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Taking Temporality Seriously: Modeling History and the Use of Narratives as Evidence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2002

TIM BÜTHE
Affiliation:
Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science, Columbia University, tim.buthe@columbia.edu, http://www.buthe.net

Abstract

Social scientists interested in explaining historical processes can, indeed should, refuse the choice between modeling causal relationships and studying history. Identifying temporality as the defining characteristic of processes that can be meaningfully distinguished as “history,” I show that modeling such phenomena engenders particular difficulties but is both possible and fruitful. Narratives, as a way of presenting empirical information, have distinctive strengths that make them especially suited for historical scholarship, and structuring the narratives based on the model allows us to treat them as data on which to test the model. At the same time, this use of narratives raises methodological problems not identified in recent debates. I specify these problems, analyze their implications, and suggest ways of solving or minimizing them. There is no inherent incompatibility between—but much potential gain from—modeling history and using historical narratives as data.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2002 by the American Political Science Association

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