History may be one thing after another, but that does not mean that historians only describe event after event. They try to explain the past. Facts in themselves are not interesting; they acquire significance only when they are related to other facts. It is best if the facts and the established relations can be checked, which means that a professional historian does not only refer to his sources, but is also able to explain his explanation.

Depending on one’s counting, there are three, four, or five explanatory models.

  1. The hermeneutical approach;
  2. The positivist approach;
  3. The comparativist approach;
  4. The narrativist approach, which is sometimes regarded as a variant of the hermeneutical approach;
  5. The “physics of society”: a promising field that still has to prove itself.

This page was created in 2014; last modified on 8 May 2019.