Empiricism is both a theory of knowledge, an epistemology, and a method of historical enquiry. The core tenets of empirical history remained deeply influential among the historical profession throughout the twentieth century. An exclusive emphasis upon the core principles of empirical epistemology may lead historians to reject understandings of the past based upon different types of historical sources, such as oral tradition or material culture. This chapter outlines the principles of empiricism, the founding epistemology of the professional discipline, and explores the ways in which historians have challenged and modified this theory of knowledge over the past century and a half. It presents an example of empiricist history, taken from one of Geoffrey Elton's most influential works, England Under the Tudors, first published in 1955. His corpus of work focuses primarily upon administrative history, and he also become one of the leading defenders of empiricism as a theory of knowledge.
Gender history arose from women's dissatisfaction with their historical invisibility, but subsequently expanded its scope to investigate men's history as well. This chapter focuses on the ways in which gender historians have worked to redress women's invisibility. While initially gender historians mainly wrote from a woman-centred perspective, a considerable proportion of the research to date deals with both women and men, and relationships between the two. The chapter outlines the main theoretical directions and debates engaged with by gender historians, and shows the diversity of ongoing research. Radical feminism sought to explain the subordination of women by pointing to male control over women's sexuality, including reproduction, often arguing that all human oppression is rooted in the biological heterosexual family. Considering the gendered identities of both women and men has opened historical writing to new subtleties. Esme Cleall examined the intersections of gender, deafness, and religion.
There are a number of reasons why earlier scholars neglected the 1930s and early 1940s. When African American history began to command more serious attention in the mid-1960s, the generation of historians who, as young adults, had had direct personal experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War began to reach the age of retirement. Growing awareness of the acute economic problems suffered by many African American communities during the 1980s and the 1990s perhaps drew some scholars to the 1930s, a decade when economic deprivation was also one of the most pressing problems experienced by black Americans. One consequence of the new interest in the 1930s has been a growing awareness of the efforts of civil rights activists of the period, both white and black Americans, whose work had previously gone largely unrecognized by historians.
The 'Great Migration' from 1915 to 1925, during which some 1.25 million blacks left the South to settle in major urban centres of the North like New York and Chicago, was an issue that attracted the attention of white Americans. This chapter discusses the approach of W. E. B. Du Bois to the academic studies on black migrants from a sociological, rather than a historical perspective. The emphasis on cultural awareness and achievement during the Black Power era highlighted the fact that African American cultural history remained a largely neglected area of twentieth century black history. In an influential 1937 article the African American scholar and leading inspiration of the Renaissance, Alain Locke, famously recorded what appeared to be a virtual obituary for the movement.
Many theorists have agreed that a sociology that explains as well as describes must be a historical sociology. Historical sociology addresses directly the distinction between explanations based on structure and those based on agency. It has tended to focus on several major topics, in particular the growth of modernity in all its guises. This chapter focuses on Max Weber and his theories. Weber's model of social action was influential in the twentieth century. Michael Mann argued that societies and their histories were best described in terms of the interrelations of four sources of social power: ideological, economic, military, and political relationships. Theda Skocpol argued that social revolution was a conjuncture of three developments: the collapse or incapacitation of central administrative and military machineries; widespread peasant rebellions; and marginal elite political movements. The chapter shows some of the details of Skocpol's argument and examines the responses to her book.
From the late twentieth century, historians have combined theoretical perspectives to tackle new topics or to revisit the old. One such amalgamation occurred in the history of emotions, in which historians have integrated ideas derived from psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and cultural studies. Psychological theorists agree that emotion has multiple components. This chapter discusses three main models of emotions, such as natural kinds, cognitive appraisal and psychological constructionism, suggested by Kristen Lindquist. Three historians have been pre-eminent in the development of emotions history since the 1980s: Peter Stearns, William Reddy, and Barbara Rosenwein. The chapter also discusses the approaches and terms each has introduced and considers how other historians have expanded their work. It presents an excerpt from 'Confronting death' in which Rosenwein suggests that readers can see different emotional communities within the larger Christian community of pre-eighth-century Gaul.
Every piece of historical writing has a theoretical basis on which evidence is selected, filtered, and understood. This book explores the theoretical perspectives and debates that are generally acknowledged to have been the most influential within the university-led practice of history over the past century and a half. It advises readers to bear in mind the following four interlinked themes: context, temporal framework, causation or drivers of change, and subjectivities. The book outlines the principles of empiricism, the founding epistemology of the professional discipline, and explores the ways in which historians have challenged and modified this theory of knowledge over the past century and a half. It then focuses upon three important dimensions of historical materialism in the work of Marxist historians: the dialectical model at the basis of Marx's grand narrative of human history; the adaptations of Marxist theory in Latin America; and the enduring question of class consciousness. The use of psychoanalysis in history, the works of Annales historians and historical sociology is discussed next. The book also examines the influence of two specific approaches that were to be fertile ground for historians: everyday life and symbolic anthropology, and ethnohistory. The roles of narrative, gender history, radical feminism, poststructuralism and postcolonial history are also discussed. Finally, the book outlines the understandings about the nature of memory and remembering, and looks at key developments in the analysis and interpretation of oral histories and oral traditions.
Both past and present are always intertwined in historical practice. Historians seek to understand people whose lives and sensibilities were very different to their own. One criticism often made of the historical profession is that the theorization upon which historical accounts are constructed is rarely made explicit. In the absence of explicit theorization in a historical text, it can be difficult to identify the theory or concepts upon which it rests. This chapter provides a detailed account of four interlinked themes: context, temporal framework, causation or drivers of change, and subjectivities. These themes will also enable readers to interrogate the assumptions and perspectives, theories and concepts upon which historians draw to analyse and interpret the past. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.
This chapter focuses on four broad chronological periods of the study of black American history. The first era of scholarship in African American history lasted from 1882 down to 1909. The leading writers on black history in this period were African Americans. The second era of scholarship lasted from 1909 through to the mid-1930s. W. E. B. Du Bois was one of the leading figures of this period. The third era of African American scholarship lasted from the mid-1930s through to the end of the 1960s. In the late 1930s and early 1940s a new generation of black historians such as Benjamin Quarles and John Hope Franklin, began to take over academic leadership in African American history. The fourth era of scholarship in African American history dates from around 1970. The post-war Civil Rights Movement continued to have a profound influence on the development of African American historiography.
The achievements of race leaders like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael generally took more subtle, less tangible, forms. These included community empowerment, heightened racial pride and consciousness, and a decolonization of the black ghetto mind, rather than specific political initiatives to address the physical problems of the inner cities. Thus scholars in the 1960s and 1970s concluded that the Black Power Movement was lacking in any true substance, meaning or accomplishments, and was therefore not worthy of serious study. Transcribed and edited with the assistance of African American journalist Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X quickly became regarded as the authoritative account of his life and became an inspirational text for Black Power leaders of the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the 1970s and 1980s academics were beginning to make a welcome, if overdue, contribution to the understanding of Black Nationalism of the 1960s.