The Influence of Monarchs: Steps in a New Science of History

By Frederick Adams Woods | Go to book overview

APPENDIX III [Reprinted from Science, N.S., Vol. XXXIII., No. 850, pp. 568-574, April, 14, 1911.]
HISTORIOMETRY AS AN EXACT SCIENCE

IN the issue of Science for November 19, 1909, under the title "A New Name for a New Science" I proposed the term historiometry for that class of researches in which the facts of history have been subjected to statistical treatment according to some method of measurement more or less objective or impersonal in its nature. These researches have chiefly had in view the listing and grading of historical characters, either for the purpose of studying mental heredity or for the better appreciation of problems associated with the psychology of genius. Researches of this type are capable of a far greater expansion and application than is generally supposed. They can be applied to events as well as to individuals. They can, by treating the vast store of human records which exist in books as material for the construction of an exact science, work towards the solution of a wide range of historical problems, such as the causes underlying the rise and fall of nations or other fundamental questions in history.

Before anything can be done which shall give general satisfaction and agreement it will be necessary for this subdivision of science to justify itself, to measure its own shortcomings, to appreciate its own limitations, as well as to prove its own right to recognition of independent estate.

If we are to fathom historical causation by objective methods it is obligatory first to prove that history itself, as we commonly find it in the printed records, is a sufficiently valid account of what actually happened. Second, it is equally necessary to find proof that the objective methods correctly deal with these facts. It might be supposed that the second proof awaits the first; but this is not necessarily so. If the records themselves were very much at fault, so that the statements of historians were very far from ideal truth, or if the objective methods of collecting and analyzing these statements were subject to a large error (or if both these forces were in play) then it would be difficult to find wherein the trouble lay. But if, on the contrary, it fortunately

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