28 Kasım 2013 Perşembe

The nature of the problem of causality in History

From E.H. Carr's  What is History?, ch. 4.

Let us begin by asking what the historian in practice does when he is confronted by the 
necessity of assigning causes to events. The first characteristic of the historian's approach 
to the problem of cause is that he will commonly assign several to the same event.
Marshall the economist once wrote that 'people must be warned off by every possible 
means from considering the action of any one cause ... without taking account of the 
others whose effects are commingled with it'. The examination candidate who, in 
answering the question 'Why did revolution break out in Russia in 1917?', offered only 
one cause, would be lucky to get a third class. The historian deals in a multiplicity of 
causes. If he were required to consider the causes of the Bolshevik revolution, he might 
name Russia's successive military defeats, the collapse of the Russian economy under 
pressure of war, the effective propaganda of the Bolsheviks, the failure of the Tsarist 
government to solve the agrarian problem, the concentration of an impoverished and 
exploited proletariat in the factories of Petrograd, the fact that Lenin knew his own mind 
and nobody on the other side did - in short, a random jumble of economic, political, 
ideological, and personal causes, of long-term and short-term causes. 

But this brings us at once to the second characteristic of the historian's approach. The 
candidate who, in reply to our question, was content to set out one after the other a dozen 
causes of - the Russian revolution and leave it at that, might get a second class, but 
scarcely a first; 'well-informed, but unimaginative' would probably be the verdict of the 
examiners. The true historian, confronted with this list of causes of his own com- piling, 
would feel a professional compulsion to reduce it; to order, to establish some hierarchy of 
causes which would fix their relation to one another, perhaps to decide which cause, or 
which category of causes, should be regarded 'in the last resort' or 'hi the final 
analysis' (favourite phrases of historians) as the ultimate cause, the cause of all causes. 
This is his interpretation of his theme; the historian is known by the causes which he 

1 yorum:

Mustafa A. Attar dedi ki...

Tezimde alintiladigim iktisadi tarihci Eric Jones su minvalde yazmis: "Sanayi Devrimi'nin neden Ingiltere'de oldugu ve neden 18. yuzyilda oldugu gibi sorular kesin cevaplari olmayan sorulardir. Bizler ancak olasi alternatiflerin bir kumesini daraltabiliriz."

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