Historisk Tidskrift. Utgiven av Svenska historiska föreningen
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Historisk tidskrift 125:2 • 2005

Innehåll (Contents) 2005:2

Uppsatser (Articles)

Källkritik, metod och vetenskap

Rolf Torstendahl

Fulltext (pdf)

Source Criticism, Methodology and Science

Source analysis and the critical evaluation of sources has been a very powerful instrument in transforming our understanding of history, especially our understanding of medieval history. Thus, there is an enormous difference between what history textbooks of the early nineteenth and of the mid-twentieth century accept as the true history of medieval Sweden. Many individuals contributed to this transformation, not only one specific historical school.

The first part of this article asserts the importance of source criticism although it is also critical of the ”fundamentalism” with regard to source criticism that has been dominant in Swedish historiography. In Sweden, historical method has come to be centred on source criticism, which has been regarded as the historian’s primary methodological tool. In this respect the Swedish historical community deviates from that of all other countries known to the author, to whom source criticism is only one element of a bundle of methodological norms.

The second part of the article discusses the normative set-up of historical scholarship. Like all other norms, all methods are socially produced. The (international) community of historians is the point of reference for acceptance of norms. Methodological norms form only a part of the total normative set-up, and are part of the ”minimum demands”, which are here contrasted to the ”optimum norms” that determine what constitutes interesting problems and fruitful approaches in historical research. These optimum norms are no less important than the minimum demands.