Leucius Charinus wrote:MS2 wrote:I'd be interested to hear whether other people think historical research ultimately amounts to anything more than subjective opinion? (And, if so, why and how!)
I found this response to a similar question on another forum very interesting and copied it below.
This relates to the method of history.
History's method is quasi-scientific; more exactly, it is as scientific (rigorous) as it can possibly be, given its particular circumstances.
Given that strict scientific methodology (i.e. up to double blind controlled trials plus metanalyses) is inherently impossible for History, the postulates of the historical hypotheses (often miscalled "theories") are subject to what is often called "mental experiements", in a nutshell rigorously controlled "what-if" speculation.
The traditional scientific methodology is reversed in one critical point; the results of the "mental experiment" (i.e. the present conditions of the issue at hand) are known in advance; it is the "methodology" of such process which is trying to be logically induced from such results.
In fact, the results are essentially the only potentially truly objective part of the process; ergo, extreme rigor is required for recording such results.
The process as a whole is superficially similar to pure philosophical research, given the ostensible relevance of logical reasoning (actually shared by any scientific discipline).
The critical difference is that, contrary to pure philosophical research and analogous to any scientific discipline, the method of History is restricted by the regular rules of evidence; the core falsifiable criteria of Popper are required too.
Even if in principle any past may be considered "History" in practice it is regularly restricted fundamentally to the study of the recorded (basically written) development of humankind; ergo, it is no surprise that the History method so often tends to overlap with the methodology of several other Humanities, notably anthropology and sociology.