. Among the liberal arts, history is the discipline most concerned with understanding change. Historians seek not only to explain historical causality--how and why change occurs within societies and cultures. They also try to account for the endurance of tradition, understand the complex interplay between continuity and change, and explain the origins, evolution, and decline of institutions and ideas. History is also distinguished by its singularly broad scope. Virtually every subject has a history and can be analyzed and interpreted in historical perspective and context; the scope of historical inquiry is bound only by the quantity and quality of surviving documents and artifacts.