Social and Historical Change
Social and Historical Change
The Nature of History
We can define history in three ways. In reality, we can speak of three sciences related to history that bear a close relationship to one another. First is the science of past events, and the conditions and circumstances of people in the past, as distinct from present conditions and circumstances. Every condition, circumstance, or event, so long as it pertains to the present time, is an event of the day or a current of the day, and the recording of such events amounts to keeping a journal. But when its time has lapsed and it has been joined to the past, an event becomes part of history. Therefore, the science of history in this sense means the science of finished events and the conditions and circumstances of bygone people. The chronicles of lives, careers, and victories written in every nation fall in this category.
The science of history in this sense is, in the first place, particular; that is, it is a science of a series of personal and individual phenomena, not a science of universals and of a range of laws, criteria, and relations. In the second place, it is a narrative, not a noetic, science. 13 Third, it is a science of "being," not a science of "becoming." Fourth, it pertains to the past, not to the present. We term this kind of history "narrative history."
The second science is that of the laws and norms governing past lives, which is gained from research, investigation, and analysis of past incidents and events. The content and questions of narrative history, that is, past events, are considered the sources and elements of this history. These events have for history in the second sense the force of the materials that the natural scientist assembles in his laboratory to analyze, synthesize, and study for the purpose of discovering their nature and properties, discerning the cause-and-effect relationships among them, and inferring general laws. The historian in the second sense seeks to discover the nature of historical events and the cause-and-effect relationships among them in order to find a range of formulas and criteria that can be generalized to all similar instances, present or past. We term history in this sense "scientific history."
Although the subject matter of scientific history consists of events belonging to the past, the concepts and formulas that it elicits are not restricted to the past, but can be generalized to the present and future. This consideration makes history very profitable; it makes it one of the bases of human knowledge and places man in command of his future.
There is a difference between the work of the scientific historian and that of the natural scientist. The subject matter for the natural scientist's research is a range of extant, objectively present materials, which he will consequently examine and analyze in an objective and experimental fashion, but the materials the historian studies existed only in the past. Only information about and records of them are at the historian's disposal. The historian in his deliberations is like a trial judge who renders judgment on the basis of the evidence and testimony given in the case, not on that of personal eyewitness. Accordingly, the historian's analysis is a logical, rational, and mental analysis, not an externally and objectively, based one. The historian carries on his analyses in the laboratory of the reason, with the instruments of ratiocination and deduction, not in an outward laboratory, with such instruments as the retort and the alembic. Therefore, the work of the historian more resembles that of the philosopher than that of the natural scientist.
Like narrative history, scientific history pertains to the past, not to the present, and is a science of being, not of becoming. Unlike narrative history, it is universal, not particular, and noetic, not purely narrative.
Scientific history is really a branch of sociology; it