In natural science, an educated guess at scientific fact is called a hypothesis. Hypotheses are rigorously tried by experiments conducted repeatedly under carefully controlled conditions. This is called the scientific method.

In mathematics, an educated guess at mathematical fact is called a conjecture. Conjectures are rigorously tried by deductive logic proceeding from a small body of fundamental axioms and a large, ever-growing body of previously proven theorems. This is called the axiomatic method.

In the study of history, an educated guess at historical fact is called a narrative. Narratives are rigorously tried by studying the historical record—the soundest narrative is the one that is supported by the greatest number of independent primary sources.

Does this method have a name? Moreover, is it the one method used to rigorously determine historical fact in the same way that the scientific and axiomatic methods are each the one method used to rigorously determine scientific and mathematical fact, respectively, or do there exist other, equally important methods?

  • That's a homework question, right?
    – Jos
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 2:17
  • No, it's not a homework question. Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 2:21
  • "Historical facts" oh really? "Greatest number" oh really? Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 2:37
  • Isn't the answer "historiography"? But if this was a homework question, I'd like to know what establishment. There's too much "thinking" for it to be a typical college.
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 8:47
  • 3
    Even primary sources aren't "historical fact". They are what particular people with particular agendas describing what they wanted to describe about an event. A huge part of history is discerning those agendas in order to put the source into context. It is only recently through other sciences like archaeology and genetics have been able to add actual facts to the discussion.
    – user15620
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


Historians agree that historiographic reading of the documentary record of the past, may produce sustainable historical accounts.

They disagree on:

  • what constitutes the documentary record of the past.

  • what constitutes historiographic reading.

  • what a historical account is.

Historians do not agree that the past comprises facts. Nor do they agree that the number of sources is relevant. Persuasive source bases can be limited, and apparently large corpuses of texts can have biases that severely limit their usefulness. Nor do historians agree that the past has narrative form. They certainly disagree on the conceptual tools and frameworks that are valid when reading or relating the past.

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