Wednesday, February 27, 2013
John Kay's column in the Financial Times today, "Telling a Story Can Be More Useful Than Cold, Hard Maths," highlights differences in the standards of proof that prevail in legal and scientific thinking, but it speaks to historians as well. Save in the modern-day field of "economic history," quantitative methods have experienced a long decline in U.S. historical studies, and narrative methods now enjoy nearly unchallenged dominance. One implication of the centrality of story-telling to legal reasoning, I suppose, is that lawyers could make more extensive use of the talents of today's historians. But, in an age of "Big Data," we seem to be experiencing a resurgence of quantitative methods in historical studies (try googling "historians and 'Big Data'). Perhaps this methodological turn will generate new markets for historians' talents, too. A recent General Electric blog, for example, bears the title "Why We Need Historians." It turns out that GE's Intelligent Platforms folks offer a industrial-data management software that they've named Proficy Historian.