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On historical humility

Summary

John Stackhouse acknowledges the limits to what we can know about the past.

Summary

John Stackhouse acknowledges the limits to what we can know about the past.

Transcript

One of the vexations I’ve had as a professional historian is thinking that I’ve finally gotten to the bottom of this. I’ve done the archival work, I’ve interviewed the right people, I’ve read all the appropriate books, and now here’s what actually happened. Only to find later that I overlooked a box of records, or somebody had a different point of view. In historical work, we can only say what we say with any other kind of empirical work (same thing’s true in science): so far as I know, according to the evidence that I’ve been able to find so far, this is what I think has happened. But that’s as far as any kind of empirical research can take you.