Most people think that history is all about reading important events in the form of a story or narrative. Rarely do they associate the study of history with mathematics or any quantitative methodologies. Perhaps this is so because most contemporary historical resources, be they in the form of a book or journal article, appear to be qualitative at least. But will the study of history become more math-intensive or quantitative?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is pure speculation that will the study of history become more math-intensive or quantitative?
    – NSNoob
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 12:11
  • @NSNoob - Well, you could look at things as they are now, as they used to be, and what the trend appears to be. As long as you report that, rather than assert knowledge of the future, I wouldn't consider it speculation.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 13:36
  • Agreed. +1 good question.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 14:35
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    How do you measure this? How would you measure the trend? How to Ask makes it clear that H:SE is not a place to predict the future. I suggest that the question be revised to discuss current trends, not the future, and I suggest that OP needs to provide a way to measure the concept. Is a paper with 2 equations mathematical? 3 equations? 5? Is a paper with DNA analysis but no equations math intensive?
    – MCW
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:56
  • There is at least some realization that Bayesian arguments are appropriate to assessing the relative merit of competing interpretations of evidence. While we might not agree with some of his arguments this is apparent in the writings of Richard Carrier. Commented May 11, 2016 at 2:19

1 Answer 1


One important innovation in 21 century is the use of DNA analysis for historical and pre-historical research. Here is the book which lists some recent achievements: Nicholas Wade, Before the dawn. Discovery of the lost history of our ancestors, Penguin Press, NY 2006.

It is mostly about pre-history, but there are some amazing examples from history as well. (For example it was established that Jefferson had children from one of his slaves. An example from pre-history: it was possible to establish when people started to use cloth, by analyzing the DNA of lice:-). DNA analysis is certainly a quantitative method using many results of various exact sciences.

There are also several archeological dating methods based on exact sciences, but they were known since 20 century. The things like astronomy, chemistry and geophysics (climate history, for example) which are also exact sciences were used even earlier.

  • This is interesting, but it doesn't answer the question - is DNA analysis mathematical? What % of history papers include reference to mathematical techniques?
    – MCW
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 18:11
  • DNA analysis involves a lot some mathematics. And it is certainly a quantitative method.
    – Alex
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 19:26

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