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history as art or science

Is History Art or Science?

History is an academic discipline that gives the human species the ability to understand the present through the events of the past. History allows a more perceptive illumination of the present, the possibilities of our future, and the rich human genealogies that mold and shape nations, cultural traditions, and the result of human endeavor.

History is most important when the mysteries of the present can be traced back to the root causes or influential catalytic events of the past. Without history, we as a species would never fully understand the present and future, because the present is directly created and molded by humanity’s historical past.

History, for some scholars, is a discipline that collects data from the past and puts such data together to form a historical event. Within the collection of figures, we find the center of art and science as the study of history. Data interpretation begins and fragments of historical data are pieced together to form a historical event or discovery.

Now, when data is interpreted or understood, the art of this academic discipline would be the ability to eliminate or extract lost pieces of history to establish a historical fact or event. Therefore, history is considered an art for some scholars while for other scholars history is a science or both. To understand this concept further we must understand history as an academic discipline in depth and more fully and explore the academic systems and definitions of history.

Next, as we examine the academic discipline of history, we must analyze its structure and determine how the discipline relates to the sciences and/or the arts. Finally, let us reassemble the finer pieces of the academic discipline of history and see how history operates under a scientific schema, under an artistic schema, or under both. We will then conclude with our conclusions, and see whether the academic discipline of history stems from a science, an art, or a combination of the two.

What exactly is history?

To fully understand the history and its ideological aspects as an academic discipline, we will need to know the many systems of history. It is the beginning of our investigation of history as an academic discipline and will help us to explore and clarify the academic systems and definitions of history. First, we must find an answer to the question, “What is history?” Because this question brings to light the comprehensive information of history. After this, we can begin to appreciate how scholars can extrapolate past information or interpretations.

Arndt, Galgano, and Hyser
observe that “History is not a collection of facts about the past whose primary value is to improve one’s skill while playing trivia games; It is the interpretation of the past based on the weight of available evidence.’ Hence, history allows a perspective on the present based on the past. History provides a basic platform for understanding the present, a platform that is rooted in the past or history.

We can see history as an important link between the present and the past, with the historian’s explanatory narratives and facts, and the relationship of the two to each other.

Carr has pointed out this important relationship –

Of “dialogue” – between the historian and the facts: “What is history? It is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an endless dialogue between the present and the past.” Therefore, history can be seen as a continuous relationship between the historian and his facts.

Now, without the historian’s intervention in the world of facts, such facts would not be found or used and the historian would have no evidence or basis for explanatory conclusions. With all these aspects of history, we can also understand the study of history as a combination of art and science respectively.

  Hughes points out that “the study of history presents living evidence of the complementary nature of art and science. One might imagine that this would be a source of pride for historians.

As we further define history, we begin to mix the science and art of history and see better how these concepts relate to each other. History—on a broad scale—uses a variety of academic disciplines and merges them to better explore historical facts and how these facts emerged or played out in history up to the present. As Hughes has rightly said, “Historical scholarship has begun to establish a firm relationship with neighboring intellectual disciplines such as economics and sociology.”

  The reason for such a merger is that historians must use the many tools at their disposal, from various academic disciplines including sociology, economics, anthropology, religion and others, to aid in the discovery of supporting context and facts and events, To help create a holistic interpretive lens for understanding.



The historian often finds himself within the realm of science and begins to combine other arts and science fields such as literary interpretation and psychological analysis. It is at this point that we begin to see history as a science or a combination of art and science.

Marius and Page thoughtfully discuss the difficulties in historical interpretation and its value:

“The evidence for past events…is always incomplete and fragmentary. Many pieces of evidence have disappeared, and others have often been discolored and mutilated. Historians piece together as best they can, but holes remain in the picture they try to reconstruct… What emerges may be closer to what happened. , but we can never be absolutely sure that what we know as history is an exact replica of the past. ,

The historian’s task of filling the gap between historical facts points to the artistic aspects of history as a discipline. An inevitable part of the process of historical writing is the historian’s need to piece together facts in order to extract a subjective narrative and mold a reconstruction of history. Without this narrative construction, history would be incredibly difficult to understand. This is the point at which history clearly becomes partly an artistic discipline.

At the same time, though historians are managing the facts and their gaps, there remains the aspect of hypotheses and theories within history and historical findings. A balance must be achieved by the historian in order to optimally enhance historical facts and historical fiction. This area of balance is often a point at which the historian may avoid evidence or interpret such facts subjectively.

  Arndt, Galgano, and Hyser caution historians (and their readers) about this when they write that “[although] historians may find it impossible to avoid their own viewpoints, they must be aware of their own biases.” should be and should be prevented from intruding into his approach to historical study.

Here we find a battle between the objectivity and subjectivity of historical sources and evidence, which in most instances are bits and pieces of a much wider historical event or perspective. In this scenario, the historian may test the evidence for a hypothesis or theory. Under testable scientific conditions, the historian often finds himself working with gaps and fragments.

As mentioned, this is when the art of historical study begins and the historian must piece together or form a basic structure and make sense of the missing links or paths toward the historical past.

  As we begin to further separate interpretation, subjectivity, and objectivity in the context of history, we must further separate the academic discipline of history in order to fully see the range of mechanisms at work in historical study. This will help us to further understand how a historical study is simultaneously a form of art and science.

Historiography and Different Approaches to History

As we explore the academic discipline of history, we should take elements of it and examine how the discipline relates to the sciences and arts. To do this, we need to understand historiography, which is a meta-perspective of historical analysis.

  In the words of Arendt, Galgano, and Hisser, “historiography, or the study of the history and method of historical interpretation, is of great interest to historians.”

Therefore, understanding the processes of history and the methods of its interpretation is key to the discipline of history: “Understanding historiography is important for historians because it shows which questions have received more or less attention, and which questions of the past reveal those who can be prepared.” For a second look.”

  Historiography allows historical interpretation to be understood on the basis of how information is constructed in its context. With a better understanding of different scholarly approaches and different schools of thought, we can better understand the contexts and forms of use of science and art within the academic discipline of history.

For example, the School of Ranke (or the Ranke method) “…argued that while the historian may attempt to understand the past on its own terms, this requires a certain leap of imagination.”

  We can clearly see that in Ranke’s method, “fiction” marks the point at which history becomes an art. With the emergence of further scientific approaches that influenced Ranke’s method, an approach arose known as positivism, which claimed “…to be objective and at the extreme, argued that the scientific method By using it, historians can erase their prejudices, report what happened, and ultimately uncover the laws of human behavior. Scientists claiming to be historians can confidently make truthful claims about the past.


This aspect was taken further and eventually, a progressive school emerged adopting a more sociological approach than a positivist scientific approach. The Progressive School began to think in terms of social scientific methods at the close of history. Further development led to the emergence of another hermeneutical school known as the Annales school. This approach to history attempted to write a complete history that examined history over a long period of time. He was interested in studying the rhythms of daily life.

Deconstruction and postmodernism in historical studies

Through these different interpretive schools, we see the emergence of a collaboration between the social sciences and the scientific method. Each method developed or emerged with an attempt at scientific objectivity in its approach to history. However, none of these methods could ever be completely objective. Because of this, historians began to see that fragmentation, or an inevitable subjectivity, was highly relevant to the historical method. 

From this emerged what has come to be known as postmodernism: “For postmodernists, fragmentary evidence and an observer’s inability to escape from his own point of view render the past unknowable. Instead, he believes that history is little more than an artistic representation of the past that reveals more about the author than about the period discussed.

Now we can begin to piece together past historical fragmentation using the scientific method. We have discussed the artistic approach to historical events and/or the gaps and missing links of the past and conclude that it is inevitable that history has an artistic aspect. Furthermore, connotations such as gender, race, class, and ethnicity have increasingly become fundamental aspects of historical analysis. Thus, these elements will inevitably lead the historian to the spectrum of social sciences that exist within historical intervals and influence their imaginative work when piecing together a narrative.

Just as an artist creates his painting, the historian uses available methods as different paints as he begins to piece together a picture of history. Historians have different genres or disciplines to focus their approach to history with categories such as political, military, diplomatic, intellectual, religious, economic, and social history. Perhaps many more are developing in the field of history as history’s ability to merge with various academic disciplines continues to expand. Each historical context contains unique scientific and artistic approaches to history.

Finally, let us reassemble the finer pieces of the academic discipline of history and see how history operates under a scientific schema, under an artistic schema, or under both. Now that we have looked at the various components of history and gained a broad understanding of the academic discipline of history, let us go ahead and relate history in its entirety to the science and arts.

How both art and science shape historical analysis

Hughes makes a compelling case for a comprehensive perspective on science and art, treating them both as languages: “The two processes, those of science and art, are not very different. Over the course of centuries, both science and art take the form of a human language by which we can talk about a more remote part of reality, and a coherent set of concepts, as well as different styles of art, different words, or terms. There are groups of in this language.”

We can now imagine the mastery of art and science in the entirety of history and how both shape historical outcomes for historians: “If a scientific hypothesis is a metaphor, so is a plastic design or musical phrase. Also As metaphors, they are fundamentally mismatched.’ It is important to note that, although incompatible, science and art still complement each other in collecting and analyzing historical data. The artistic aspect is a process of disciplined inquiry, examination, and analysis. 

Correlation is a comprehensive approach that makes use of the historian’s years of experience. An essential interweaving of science and art in the historical method is the essence of history for historians, simply because historical facts are often obtained orally or secondarily from eyewitness testimony. sources, such as artifacts or manuscripts, from which the historian begins to compose historical writings.

Thus, we can now see the merger of science and art from the point of view of the historian when historical facts or events come to light. In the process of researching his materials, the historian may have used scientific methods to draw his conclusions or may have used a more artistic approach to piece together his narrative from other discoveries or previous discoveries.

Hughes presents very poignantly the matter of subjectivity and objectivity, the inevitable conflict of art and science in the work of historical analysis:

“The historian—unlike investigators in almost any other field of knowledge—rarely confronts his data directly. The literary or artistic scholar has a poem or a painting before him; the astronomer scans the sky through binoculars. ; The geologist tramples the soil he studies; The physicist or chemist conducts experiments in his laboratory. Mathematicians and philosophers are by definition detached from reality and do not pretend to be able to do so empirically. The historian alone is concerned with empirical reality. connected and cursed to see its subject matter in another extinction.

Thus, it is only in the field of the historian that the combination of art and science gives historians the ability to write their own accounts. (Alternatively, it could be argued that this interplay becomes most apparent in the work of historical analysis, but it is present in all fields to a greater or lesser degree.)

History as a complex interplay of science and art

We can now conclude from our findings that the academic discipline of history actually stems from a combination of science and art. We have also seen that, while the historical method once tried to be either fundamentally scientific or fundamentally artistic, the real picture is something more like a complex interplay of the two. This is a major reason why, as Hughes observed, historians are wary of overly concrete terms and definitions:

“Historians are naturally wary of precise definitions; They hate to be confined within tight terminological boundaries, and they are ever-vigilant against the illusion of misplaced brevity; He prefers to write common words in his common sense usage and then let the reader know little by little how these words have subtly changed their significance over time.


We can learn that historians, through their literary distinction, gravitate toward the artistic medium despite their use of the scientific medium. The historian, in his nature not to indicate himself with precise language, leaves room to navigate the realm of the artistic view of history.

History allows a more perceptive illumination of the present, and of future possibilities, and of a profuse human genealogy that has molded and shaped nations, cultural traditions, and the result of human endeavor. We are reminded of the influence of history in our daily lives as our traditions, nationalism and human achievements blossom from the historical past, but yet it is with these influences that artistic literary skill, progress, and scientific fact adorn each other. Are. History influences the present through its art historical depictions and records.

History is most important when the mysteries of the present day can be traced back to its root causes or influential catalytic events of the past. Without history, we as a species would never fully understand the present and future, as the present is generally directly constructed and shaped by humanity’s historical past. Therefore, history allows a perspective from the past to the present. History provides a basic platform for the present, rooted in the past or history itself.

We can see history as an important link between the present and the past and historians’ interpretive narratives of facts and how they relate to each other. As we further define history we begin to mix the science and art of history and how these concepts merge with each other. Science and art complement each other in the methods of gathering historical facts and events, while the historian becomes an artist in the act of creating a narrative through disciplined investigation, examination, and correlation.

With a better understanding of the various historical scholars and schools, we can better understand the contexts and contours of the use of science and art within the academic discipline of history. The historian often finds himself within the realm of science but also links the fields of art and science, such as literary interpretation and psychological analysis.

Historians study documents, artifacts, evidence, various written records, and more—all of which are hard data evidence. And yet, they must interpret this data and make it readable and understandable from a perspective. Marius and Page eloquently highlight this fundamental aspect of the historian’s endeavor:

      “There is both science and art involved in solving such riddles of history. Science is synonymous with knowledge. But knowledge of what? History includes data evidence, names of people and places, when what happened, where it happened, and information gathered from many sources. It also includes the interpretations of historians and others in the past who have written on the topic the author has decided to treat in an essay. The art of history lies in combining fact and interpretation to tell a story about the past…”


The Compulsory Subjectivity of the Historian (And Why It’s Not Bad)

As we have seen, historical methods recognize that there are gaps in facts and evidence, and help historians decide where their interpretations fit best within a larger perspective. In other words, they help establish boundaries for how best to craft stories or narratives of the past. The historian may seek better understanding through various explanatory assumptions or beliefs, yet the historian’s scientific approach obliges the historian to seek as much factual data evidence as possible.

  The historian’s interpretation and point of view influence the meaning of the historical data and, depending on the scientific method or objective school of thought (Rankese, positivism, Annales, postmodernism, etc.), the historian may still have to order a format or artistic summation. would need to be used. To tie together fragmented historical data.

Subsequently, the historian’s actual current life may also influence the historian’s ability to interpret historical facts, often affecting historical events and their contexts. As the historian’s daily life can affect the historical context, it is at this point that art becomes highly contextual, and the subjective, historical data or findings are reshaped to better fit the historian’s arrangement. inevitably affects. Thus we can see that the historian, with his known variables, must be somewhat of an artist as he makes sense of historical data through an array of influences.

As Hughes very significantly points out, the historian “[cannot escape] the pressures of it all around him. And if his business has more than the ancient meaning for him, he is unable to comment on the recent past”. To the same dilemmas of personal loyalty and ideal loyalty, of innate ruthlessness and goodwill towards men, which have troubled their minds in the study of remote ages, when they fix their weary eyes upon the circumstances, in which he is really alive.

The historian must recognize that his own time can influence or be influenced by his interpretation of the past. This “influence of the present day”, that is to say, may include influential current factors such as politics, ideology, and/or groups that may alter the historian’s psychoanalytic objectivity. These tremendous variables greatly influence the outcome of the historian’s interpretation, and it is in these variables that the art of the historian is manifested in the academic discipline of history.

Through the various schools of thought within the interpretation of history, we can clearly see the construction of historical fiction as both a science and an art, regardless of interpretive findings. No matter how scientific a historian may make his or her ideology of explanatory findings, there will be a point where science ends and art begins. In the field of history, science alone will not be able to prove the entire historical phenomenon through scientific limitations and fragmentary historical realities.

The historian must acknowledge and respect both roles and their purposes in his work: “For the historian who does not see the inconsistency between his various roles—who is at least as much an artist as he is a social scientist— is uniquely equipped to lead others in an imaginative fusion of these characteristics, and thus to illuminate the age in which we live.”

  The historian must have the ability to use science and scientific disciplines and combine them with disciplined imagination to create a balanced ahistorical result and sift through the past. Together a historic deadline piece.

Perhaps an apt comparison would be how an artist discovers the shape and size of a material that no one will see or understand and begins to piece it together and create a work of art. Where the layman fails to see the possibilities or imagine the creation of an artifact, the historian seeks and sees the possibilities of piecing together historical facts and stories.

  Similarly, the artist uses the laws of science in molding, sculpting, and creating the piece, but they also use their imagination in the process. Therefore, history is an inevitable and complex interplay of art and science.

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