Posted by: aboutalbion | May 29, 2012

What is History? (7)

Carr’s next chapter is entitled ‘Causation in History’.  He argues that the study of history is the study of causes, and that a historian’s further task is to give an order of priority to these causes.

Against determinists (who say that every event has a cause), and against those who argue that history is a chapter of chance accidents, Carr argues that historians are only interested in rational causes that have general significance.

For Carr, a significant historical cause is one that s/he is able to fit into her/his pattern of rational explanation and interpretation.  Carr quotes Meinecke with approval: “behind the search for causalities there always lies, directly or indirectly, the search for values”.

Carr concludes with a reflection that the historian in the present always has the future in mind as s/he studies the past.

[Carr, E H (2001) What is History? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.]

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