pp 1–21 | Cite as

Historiographic narratives and empirical evidence: a case study

  • Efraim WallachEmail author


Several scholars observed that narratives about the human past are evaluated comparatively. Few attempts have been made, however, to explore how such evaluations are actually done. Here I look at a lengthy “contest” among several historiographic narratives, all constructed to make sense of another one—the biblical story of the conquest of Canaan. I conclude that the preference of such narratives can be construed as a rational choice. In particular, an easily comprehensible and emotionally evocative narrative will give way to a complex and mundane one, when the latter provides a more coherent account of the consensually accepted body of evidence. This points to a fundamental difference between historiographic narratives and fiction, contrary to some influential opinions in the philosophy of historiography. Such historiographic narratives have similarities with hypotheses and narrative explanations in natural science.


Historiography Historiographic narratives Archaeology Narrative explanations Case study 



I am grateful to Yemima Ben-Menahem, Arnon Levi and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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