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Turning Qualitative into Quantitative Evidence: A Well-Used Method Made Explicit


  • Carus A.W.
  • Ogilvie, S.


Many historians now reject quantitative methods as inappropriate to understanding past societies. It is argued here, however, that no sharp distinction between qualitative and quantitative concepts can be drawn, as almost any concept used to describe a past society is implicitly quantitative. Many recent advances in understanding have been achieved by deriving quantitative evidence from qualitative evidence, and using it jointly and dialectically with the qualitative evidence from which it is derived. Its reliability as quantitative evidence can be improved by indexing it against other quantitative evidence from the same community or population during the same period. We suggest that this triangulation method can be extended to many apparently qualitative types of sources that have not previously been used in this way. The potential of turning qualitative into quantitative evidence, then, despite its successes over the past decades, has hardly begun to be exploited.

Suggested Citation

  • Carus A.W. & Ogilvie, S., 2005. "Turning Qualitative into Quantitative Evidence: A Well-Used Method Made Explicit," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0512, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0512
    Note: EH

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    quantitative methods; qualitative methods; methodology; economic history; local studies; case studies; cliometrics;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • C10 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - General
    • C80 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - General
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • N01 - Economic History - - General - - - Development of the Discipline: Historiographical; Sources and Methods
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N90 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - General, International, or Comparative

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