Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 February 2017
This article seeks to give a brief response to the question, how do historians know when they know something? The question involves ideas about certitude and truth, and most historians today would make very modest claims about certitude or truth in our statements about the past. Many would echo Charles Beard, who said sixty years ago, “We hold a damn dim candle over a damn dark abyss.” Today the historical profession is fragmented, ideologically diverse, and somewhat relativistic, a situation that is applauded by some and bemoaned by others.
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