LET us try to be as clear as possible about the question at issue, for as yet we do not know whether the problem to which it refers is a genuine one. The question is this: ‘Does what we have called “social description” resemble in its aims and procedures a history of social life more than it does a science of social life?’ Some critics wish to argue that it does. Their claim is that the work of social investigators is a form of current history. The investigators themselves, far from being scientists, are merely sophisticated commentators on topical events. They have at their command a large mass of established propositions about the details of their subject matter, and in some senses of ‘explain’ they can sometimes be said to offer sound and effective explanations. These are not, however, scientific explanations; they are the kinds of explanations given by historians. Even if social descriptions contain reports and explanations as well as descriptions, this does not show that in giving a social description we are also producing a piece of scientific work. We may simply be engaged in historical research.