On the Historical Understanding

History and Theory 7 (2):203-216 (1968)
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Abstract

Gallie contends that historical narrative differs from the generalizing natural sciences and can be understood with peculiar directness. In following a story through contingent events to its conclusion, explicit explanation is needed only rarely. But although history is in some sense a narrative, Gallie fails to see that a story can be followed only if one has a fund of generalizations. Judgment about acceptable contingencies rests on prior appreciation of a framework of generalized expectations that are not falsified by particular incidents. Contingencies are unique only because they are counter to. this framework - which serves to limit outcomes and the possible role of contingent happenings, not for deducing events. History is not entirely like art; we are interested in the connections of events, not only in the outcome of a story

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