That our on-topic indicator What topics can I ask about here? be modified to include after the dot point "Factual current political history questions"

  • Historiography
  • Concur; how do we make this happen. The Help Center doesn't seem to be editable; I assume a moderator would need to be engaged to make the changes. How do we communicate the desired change to the moderator? How do we achieve consensus that the change is desired. (I endorse Mr. Russell's suggestion).
    – MCW Mod
    Jan 8 '14 at 12:39
  • 3
    @MarkC.Wallace That part of the help center is indeed editable by moderators. And we've already communicated the desired change with this Meta question. One thing you could do to help reach consensus a bit faster is post a convincing answer, explaining in some detail why historiography should be mentioned explicitly. If, after some time (a week or so?), it's clear the community wants this, then you could also flag this question for moderation attention and ask the moderators to step in and edit the on topic help article (if they haven't already).
    – yannis
    Jan 8 '14 at 18:34


We discuss historiography on H:SE, and the site is richer for that discussion. Google can provide trivial facts and dates; a true understanding of history requies an understanding of the "changing interpretation of those events".

Supporting arguments

  • Furay and Salevouris (1988) define historiography as "the study of the way history has been and is written – the history of historical writing... When you study 'historiography' you do not study the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians." (The Methods and Skills of History: A Practical Guide, 1988, p. 223 lifted from wikipedia

  • History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs If we are interested in history, then it is likely that our study of history will be enriched by learning how history is written, both because it will lead us to more fruitful techniques to study history and because it will warn us about foolish, shortsighted, or just plain frustrating avenues of analysis.

  • Inclusion of Historiography questions will help us to self consistently and self-referentially demonstrate the scope/culture/ of this site. Some (possibly many) of the questions we must reject are rejected for reasons that they ignore assumptions and traditions of historiography.

  • If we continue to reject questions based on bad historiography, then I believe we're obliged to discuss historiography. This also applies to analysis of sources, bias, comparative narrative, etc.

  • @T.E.D's maxim ". . . those questions that belong here until a more appropriate stack can make it into beta (perhaps Earth Science )". IF the question is valid and about historiography, then it adds value to the site, and value to the SE model.

  • Update: We do discuss historiography here. We've got a number of questions tagged historiography.

  • Update: Based on the last self evaluation, I believe that H:SE has a distinct comparative advantage to other sources on the internet because we are able to employ historiography.

In response to Mr. Geerkens answer, I would argue that we must apply the same standards to historiography questions that we do to all others.

  • Questions must be answerable.

  • Question should not promote discussion except within very narrow and culturally defined limits.

I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Geerkens; although it is possible to treat historiography as a discursive drinking game, I belive it can also provide objective answers. For example, the analysis of the Donation of Constantine. Historiography can also be used to discuss questions where there is no provable answer, but where all participants agree (e.g. there is no formal, legal definition of "hot", but if we all agree that it is hot, then it is safe to proceed on the assumption that it is hot.).

  • Mark: We may be on the same page here; except I see explicitly adding the category as an excuse to allow discussion questions because everyone's personal opinion is clearly correct. Jan 11 '14 at 19:29
  • 1
    Historiography is precisely the tool that prevents personal opinions being correct. It may be that there are multiple scholarly opinions, none of which can be differentiated in correctness, but in that case a full answer is a list, "For X School Y; For A School B; For M School N." This is exactly the same as the case when the application of historiography results in multiple competing explanations, none of which can be differentiated, "For Scholar G: H; For Scholar I: J". Jan 13 '14 at 2:29
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    I would strongly suggest adding an executive summary/TL;DR to this otherwise exceptional answer.
    – DVK
    Jan 29 '14 at 17:47
  • Updated at @DVK's request
    – MCW Mod
    Jan 30 '14 at 12:07

Historiography has been added to the list of appropriate questions here. Additionally, I included a link to a decent academic page defining historiography broadly, because I know it is not a terribly well-known term. As Mark C. Wallace pointed out, there are two very key components to asking these questions, just like any others:

  • Questions must be answerable.
  • Question should not promote discussion except within very narrow and culturally defined limits.

I am quite skeptical about this addition to the allowed topics. I may be wrong and will entertain arguments to the contrary, but my initial impression is that the addition of historiography as an allowed topic is an excuse to open the site to discussions on the methods of history.


Note that I am not quite content to make a case-by-case exception for historiography questions that actually have a clearly correct answer.

Further thought:
What if we explicitly included historiography in Chat only for 6 months and revisited this question in the summer? At that time the community should have a clear idea of the consequences of such inclusion.

  • Why would we not want to discuss the methods of history?
    – Jeroen K
    Jan 11 '14 at 19:22
  • @JeroenK: Perhaps because discussions are by definition already off-topic. This is a Q&A site not a discussion forum, remember. Jan 11 '14 at 19:23
  • 1
    I suppose you're right. But why would the risk of discussions be any higher for historiography then for politically hot questions we already answer?
    – Jeroen K
    Jan 11 '14 at 19:28
  • @JeroenK: I counter with: Why is this OP asking for the change? Jan 11 '14 at 19:31
  • I can't look in OP's brain but probably because he wants answers about the practice of history or wants others to be able to ask questions about it. Where else could you ask such questions?
    – Jeroen K
    Jan 11 '14 at 19:35
  • @JeroenK: Prove to me first that there is anything in historiography that is settled and non-trivial. Jan 11 '14 at 19:40
  • 1
    "the study of the way history has been and is written" by that definition any question about the reliability of and the methods employed by earlier historians can be answered. For example Q: How did Marx study and write about history? A: He studied history by using the dialectic paradigm of Hegel. (these <-> anthithese -> synthese) He uses this scheme to explain history as a follow-up of production methods and the society's that are based upon them.
    – Jeroen K
    Jan 11 '14 at 19:58
  • Of course few things in historiography are both settled and non-trivial, but the same can be said about history. How many questions have you seen in the last month that where both? Actually as soon as something becomes a settled fact it is doomed to become trivial.
    – Jeroen K
    Jan 11 '14 at 19:59
  • 3
    The community will decide, not my vote alone. I am just saying caveat emptor. Jan 11 '14 at 20:08

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