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The study of history and the plausibility for the alternative approach

Development[ edit ] Although there are Victorian examples of counterfactual history, it was not until the very late 20th century that the exploration of counterfactuals in history was to begin in earnest.

Lee won at the Battle of Gettysburg. A significant foray into treating counterfactual scenarios seriously was made by the economic historian Robert Fogel. In his 1964 book Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric HistoryFogel tried to use quantitative methods to imagine what the U.

Minimizing Threats to Validity

Possibility and Understanding in History and the Social Sciences by the Cambridge sociologist Geoffrey Hawthornwho carefully explored three different counterfactual scenarios. Alternatives and Counterfactuals 1997a collection of essays exploring different scenarios by a number of historians, edited by the historian Niall Ferguson.

  1. For instance, could pluralistic theories of explanations in philosophy help us to evaluate the plausibility of different explanations of how we could get from here to a possible future? Similarly, if the same set of measures is given at every point in time in this study, the "O" can be used to depict the entire set of measures.
  2. Designing Designs for Research. Such an argument may be made either a priori or a posteriori, although the former will usually be more convincing than the latter.
  3. The next problem concerns how the two groups will be assigned.

Ferguson has become a significant advocate of counterfactual history, using counterfactual scenarios to illustrate his objections to deterministic theories of history such as Marxismand to put forward a case for the importance of contingency in history, theorizing that a few key changes could result in a significantly different modern world. A series of "What If?

For example, William Thompson employs a sequence of counterfactuals for eight lead economies that have driven globalization processes for almost a thousand years. From Song dynasty in China to GenoaVenicePortugalthe NetherlandsBritainand the United Statesand claims that each actor in succession played an unusually critical role in creating a structure of leadership that became increasingly global in scope across time.

Designing Designs for Research

Counterfactual history distinguishes itself through its interest in the very incident that is being negated by the counterfactual, thus seeking to evaluate the event's relative historical importance. Such historians reason arguments for each change, outlining changes in broad terms only, as befits a mere byproduct of the exercise. An alternate history writer, on the other hand, is interested precisely in the hypothetical scenarios that flow from the negated incident or event.

A fiction writer is thus free to invent very specific events and characters in the imagined history.

  • In this design, the randomized groups might be sixth graders from the same school year while the cohort might be the entire sixth grade from the previous academic year;
  • In most cases, ruling out a potential threat to validity by argument alone will be weaker than the other approaches listed below;
  • They suggest that one could study the plausibility of an attrition or mortality threat by conducting a two-way analysis of variance;
  • Because ultimately, we can only base our discoveries on claims that have support;
  • At any point in time in a research design it is usually desirable to collect multiple measurements.

The line is sometimes blurred as historians may invent more detailed timelines as illustrations of their ideas about the types of changes that might have occurred. But it is usually clear what general types of consequences the author thinks are reasonable to suppose would have been likely to occur, and what specific details are included in an imagined timeline only for illustrative purposes.

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The line is further blurred by novelists such as Kim Stanley Robinsonwhose alternate-history novel The Years of Rice and Salt has a character talking of historians' use of counterfactuals, within the novel's alternate history.

He dismisses this as "a useless exercise".

  1. Convergent and discriminant validation by the multitrait-multimethod matrix. One of the most commonly used designs in social research is the two-group pre-post design which can be depicted as.
  2. As a result, the most plausible threats in a study should not, except in unusual cases, be ruled out by argument only.
  3. However, previous experience with this strategy Trochim, 1994 has shown us that it is difficult to adhere to a single cutoff score for assignment to group.

Advocates of counterfactual history often respond that all statements about causality in history contain implicit counterfactual claims—for example, the claim that a certain military decision helped a country win a war presumes that if that decision had not been made, the war would have been less likely to be won, or would have been longer.

Since counterfactual history is such a recent development, a serious, systematic critique of its uses and methodologies has yet to be made, as the movement itself is still working out those methods and frameworks. Aviezer Tucker has offered a range of criticism of this approach to the study of the past both in his review of Ferguson's Virtual History in History and Theory [9] and in his book Our Knowledge of the Past: A Philosophy of Historiography, [10] as has Richard J.

Evans in his book Altered Pasts.