Summary: Unself-conscious use of historical monographs easily results in selection bias. Responsible techniques for using historical sources are available, but they require understanding the extent to which patterns within historiography, rather than ‘History,’ must be the direct focus of investigation an explanation. Article examines Moore’s work, demonstrating that many of the ‘facts’ that he relies on to make his theory work, are in actuality contested debates within the discipline of History. Emphasis on how the choice of historical interpretations that fit one’s theory and typology is a form of selection bias which leads to misleading findings.
Variation among the accounts of historians must be understood to reflect three different kinds of factors:
* the way that the past actually unfolded
* variation in the way relics of the past have been stylized by the institutions that produced them so as to ensure their survival and make them available as ‘primary sources’ for historians
* variation in the implicit theories, narrative tropes, and political and personal interests of the historians
Four strategies for coping with our exploiting the multiplicity of partially inconsistent historical monographs:
* Be true to your school
** Identify the school of historiography you draw on, and highlight its theoretical commitments and biases
* Explaining variance in Historiography
** Presume that narratives which comprise available historiography are likely to reflect, ceteris paribus, a normal distribution of implicit theoretical commitments.
** Constructing a background narrative from claims made by different historians, drawing on different data and different theoretical frameworks
* Explicit Triage
** Sharing the qualitative decisions that led to certain choices of material