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Social History

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    Posted: 10 Sep 2014 at 18:12
The New Social History reached UCLA at about that time, and I was trained as a quantitative social science historian. I learned that "literary" evidence and the kinds of history that could be written from it were inherently elitist and untrustworthy. Our cousins, the Annalistes, talked of ignoring heroes and events and reconstructing the more constitutive and enduring "background" of history. Such history could be made only with quantifiable sources. The result would be a "History from the Bottom Up" that ultimately engulfed traditional history and, somehow, helped to make a Better World. Much of this was acted out with mad-scientist bravado. One well-known quantifier said that anyone who did not know statistics at least through multiple regression should not hold a job in a history department. My own advisor told us that he wanted history to become "a predictive social science." I never went that far. I was drawn to the new social history by its democratic inclusiveness as much as by its system and precision. I wanted to write the history of ordinary people—to historicize them, put them into the social structures and long-term trends that shaped their lives, and at the same time resurrect what they said and did. In the late 1960s, quantitative social history looked like the best way to do that
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2015 at 15:08
And what do you want to do now?
I think that there is a lot of envy of the "hard sciences," from social sciences.  It seems to me that some social "scientists" believe that if we could just quantify everything, then we wouldn't have to deal with
icky, uncertain things called people.  But, that might be unfair, and I admit that I am not familiar with the New Social History.  My background is in philosophy, and I am just reacting to what you say.  As an intellectual experiment it sounds interesting, but I would worry whether it would, if pushed to its logical conclusion, depersonalize people.  That doesn't mean that it couldn't be used as a method (warning: double negative).  It could be used as a method, but also with an understanding that that method has its limitations.  It might be useful for making a model of how things "work," but people are more complicated than any model.  I would think that that is doubly so for a place as diverse as Iraq, and Kurdistan.  I think Iraq probably has an extremely deep sense of history, a personal and cultural sense which Americans as a community cannot equal.  On the other hand, I do think that Americans often have a naivete which can serve them well sometimes.  For example, the Greeks and the Turks are still worked up about the Persian and even the Trojan War.  An American can't understand that, and if a Greek (or a Turk) hung out with the American long enough, they too might begin to wonder what all the fuss is about.  But again, I ask what do you want to do now?  When you write, "I wanted to write the history of ordinary people" you express that in the past tense.  Are you still wanting to write about the common people and I'm mislead by a 'querk' in the English language, or has your goal changed?
Kind regards,
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