I am a narrative historian. By narrative, I mean the telling of a story to explain and analyze events and human agency in order to increase understanding. As a narrative historian, I have not made extensive use of theory in my analysis of past events. In fact, in the past I consistently rejected theory, considering it more of a hindrance than a help.
The historian Geoffrey Roberts stated, “History is frequently labelled an idiographical discipline as opposed to a nomothetic one, that is, a discipline whose knowledge objects are particular, individual, and specific rather than classes of phenomena which are abstracted and subsumed in generalisations about trends, patterns and causal determinations.” In this vein, it was my view—as Peter Burke noted—that history examines particulars and “attend to concrete detail,” while theory attends to “general rules and screen[s] out the exceptions.”