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which I believe can meaningfully be understood Fellow historians: I was given an assignment as a sort of test. I was askedto read sevenarticles concerningthe place of quantification in history, and to selectfrom them the one I found most appealing. The reasonI believe this was a test, and a fair one, grows out of the implications of a previous requestby my professorto be cautious about assumingany kind of immediacy with the past. In a classpreceding this assignment,the professor had initiated a debateon objectivity and history. He had seemedto hope that we would agreewith PeterNovick's view that the claim to be able to discover objective truths concerning the past is a 'big lie'. I am a historian; but in training. The difference in that I have been askedto read, cannot experiencebetween myself and the historians/sociologists be bridged: I have no immediate experienceof the battle over quantification whether when it was 'red hot' or after othe climacteric of cliometrics'. Therefore, since I seea similarity betweenthe nature of historians relationship to the past, and of mine to this debateon quantification in 'big lie': To history, I understandthe professor'srequestas a bait to fall into the trap of the make a selection basedon its degreeof 'truthfulness' ( no doubt for solid pedagogicalreasons;I it DO NOT suspectmuch sadismon his part). It is a fair ploy because calls attentionto itself. He asks for a selection, which could bring to mind how the inevitability of selection makes bias unavoidable for historians, and thus to historians like Novick who focus on historians biases including that of the big lie. The requestcan also be fulfilled, becauseso long as I do not select a reading becauseit is more true than the others,it is possibleto make a selection for a different reasonand avoid, hopefully, reproof. I thereforeselectMcCloskey's article as most appealing, becauseI believe it witl be useful to me as a conceptualtool as I read more about quantification in ' i
reason because, and history in the future. I selecttwo others- both of Kousser's for the same truth be told, I havea problemwith authorityanddo not do what I havebeentold whenever possible. that I prefer not to do what I Actually, the truth is (otherthantruth beingan elusiveconcept) my possible.I admitthatI whenI began assignment sightwasset my havebeentold whenever the bias. I understood of on finding this elite articlewithout any consideration personal professor's to for request a search truth, andI intended find it. I wasmotivatedby past as which both In I experience: general, usuallyfind thatthereis a point of view on any debate mainpointsof otherviews. the answers interesting responds andconclusively to point I wasthankfulthat it did not takelong beforeI foundthe articlewith this overpowering makeclearis articleo'Ancients Moderns".Whathe helped and of view - it wasMcCloskey's in that most debates over numbers historycannothelp but be limited by a traditionof differentfrom narratives.It might be a difficult taskto understanding themasepistemologicaly that standoutsideof a traditionwhosespellwe arestill under,but, if we remember in Tudor
.1, .,^.lf nnr'
effects, withoutany disabilitating mathandnarrative mixed andmatched timesearlyhumanists of we might be ableto usethis resurrection an earliertraditionto help us conciliateopposing pointsof view in the debate quantification history. and on The remainder the articlesdid not simply split up onto eithersideof an epistemological of articles.Kousser and Laslett's, Schlesinger's divide,but four of themdid: Both of Kousser's, and buriedcausalstructures, lack of with its hiddenassumptions, that'onarrative, argues falsifiability is too obviouslyan inferior goodto run QUASSHout of the marketplace"(137).
of research donewithoutthe guidance theoryleadsto limited Laslettargues that quantitative agrees quantityandcannotgraspchanges quality. Schlesinger in resultsasstatistics measure needguidance, ratherthantheory,the guideis simply the superior but with Laslettthat statistics to wouldusestatistics limit minds,according Schlesinger, to humanist's mind. More mundane mind set. of totalitarian our conception humans a Skinnerian view thatthereis no McCloskey's shared The two remaining articles otherthanMcCloskey's and to cannot warmly,asopposed cautiously be reason why statistics epistemological Bogueasa to Floyd asa response Kousser, hesitantly, within history. I imagined embraced as to response Laslett,andMcCloskey a response Schlesinger. to that thereis evidence suggests to AlthoughKousser claimsthat he preferscharts narratives, is and his strident opposition narrative lessepistemological morea matterof defensive to of posturing.He doessaythat"because enfrenched interests eachmay so colortheir the of the or to responses particulararguments their willingness acknowledge existence certain to pointsthateventhe mostacute mindsof eachsidewill nevermeet"(145).Might we speculate to of interests peoplehe perceives be on the other of that because his initation at the entrenched and as his sideof the divide,andbecause sideshouldlessbe understood entrenched moreas as perhaps shouldbe understood a manwho is he with the climactericof cliometrics, uprooted We refusingto go awayquietly,but whosetime haspassed. couldreactwith sympathy, inflexibility. He perhaps as his appreciate defiance a romanticpose,but still regrethis stubborn admitshis belief in original sin, andthuscannotimaginethe otherside'sredemption but Floyd Floyd attitudeof McCloskey, ratherthandefeatist, can. Inspiredwith the sameoptimistic, "
4 are that helpsus seethata more fruitful way to go is to demonstrate statistics not any tool rooted, a flexible,multipurpose thatcanbe usedto assist approach epistemologicaly but as to historyeventhosewhich view statistics 'poison'like Marxisthistory,or the historyof the HistorySchool. quantitative historyas'nonhas A reading Laslett'sarticleprobably us understanding of that qualitative'history. If we keepBogue'sarticlein mind,though,we might remember when promising by quantitative historyhadits time in the limelight,unadorned theoryandrecklessly which did sustain greatness, suchasTime on the Cross, therewereworksof historyproduced, moreabout which hasus knowing"immeasurably "an extensive constructive dialogue"(157) and 157). It may be that we may be of the mechanics slaverythanwe did beforethe controversy"( had of well advised usestatistics to underthe guidance theory,but still be true that if statistics within theory and to beenintroduced history modestly- that is, contained controlledperhaps and would not haveensued, somequality works would not havebeen that this productivedebate produced. their he in that argues he is opento useof statistics historybecause doesrecognize Schlesinger he traditionof inclusivity. He would not ignoreanything the use,andbecause respects humanist in aboutthe useof statistics we which helpshistorygrow but believes shouldstill be cautious he historybecause imagines themaspotentiallystifling. Troubleis, thanksto McCloskey,we the traditionsinceTudortimesasitself stifled. If we imagine now understand humanist not to use Schlesinger beingintroduced McCloskey's of statistics simplyasa whip to help firm we but up somelt-:r lazy historians, asa tool to openup new na:ratives, might re-readhis
a articleandconstruct different 'virtual text'. A virtual text is the written text asit is constructed arguethat student's in our own minds;it can vary from the realtext asgreatlyas someprofessors positionthat notesvary from their lectures.Our newvirtualtext couldtakeSchlesinger's class thanhe himselfdoes. traditionto be openmindedmoreseriously he is informedby the humanist ThenI stopped. and lit A few realizations my mind like quick lightningstrokes.Schlesinger McCloskeywere traditiondifferently. I hadnot readMcCloskey'sarticlebefore obviouslyimaginingthe humanist with Schlesinger's presented me in the syllabus to I Schlesinger's; hadreadthemasthe',were tradition humanist view Schlesinger's thatthe recent beforeMcCloskey's.Why hadI ignored view of the great to and wasbetterunderstood its inclusiveness, attended McCloskey's by this divide?And then,beforeI considered - THUNDER:TheBIG LIE! How couldI weigh how eitherview of historicaltraditionwithoutremembering distantI am in time from Tudor How couldI forget England, how far lesshistoricallyinformedI amthaneitherhistorian? and that any attemptto dig up the truth aboutthe pastoughtto havebroughtto mind CAUTION!? - cautionof selection of to bias,caution be aware my own biases!I of bias,caution historian's Novick's earlierwarningsandhow they musthavemet a felt stupid,andguilty: I remembered (andproneto violenceagainst thosewho don't wann up to tin ear. As I am alreadyunstable run-ons), or Lloyd deMausse who maketoo big a dealaboutpunctuation sentence or my I this or internalizing, accepting guilt for long wasnot an option. Instead, cleansed guilt by projectingit asangeranddirectedit at McCloskey(I told you I havea problemwith authority;I just didn't, until now, tell you how serviceable tendency is!). this
this goalby doing a background towards I felt playedupon,andwantedrevenge.I started abouthim and checkon McCloskeyhopingto dig up somedirt. I hadhopedto find something evenbetter: McCloskeyhad co-writtenan wife, but cameup with something the neighbour's In syllabus). of articlecalled "The Rhetoric History"(yes, I hadto look no furtherthanthe against powerof rhetoric;in fact,he recommends the this article,he describes persuasive callingattentiontoan author's throughrhetoric,andfor, instead, manipulating audience an he "AncientsandModerns", uses limitationsor gapsin knowledge.And yet, in McCloskey's Worse,he usesmetaphors to arbitrariness. metaphors without callingattention their possible in of in which arguablywork to inhibil analysis the debate the useof statistics history. which This is a metaphor humanists. historians open-minded to McCloskeycompares we humanists If flattersandthreatens. we like the ideaof beingopen-minded simultaneously are that words andnumbers the may want to think like they did andnot take seriously premise that epistemologicaly different. We may alsobe concerned with too muchbickeringwe somehow and or Puritans Catholics their modernday The the may cometo resemble inhumane: intolerant McCloskeywarnsus about. This in mind, we may be equivalents.This is the madness and can of receptive his demonstration how statistics help us seenew narratives not to especially one that suspicious this new narrativeturn is conveniently whereboth sideswin. If we werenot that with McCloskey,I wonderif we might havesuspected what we have of the mind to agree such in'special' circumstances to in hereis ahistorianbiased favourof usingrhetoric manipulate seems disabled silly disagreements? by discipline aswhenthe historical point of view? McCloskey's reason hadso quicklyembraced I Is rhetorical manipulationthe
I Yes,but rhetoriconly works if it playson assumptions alreadyhad whetheror not I was playedon this assumption metaphor that McCloskey's consciously awareof them. I believe and its that conciliationis morehigh mindedthanopposition,enhanced presence impactin my has mind, so asto overwhelm influencJ'other the articles. If true,andif this tendency something whether historianmight consider inheritance, theneventhis amateur to do with our humanists' tradition. of is Schlesinger 'right' andMcCloskey'wrong' in their charactenzation the humanist I But if my reactionto McCloskeywaslimited to this consideration hardly would have a revenged myselfon him. To do this, I needed create new virtual text of his article- one to 'mad'. Understanding as professors' to reaction misreadings a would seem whereconciliation source irritation,andasI wasirritatedat my gullibility, I couldimaginethis asajust revenge. of correctly,I probablyought my if importance, I understood tendency Of a distant,and secondary any virtual text afterencountering articlewith a biastowards to construct opposing an conciliationasa way of discipliningmy readingof articlesin the future.That is: I coulduse lazy McCloskey helpfirm up a sometimes historian(revenge!). to we with earlyhumanists McCloskeyencourages, could as Ratherthanimaginea connection to tendency disguise automatic It with the same imaginehistorians gentlemen. is a metaphor as into weretransformed havewritten that gentlemen itself as 'reality' - somehistorians professionals (suchashistorians)in the nineteenth century- but it is lesslikely to bring about like influentialhistorians E.P. pleasing by associations: closeto mind arestudies massively Too for like Thompson, Lewis Namier,andphilosophers Antonio Gramsci, and 'gentlemen'not to
couldlikewisebe earlyhumanists, pass like noticeas'patricians'.Patricians, McCloskey's
hailed for a tendency to smooth over differences,but less easily presentedas for high minded reasons. Instead,the anti-patricianvoices of thesemodern scholarsspeakand conciliation is understoodas a camouflage for control. Patricians,worried about the kind of madnessthat McCloskey warns about (although called 'enthusiasms'),portray unkindly what ought to be recognizedas the legitimatevoice of the people- a legitimatevoice silencedby the style, rhetoric, and power of an oligarchy. Can we imagine McCloskey's voice - the voice of conciliation - as silencing legitimate argument? Can the story of conciliation of narrative with statisticsbe told so that one or the other loses something important in the process?These questionsin mind, I returned to the articles...butthis time with McCloskey's virtual text in mind. One of the voices patricians in post Tudor England tried to silence were the Puritans. The Puritans were republicans, and king killers in patricians' eyes. But to Puritan sympathizers amongstliving academics- like Leonnard Davis (so annoyedby the suspensionof critical judgement when reading novels that in his book ResistingNovels he calls for a puritan inspired book burning) - Puritans clearedaway superstitionsand encouragedcritical thinking. This to thought could inspire a reading of Kousseras a response Floyd. Floyd's call for cliometricians to demonstratethe marvels of statisticsto unbelieverstakes the wrong tack: Historians need to unlearn their attraction to what is immediately appealing,and discipline themselvesto years of statistics training. Cozyingup will not do the trick - there is no easy path to salvation! Kousser satirically imagines historians recognizingtheir o'venialand more serioussins" (146) but realizes
that the 'truth' is that most historians are already lost; the only, dim, hope is to seek out those
I for selectfew who have"that combination mathematical literarytalentsso necessary the of and in practitioners QUASSHwho haven'tbeenfrightened depression awaythe currentacademic of in tof!t.p1 statistics history history" (154)andremainuncorrupted historians by who pretend of the Floydrecognizes laziness while refusing learnanything to beyond beginners' statistics. with havestopped historians his articleandshould in there- the restwaslogicallyinconsistent this premise. by Laslett'sreplyto Boguecouldbe equallyinspired validated apuritanvoiceas and initiatedis not proof Kousser's. The fact that certainworks of quality werewritten anddebate and that hadthesehistorians who "had a vision of a new erain which differentapproaches better historiographic of toolswouldbringthemcloser a definiteresolution long-standing to and quantifiers the sortLaslettdescribes, not of controversies everbefore"(145) included than instead more of the sort Laslettenvisions, moreworks of quality anda moreproductive that the obscured true word of God debate may havearisen. Justas Catholicritual andsuperstitions aswritten in the bible, the laying out of the pastwith a final look to the future canobscure ' , .
to attempts imaginewhat might havebeen. Also, the resultof imaginingthosewho study is statistics without theoryasonly oneof manyapproaches that we give themall equalweight, werereally productive- the othersdead whenit may well be true that only a few approaches as cannotbegrouped oneof manyapproaches weightorworse.If true,thenLaslett'sapproach will longbe felt"(157). withoutbeingsmothered if so,its lossof "influence and, but point of view couldbe imagined thevoiceof the Catholics, not as Schlesinger's who by ratherthe Catholics imagined the manyhistorians as intolerant McCloskey's Catholics,
and ritual astextured fulfilling. seemodernlife asformal, rigid and inhuman pre-modern and just asthe Catholics wereright to might be right to imaginestatistics a threat, as Schlesinger with a soft sell - "they Catholics beganconverting regardthe Puritans such:The Puritans as themfor its own purposes" embraced culturalformswhich alreadyexistedandemployed the the (Collinson,98), thenturned"their backson thesesame culturalmedia,which now became wouldhaveus imaginestatistics 98). McCloskey enemyno lessthanpoperyitself'(Collinson, to into beingincorporated historywithout any danger narative, whenwe havereadfrom to historians Kousser ratherclearantagonism narative asa form prefening"distracting like a technicaldetailsandchartsincludedwithin the text] to smoothly clarity [historywith equations, (139). Compromise simply presented reallybe ascertained" whosevalidity cannot conclusions struggle. bringson totalitarian oblivion sans Perhaps I've beenunfair to McCloskey;afterall I partially havehim to thankfor a better it understanding my own biases.Moreover, isn't sucha badbiasto have:To flex every of useful,way to is differences probablya constructive, intellectualmusclein an effort to transcend and approach articleson quantification history,or on any topic, in the future. But, I would be I well advised that whenever think of McCloskeyto bring Kousser the most stridentof the authorto serveas is and anti-narrativists, non-compromisersto mind. Kousser an appropriate perhaps voices the Although... opposition irreconcilability. and a mental'gestalt'for legitimate to compared the only as are of both theseauthors bestunderstood only usefulhandmaidens to the lordly voiceI will never,andneednot,question... only authority unbiased, objective, of hearme:I'll resistthe influence Lloyd,please Lloyd deMause. whichI willing surrender:
11 gods thefuture, promise lead Please, please, leader, on... lead brave false in to only on.
in patrick Collinson,The Birthpangs Protestant ReligiousandCultual Change the England: of London:MacMillanPress,l986. Centuries. and Sixteenth Seventeenth