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History by Numbers - 10 credits (HST807)

There is a tendency on the part of many historians to equate quantitative techniques in history with a controlling positivism and to see such approaches as unsuitable, methodologically, for historical research. Historians therefore frequently do not desire to understand statistical methods and thus they abrogate their responsibility to be critical of a range of quantitative research (some of which they are forced to take on trust because they lack the skills and confidence to tackle it critically). This course is designed to challenge the idea that numbers are so very different from words in terms of their epistemological purpose, and to evaluate both the potential and the pitfalls of statistical approaches in historical research. It is also designed to equip students with a range of statistical knowledge and skills to enable them critically to engage with a wide range of quantitative history and to employ quantitative methods in their own research. A major emphasis is placed upon the appropriateness of various statistical techniques given the level of robustness of the data. The historical and statistical skills covered in this module include: methods and bias in data collection, the interpretation of measurement error and interpolation for missing data, handling large data sets, the manipulation, interpretation and presentation of qualitative and quantitative historical data,  measures of central tendency and dispersion, statistical inference and association (correlation, regression), time series, multivariate analysis, tests of significance.

This module is compulsory of the Economic and Social history route

Students wishing further to develop their skills in quantitative and qualitative data analysis should also take HST818 Advanced Computer Methods for Historians.