Mesa J

Lawwrence J. McCrank

Is History still a science?

While History may always claim to be a science in the broad

sense of the term Scientia, as a knowledge-based philosophical discourse

aiming at wisdom, ithas always had a difficult time making the case for

equality or peerage with the so-called "hard sciences" even by those

advocating scientific historicism and an empirical foundation to

historical research. But the real test may not come from within History,

but might be applied from without, such as in the case of admissability

of historian's testimony as expert in a court of law, equal to and in

partnership with other experts in other fields. And such an external

competitive test, depending on the public perception of genuine

expertise, reliability, and character as a witness, may rest on the

examination not only of the person in the case of expert testimony, but

also of his or hers research. In the latter case, the criteria are

spelled out in the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence, which might be applied

to any particular piece of historical research as a test case. Could

most historians pass the test? If not, are they qualified to teach those

whose expertise will be tested by such means.... auditors and those in

the actuarial professions, lawyers, forensic examiners, investigators,

diagnosticians such as psychologists, and others who can observe their

evidence prima facie rather than through mediated documentation. Or

archivists, who do work with records, preserve and create evidence, and

whose documentary expertise is often tested external to the profession,

as is that of the curator, appraisor, etc. whose opinion is often

quantified and converted into real value measured in dollars and cents.

The issue of History being a science, should be addressed in

terms of evidence and standards defined outside the field itself so that

self-interest is neutralized, and objectivity is preserved. The courts

have defined such rules and these might be looked at seriously in

reviewing; decisions about promotion, tenure, and mentorship such as in

admission to graduate faculities, etc. One might ask how an historian's

work would fair in a court of law rather than the courts of professional

or public opinion.