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Must Historians Regress? An Answer to Lee Benson

Kousser, J. Morgan (1986) Must Historians Regress? An Answer to Lee Benson. Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 19 (2). pp. 62-81. ISSN 0161-5440. doi:10.1080/01615440.1986.10594170.

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In a series of books and articles published from 1957 to 1961, Lee Benson attacked previous political historians’ implicit theorizing, faulty inferences, and failure to examine relevant data using multivariate methods. Benson castigated the view of Jacksonian Democracy embodied in Arthur Schlesinger, Jr’s, Age of Jackson as “fiction,” for example, and announced that he had rejected this view because he had “penetrated the rhetorical surface and struck hard data.” Distinguishing between factual and interpretative questions, he sought to reduce the scope of “subjective relativism” among historians by first “objectively reconstructing” the facts, thus putting historians in a far better position to pose interpretive questions “in meaningful and reasonably precise form.” To attain objectivity, historians had first to discard “the impressionistic approach long dominant in American political historiography,” and adopt a “systematic methodology,” one that required data to be analyzed “comprehensively and rigorously.” The young Lee Benson’s vision inspired many historians, myself included, to attempt to carry out a new, more thorough and “scientific” program to revise American political history.

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Additional Information:© 1986 Taylor & Francis.
Issue or Number:2
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ID Code:81561
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Sep 2017 16:57
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 19:44

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