a1 Department of Economics, University of Namur, Namur, Belgium; e-mail: email@example.com
Because the methodology of historical research gives primary importance to the study of the context in which events occur, it is often seen as antithetical to theory. Theory implies an abstraction from the details of historical reality—it is constructed on the basis of stylized facts—and seems therefore incompatible with the historian's approach. The latter purports to interpret the raw facts in all their richness and complexity. Interpretation is needed not only because all the facts are not known with certainty but also because the manner in which their effects interact is often open to debate. In the eyes of most historians, however, the ambition to interpret the raw facts in all their richness and complexity excludes any recourse to the artifact of a model, on the grounds that it is always a simplified version of reality that adds an unnecessary second-order elaboration of the facts.