The Uses of Statistics
The advice is good for any historian, economic or not. The attempt to produce a number is usually illuminating, even when no number is in the end producible. Counting is a master metaphor. A historian listing the factors causing the American revolution or the English enclosure movement will give more weight to one factor than to another. The very idea of ‘more weight’ is quantitative, and to settle on one factor or a few as ‘more important’ than others is to think quantitatively. Quantities are unavoidable.
Every economic historian should … have acquired what might be called the statistical sense, the habit of asking in relation to any institution, policy, group or movement the questions: how large? how long? how often? how representative? [1930, 416]
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