This paper compares the role of cliometrics — broadly defined to include economics, political science, and other social sciences — before and after the "credibility revolution" of the late 1990s. The contributions of cliometrics that led to the 1993 Nobel Prize were due primarily to a combination of quantification and economic theory with in-depth historical knowledge. After the credibility revolution, much of cliometrics shifted toward "natural experiments," especially in papers published in general-interest journals. We argue that this shift comes with certain trade-offs between statistical and contextual evidence, and that the refereeing process currently makes these trade-offs steeper in historical settings than in other observational-data settings. We also argue, however, that historical settings offer particularly actionable ways of flattening these trade-offs to ensure the "clio" in cliometrics stays alive and well.
Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 1 Special Issue - Theory and Method in HPE: Articles Overview
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