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Blocking the Future: New Solutions for Old Problems in Historical Social Science

  • Peter Bearman, Robert Faris and James Moody

Extract

The only true voyage would be not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land with a hundred different pairs of eyes.

Marcel Proust

Although it may turn out to be otherwise, this is an early article in what is hoped to be a larger series of studies in the application of network methods to historical problems. This article explores some new solutions to old problems in historical social science and history more generally and provides some templates for thinking about an old problem in a new light. The old problem is the problem that arises when one considers how we know what historical events mean and how we can have confidence in our interpretations. For many social science historians, the problem of meaning is secondary to the problem of making causal arguments. And often the practical reality of much historical work is that more mundane problems of data and evidence often consume an unusual amount of time and energy, drawing attention away from the luxurious concerns discussed in this article — concerns with what things actually mean. Despite the recognition that the problem of meaning may not lurk around every corner for all social science historians, the goal of this article is to propose some new strategies for determining what things mean in historical context.

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Blocking the Future: New Solutions for Old Problems in Historical Social Science

  • Peter Bearman, Robert Faris and James Moody

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