Academically, where social history was disengaged from the "manners and morals" mode of popularizing, or projects of "people's history," it was coupled to economic history, as in departments of economic and social history created in some British universities in the s. He taught in Aberystwyth, Manchester, and Leeds — before moving to Oxford. He exercised legendary influence in the s as an inspiringly original social historian, with a penchant for reckless bohemianism.
In Leeds he was a friend of E. Thompson, whose article "Moral Economy" began as an intended collaboration with Cobb on grain riots. If social history implied identification with the common people, Cobb was one of its most charismatic practitioners. Traumatized by , he shed this stance.
The later works—Reactions to the French Revolution , Paris and its Provinces, — , and a string of mainly personal writings—became ever more idiosyncratic and suffered as a result. It was the ambition to connect political events to underlying social forces. In — the Communist Party Historians' Group focused on the transition from feudalism to capitalism and associated questions rise of absolutism, bourgeois revolution, agrarian problems, the Reformation.
Hobsbawm's two-part article on "The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century" then prompted the salient discussion of Past and Present 's first decade, collected as Crisis in Europe, — , edited by Trevor Aston. It connected the seventeenth-century political upheavals to forms of economic crisis graspable in Europeanwide terms, in "the last phase of the general transition from a feudal to a capitalist economy" Aston, Crisis, p. It built a case for studying religious conflict in social terms.
It grasped the nettle of conceptualizing the histories of societies as a whole, with profound implications for their future historiographies, as in John Elliott's treatment of "The Decline of Spain" It reemphasized the convergence between Past and Present and Annales, for Hobsbawm relied on work sponsored by Braudel.
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Above all, the debate demonstrated the "comparative method. Annales and Past and Present laid the cumulative foundations for social history's rise in the s. Past and Present 's main strength remained medieval and early modern, where its international influence became sovereign. Annales also consolidated its influence, partly from Braudel's post base at the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. Work was systematically translated, beginning with Braudel's Mediterranean and Capitalism and Material Life, — original French edition, , plus Peter Burke's edition of articles, Economy and Society in Early Modern Europe This further institutionalization, and concurrent transplanting to the United States, continued with Lawrence Stone's founding of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton University , which with J.
Elliott's presence at the Institute of Advanced Study became a transatlantic outpost of Past and Present. By , when Hobsbawm published his stocktaking survey, "From Social History to the History of Society," social history had already taken off, and the next decade saw a remarkable diffusion—with conferences, international networks, new journals, and special societies like the British Social History Society, This was inseparable from events in the world at large. The big s expansion of Western higher education created a brief buoyancy of funding for scholarly history on a freshly professionalized basis.
The political ferment radicalized new generations of students toward new kinds of history, pushing on the discipline's boundaries in vital ways. The best index was the launching of new journals. Anticipating and shaping these trends was Comparative Studies in Society and History, founded in by the medievalist Sylvia Thrupp, in a program of comparative social science. The West German Geschichte und Gesellschaft was launched in Existing specialisms like labor history broadened their charge, turning from institutional histories of socialism and trade unions, and associated studies of working conditions, industrial relations, and strikes, to social histories of the working class.
This was true of the British Bulletin of the Labour History Society, whose conferences reflected the new ambitions. The same applied to the U. The influence of social science. Social history's arrival was borne by interdisciplinarity, which meant dependence on social science. In the United States, a one-sided dialogue continued between sociology and history, as a succession of Social Science Research Council Reports , , expounded the virtues of theory for historians.
Berkhofer Jr. In France, by contrast, the sixth section's structure already placed history at the heart of interdisciplinary work, now reinforced by Braudel's Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. In Britain the relationship was more pragmatic. Marxism had lost self-confidence after the crisis of Stalinism in , and Past and Present turned to dialogue with non-marxist sociology and anthropology, where sociologist Philip Abrams — and anthropologist Jack Goody were especially active.
Hobsbawm's Primitive Rebels was conceived in a running conversation with Meyer Fortes , Max Gluckman — , and other social anthropologists. This first phase of interdisciplinarity saw the ascendancy of U.
The turning to sociology was eclectic, as historians sought to "learn" theory from their colleagues. The most self-conscious borrowings involved methodology rather than theory per se, with sophisticated quantification in demography, family history, mobility studies, migration, urban history, and more. An extreme version of such dependency developed in West Germany in the s.
Their new journal Geschichte und Gesellschaft was the result. Demanding a new "social structural history" embracing whole societies and the "structural function of the family in the pre-industrial world," Laslett headed the Cambridge Population Group with evangelical zeal. But aside from extreme methodological sophistication, Laslett's main achievement became his "null hypothesis" for the nuclear family's continuity across industrialization, laying to rest the myth of progressive nucleation.
Demographic historians became masters of falsification, dismantling ungrounded claims in dialogue with contemporary sociology as in Michael Anderson's The Family in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire , a response to Neil J. Smelser's Social Change in the Industrial Revolution . But their ability to retheorize social change beyond the technics of the immediate debates was far less. From the foundational conference of , bringing twenty-two international scholars to Cambridge Peter Laslett, ed.
Wrigley and Roger S. Schofield, The Population History of England, — , the broader implications were unclear. The strongest explanatory program for demographic history remained Annales, where population was the prime mover of social change, notably in Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's The Peasants of Languedoc original French edition, Ironically given Laslett's default cautions , the first two general histories of the family in the s, Edward Shorter's The Making of the Modern Family , and Lawrence Stone's The Family , Sex, and Marriage in England — , presented bold teleologies of modernization, expressed in Stone's "rise of affective individualism.
Nonmaterialist aspects of family life remained neglected by comparison. On the other hand, Eli Zaretsky's Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life explored territory feminist historians were about to map. This story of social history's takeoff in the s, sustained by social science, was replicated in other subfields. In Hobsbawm listed six of these: demography and kinship; urban studies; class formation; "mentalities" or "culture" in the anthropological sense; social transformations like industrialization or "modernization"; and social movements and social protest.
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Urban history was a good microcosm. Distinctive to the English-speaking world, it was forged in Britain by H. Dyos — Building on Leicester University's tradition of local history and studies of local government going back to the Webbs, Dyos formed the Urban History Group — , whose newsletter was institutionalized as the Urban History Yearbook in , becoming the journal Urban History in Dyos was a tireless proselytizer, combining social science rigor with eclectic thematics, from the city's political economy and spatial organization, through the social histories of the built environment, land sales, mass transit, labor markets, slum dwelling, and suburbanization, to urban images and representations.
The two-volume showcase, The Victorian City: Images and Realities , coedited with Michael Wolff, defined urbanization as a site where social scientists, humanists, and historians could meet. The urban community study became the vehicle for studying class formation.
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Elsewhere as in Sweden and West Germany in the s , the subfield was slower and more narrowly convened around social science. History of youth and childhood was also invented by social historians in the s. Impetus came from historians of population and family, especially among early modernists. Most exciting were the deconstructive implications, turning the basic categories of the human life-course into historical creations, with childhood as an artifact of the specifically modern era.
Interest also focused on youth subcultures inspired by in freely cross-disciplinary ways—partly at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, partly in radical criminology and the sociology of deviance. Such work intersected with new social histories of crime, doubly moved by the positivist excitements of social science methodology measuring change, establishing patterns, specifying causal relations and populist identification with "history from below.
As so often, Hobsbawm's writings—on primitive rebellion, social banditry, social criminality—had defined the basic terrain. Charles Tilly was trained in sociology at Harvard Ph. His many books and essays across a wide variety of subjects, concentrating on nineteenth-century France and Britain, made him the preeminent sociologist and social historian of collective action in the s and s. He stood for quantitative and collaborative research on the grand scale, specifying the bases and rationality of collective action in relation to the impact of capitalism including its demographic aspects and the growth of national states.
His impact on social historians trained in the United States since the s was enormous, including William H.
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Sewell Jr. Scott, whose Structure and Mobility: The Men and Women of Marseilles, — and The Glassworkers of Carmaux directly reflected the social science ascendancy of social history's growth in the s. In the s identifying with the people and learning from social science the doubled genealogies of social history, in British marxism and Annales were not in serious tension.
A cognate interest concerned demographic studies of proletarianization, in Historical Studies of Changing Fertility and in many essays. But Tilly was best known for his sociology of collective action. This required longitudinal research, with big resources, large teams, and huge machineries of quantitative production. These were quantitative histories of changing "repertoires of contention" and the rise of modern mass politics, in an argument summarized in "How Protest Modernized in France" , and "Britain Creates the Social Movement" Tilly's corpus included a programmatic textbook, From Mobilization to Revolution , and the macroanalytical European Revolutions, — , rejoining collective action to capitalism and state-making.
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The populist tradition: E. Thompson and his impact. Tilly prodigiously historicized theories of social change—as in Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons The main alternative to social science history came from E. Thompson, whose The Making of the English Working Class inspired several generations of social historians. His work advanced an eloquent counter-narrative to gradualist versions of British history as the triumphant march of parliamentary evolution, grounding the latter in violence, inequality, and exploitation instead: "I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the 'obsolete' handloom weaver, the 'utopian' artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott , from the enormous condescension of posterity" p.
The Making was also an antireductionist manifesto—attacking narrowly based economic history, overdeterministic marxism, and static theories of class. For Thompson, class was dynamic, eventuating through history—a relationship and a process, a common consciousness of capitalist exploitation and state repression, graspable through culture. Through The Making the move from labor's institutional study to social histories of working people gained huge momentum, embracing work, housing, nutrition, leisure and sport, drinking, crime, religion, magic and superstition, education, song, literature, childhood, courtship, sexuality, death, and more.
Thompson wrote his great work outside the academy, working in adult education in Leeds, as a Communist until , New Left activist, and public polemicist. He created the Centre for the Study of Social History at Warwick University in , directing it until , when he resigned. Beyond the networks of labor history and Past and Present, Thompson's The Making was loudly attacked. But it energized younger generations. It also inspired the reviving marxisms so central to the developing social history wave. Thompson's impact helped two initiatives on the margins to form.
Samuel's annual History Workshops became a vital engine of social history, starting modestly, but soon mushrooming into an international event. The first thirteen Workshops met at Ruskin — , before migrating around Britain. They inspired a series of pamphlets twelve, — and books over thirty, — , a local movement, public interventions in the debate on national curriculum, — , and History Workshop Journal.