What is causation in Historical Research?

Even though the event is taken to be a unique scrupulous, historians nevertheless endeavor to explain its occurrence. The analysis of an event as a scrupulous does not undermine either the effectiveness of the offered explanation or its claim to symbolize the truth. Like other social scientists, historians offer a complete explanation of the phenomenon under consideration, and they do this by determining what caused that event to happen. Search for causes is therefore central to historical analysis. Up until the eighteenth century philosophers and historians commonly whispered that the cause necessity is an antecedent event – one that occurred prior to the event that is being explained; and that the antecedent event necessity is regularly associated with the effect. Though, following upon the work of John S. Mill, the cause is no longer recognized as an event that occurs before. Rather it is conceived as a condition or a set of circumstances that are always present when the event E occurs, and always absent when E does not happen.

The cause, in other languages, is a condition that is both necessary and enough for bringing in relation to the given event E. It is said to be necessary because its absence implies the absence of the effect E, and it is enough because its attendance yields the given result E. If a revise shows that individuals with Vitamin A deficiency suffered from night-blindness, and in all those individuals where Vitamin A was present in enough measure, night blindness did not happen, then all else being the similar, we can say that deficiency of Vitamin A is the cause of night- blindness. We can designate Vitamin A as the cause because its absence meant night- blindness and its attendance meant the absence of the effect – namely, night-blindness.

When as students of history we approach the subject of “causation,” we find ourselves in difficulties, for the problem is not one that has received sustained consideration. In accounting for historical events every historian has been a law to himself. As a problem, “causation in historical events” has been dis- cussed primarily by philosophers who frankly disavow any interest in historical research. The arguments which they advance with respect to historical knowledge are based upon the common practice of historical writers, but what they discover in the procedure of historians is dictated by their own interests. Philosophy has no guidance to offer historical students. The historian must face his own problems without aid from philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, or biologists.

According to Marc Bloch, history is to be written “with integrity, with truth, with the utmost penetration into its hidden causes and thus, with difficulty” whereas EJ Tapp’s Some Aspects of Causation in History claims that “without a concept of causation there can be no history”. These two articles briefly enlighten the concept of causation in history, a historian methodology to assign causes to events and lastly, the implication of determinism and accident/chance theory in causation.

In the first place, the historian endeavors to make what has happened intelligible through emphasis on human agency. It is assumed that, for the historian, “the individual is always the principle of explanation”; that for him “the only concrete cause is the individual human will.”

Since, then, the historian is concerned with the activities of individuals as causal agents, it is inevitable that he should dwell upon the part played by great men. Even the exponents of this view, however, come down step by step to the activities of less important individuals and, in the end, to the influence of insignificant happenings and to Voltaire’s theory of “Cleopatra’s nose.” The great-man theory leads ultimately to the view that chance is the dominant factor in history

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.