It seems strange to me that there are fewer History questions than say "Bicycles" or "Magento" (whatever that is). I guess I should be glad History has more questions than "Coffee".

Maybe it's because people do care about history, but itls so easy to get answers that they do not have to ask questions about it.

3 Answers 3


I think a large part of it is perhaps that Wikipedia (perhaps the WWW's premier reference resource these days) is all about history. If you are instead interested in something like taking care of cats, its just way easier to get into a level of detail past what you can get on Wikipedia than it is for historical questions. That makes it much tougher to come up with a tough-to-answer history question.

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    Right, there is sort of this "I have lots of questions... but Wikipedia answers them all" effect. So, only the super hard questions ever seem to rise to the level of History.SE Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 16:46
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    This site should have a distinct advantage over wikipedia when it comes to questions that invite analytical answers rooted in our contributors' unique perspectives--but then we tend to close questions like that as "too broad" or "primarily opinion based." I think we shoot ourselves in the foot by by not embracing our one clear comparative advantage here.
    – two sheds
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 17:51
  • @twosheds I find wikipedia answers to be very incomplete in general, and we often can and do provide more specific details that fills the blanks, e.g. obscure facts or analysis of data. But personally I'm not in favour of allowing opinion questions, though I'd agree if you say our application of that close reason is not always sound. IMHO "primarily opinion based" should mostly only apply to speculative/alt-history questions, or questions asking for answers to make inferences from history, i.e. "what does history prove ..." types.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 6:24
  • @Semaphore: I think that's a very good definition of how "primarily opinion based" should be used.
    – two sheds
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 11:50
  • People aren't very good at asking analytical questions that can be answered historically, because asking historical questions is a key historical skill. About half the time I think, "Perhaps what you really meant to ask was...?" but won't invest the time because it isn't rewarded in the SE mentality. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 5:49

I think part of the problem is that to ask the kinds of questions that are best suited for our stack you have to have a pretty decent understanding of history to know where the gaps exist, so to speak. Generally speaking, I don't know that most people have a broad understanding of history.


As T.E.D. mentioned, a large part is due to other excellent sources of historical information such as Wikipedia. But also, I really think we are too harsh on some other kinds of questions.

Questions that can be answered historically

The great thing about history is that to be an expert, you also need to know numerous other fields well. One corollary is that many questions that don't seem to be about history, can in fact be answered well by historians.

For example, a recent question impressed this upon me:

Was the Flakpanzer IV used against infantry? If not, what was?

There are currently two good answers; one answered the question by analysing the Flakpanzer itself, and would not be out of place on a purely-Military Q&A site. The other answered the question via historical accounts.

And yet there are two close votes as of writing. My suggestion: go easy on these! Instead of asking, is this about history? let's ask, can this be answered using history? We should welcome more questions like these because they tend to attract laypersons into learning more about history.

Analytical, subjective questions

I think we shut these down too swiftly largely due to existing SE culture, namely one of the stock close reasons: primarily opinion-based. This reason works well for highly technical, "hard" subjects like software, but is unsuitable for "softer" subjects. History is not just a list of dates and events, the true value is in its analysis of motivations and interests, so we're missing out on a lot.

Not that I want every random schmo putting in their 2c about who started WWII or whatever, but expert insight by professional historians or backed by historical evidence is what I really find interesting. We should be more like sites like Programmers.SE in this regard, in that subjective questions are welcome as long as they draw from professional analysis and are backed by evidence. Feel free to downvote crap but let's go easy on the close votes.

For example, I really enjoyed a TV lecture series by Yi Zhongtian about the Three Kingdoms period, and contained gems like "was Zhou Yu a jealous man?" Which seems like the kind of trivial, subjective question we love to close, but it was answered by drawing from records of contemporary appraisals, opinions of historians as recorded in sources like Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms. Whilst not definitive, as some put it "we can't read the minds of dead people", it is very interesting nonetheless and is definitely related to history and can be answered by historical study.

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