The first tentative indications that times were changing came in the 1960s and, more particularly, the 1970s. The sustained civil rights protests of these years contributed to growing interest by scholars in examining the strategies of protest and accommodation adopted by African Americans in earlier periods. The daily lives of black slaves in the antebellum South became an especial focus for academic study. Historian Daniel Leab's line of enquiry typified what by the 1980s had become a dominant trend in studies by cultural historians, namely to explore the origins, character and significance of stereotyped depictions of African Americans in US popular culture. The 1990s saw both rapid and unprecedented developments in the academic study of popular culture. In part this interest can be seen as reflecting the cult of celebrity that enveloped the leading stars of sport, music, film and television entertainment at the close of the century.
The group of historians now known as the Annales 'school' has produced some of the most exciting innovations in twentieth-century history writing. This chapter discusses the development, changes, and specific criticisms of the works of Annales historians. The study of mentalités has been viewed as the Annales' means of addressing the objectivity-subjectivity dilemma that historians continually confront. The Annales historians' search for underlying structures, their attempt at total history and their use of the methods and subjects of the social sciences has led to a great expansion of the subjects of history. With their examination of mentalité, they have furnished the historical profession with a new mode of reconstructing the past. Their work encouraged the 'turns' to social history and from social history to cultural history, to micro-history, world history, and environmental history, as well as to the history of emotions.
In the second half of the nineteenth century there were many parallels between the disciplines of history and anthropology. Both employed an empiricist methodology. This chapter briefly outlines the main currents of thought in anthropology. It examines the influence of two specific approaches that were to be fertile ground for historians: everyday life and symbolic anthropology, and ethnohistory. In the context of these approaches to history research and writing, the chapter also examines the key concept of 'ethnicity'. Two schools of thought within anthropology emerged in Britain and the United States. These schools were characterized respectively as social anthropology and cultural anthropology. Ethnohistorians particularly seek to bring into view the experiences and perspectives of indigenous and minority peoples in colonial contexts. One of the significant achievements of ethnohistory has been to approach all those engaged in cultural encounter as active agents who jointly determined the outcome.
The 1980s engagement of historians with poststructuralism was referred to as the 'cultural turn', and this began as an involvement mainly with the linguistic theories. This chapter discusses the main ideas of poststructuralism. For historians, many poststructuralist topics and methods of investigation are a legacy of the work of Foucault. Much of Foucault's work engaged with the marginalized groups in society. Foucault broke from earlier histories in his rejection of meta-narratives, overarching theories of human development through time, and of historical continuity. Foucault has also been widely criticized for historical inaccuracies. The chapter provides an extract from the City of Dreadful Delight, which is characteristic of poststructuralist history, to show the intersection of knowledge and power, and the subversive and contradictory nature of popular discourse.
This chapter presents some concluding thoughts on the exploration of historical theories. It includes William Sewell's and Joan Wallach Scott's discussions of their intellectual journeys to demonstrate the way in which individual historians, as well as schools of history, develop in their thinking and practice over time. Scott and Sewell contextualize their development, consider what drove the changes in their historical practice, and reveal something of their own historical subjectivities. Global history and world history seem likely to continue to attempt to break through a previously Eurocentric view of the world. Global history authors, considering a longer time span, have included 'natural history' as well as human history. A trend to considering the history of the environment, perhaps triggered by anxieties about climate change, extends the natural history approach. Historians have continued to develop new approaches, so that historiography is continually invigorated.
This chapter presents some concluding thoughts on black civil rights discussed in this book. During the 1950s and 1960s the spread of more liberal attitudes and values, reflected in the rise of Martin Luther King and the post-war Civil Rights Movement, inspired scholars to investigate the African American past. Scholarly debate on the African American experience from the 1890s through to the early 1920s gathered momentum with fresh studies on the spread of racial segregation and black migration to the cities. The rise of feminism and growth in popularity of women's history in the closing decades of the twentieth century prompted academic researchers to pay more attention to the issue of gender in all periods of African American history. Whether writing about the 1890s or the 1980s historians began to recognize the importance of class divisions in African American communities and the civil rights struggle.
The blossoming of interest in black history since the 1950s was directly linked to the rise of Martin Luther King and the post-Second World War Civil Rights Movement. The advances achieved in desegregation and black voting rights since the 1950s suggested that this was a destination that King's children, and African Americans as a whole, would ultimately reach. In the inter-war years there were indications that some scholars were willing to examine the more depressing realities of black life, most notably in a series of academic studies on lynching. The book discusses the approach of Du Bois to the academic studies on black migrants from a sociological perspective. When African American history began to command more serious attention in the mid-1960s, the generation of historians who had had direct personal experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War began to reach the age of retirement. The book also examines the achievements of race leaders like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, the Black Power Movement and Black Nationalism of the 1960s. In a 1996 study, political scientist Robert C. Scholarly debate on the African American experience from the 1890s through to the early 1920s gathered momentum with fresh studies on the spread of racial segregation and black migration to the cities. The rise of feminism and popularity of women's history prompted academic researchers to pay attention to the issue of gender in African American history. Stereotyped depictions of African Americans in US popular culture are also discussed.
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.