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Published on August 10th, 2012

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The History Discipline – A Mutt?

By Tor G. Jakobsen

History as a scientific discipline is concerned with the past. Man is in the center, not as individuals, but rather as parts of a greater whole, or as parts of big events. History can be described as a “mutt” as it has incorporated elements of other scientific disciplines. However, historians argue that the subject can be helpful to other disciplines as well.

Other social sciences are more oriented toward the present time, and seek to uncover regularities that can be explained. History is focused on the past, is concerned with specific events, and has a more pragmatic relationship to the general regularities of the other social sciences. The discipline is so wide-ranging that one sees a tendency to specialization within the subject. As a Historian one thus wish to concentrate on a specific event, time, time period etc. One seeks to draw conclusion from single events.

History makes use of sources, that is, remains or traces from the past, in order to recreate events, how things used to be, or to give descriptions of important persons. The historian tries to build puzzles where most of the pieces are missing.

History is a discipline where diversity is regarded as something positive. A historian does not work to uncover given truths, he or she rather wish to illuminate several versions of the same story. The sources are the objective part of History, whilst the Historian is the subjective. Through scientific research methods the historian seeks to come as close to pure objectivity as possible.

History is about knowing man’s history, and to learn lessons from it. The discipline can be regarded as a mutt, which lies between the historical-philosophical disciplines and the other social sciences.

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