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HIST 4972W - 19th Century Social History

part of Library of Congress photo of Mulberry Street

The general effect of the new social history has been to enlarge the map of historical knowledge and legitimate major new areas of scholarly inquiry – as for example the study of households and kinship; the history of popular culture; the fate of the outcast and the oppressed. It has given a new lease of life to extra-mural work in history, more especially with the recent advent of women's history to which social history has been more hospitable than others. It has built bridges to the popular representation of history....It has also produced a number of 'do-it-yourself' historical projects, as in local history, labour history, oral history...which have taken the production of historical knowledge far outside academically defined fiefs.

--Samuel, Raphael. 1985. “What Is Social History?” History Today, March 1985.


The "new" social history that emerged in the United States in the 1960's and came to dominate the profession by the 1980's, conjoined two scholarly agendas. The first was a program for reshaping history along the lines of the behavioral sciences—in particular economics, political science, and sociology—and employing quantitative methods and models in historical research. The second was the project of rewriting history from the "bottom up," and providing a "usable past" for contemporary movements for social change. Although the advocates of social history might differ in their methodological or ideological commitments, they agreed on the need to displace "traditional" narratives of the American past—ones that privileged high politics, diplomacy, or intellectual life—and to replace them with "new" histories that emphasized social and economic processes and phenomena. Their efforts prompted extensive discussions about the means and ends of historical analysis, and produced a major reorientation within the profession.

--Burke, Martin. n.d. “U.S. Social History - Bibliography.” Net Industries: Education, Knowledge, Information. Accessed August 27, 2018.