Historical Theory and Historical Confirmation

In his book Our Knowledge of the Historical Past, Murray Murphey argued that historians develop their own theories rather than rely on those of social science. Even the most empirical history uses constructed inferences when it identifies, explains, or interprets historical phenomena. Historical theories often invoke the covering-law model. Though historians are often unaware of their use of theory, their schemata are not different in kind from those of other disciplines. However, Murphey's notion of historical covering laws cannot support the kinds of counterfactuals used in science. Moreover, since historians are not always explicit or rigorous about their use of theory, it is unlikely that such interpretations can fulfill the analytical criteria of the sciences. Finally, Murphey contradicts himself in his discussion of historical confirmation when he demonstrates the difficulty of establishing the empirical adequacy of historical theory.