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From Social History to the History of Society

Author(s): E. J. Hobsbawm
Source: Daedalus, Vol. 100, No. 1, Historical Studies Today (Winter, 1971), pp. 20-45
Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20023989
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E. J. HOBSBAWM

From Social History

to the History

of Society

essay

is an attempt
to observe
not to state a
and analyze,
or to express
is
this
where
(except
personal
clearly stated)
the author's preferences
and value
I say this at the
judgments.
are
outset
in order to distinguish
this essay from others which
or
for the kind of history
defenses
of
practiced
by their
pleas

This

credo

it
authors?as
social history does not need either at the
happens
com
moment?but
also to avoid two misunderstandings
especially
mon
in discussions
All
with
discus
heavily
ideology.
charged
sions about social history are.
The first is the tendency
for readers to identify authors with
this identification
the views they write about, unless they disclaim
even when
so. The
terms and sometimes
in the clearest
they do
or
to confuse
second is the tendency
the ideological
political moti
vations of research, or its utilization, with its scientific value. Where
or error, as is often
intention or bias produces
triviality
ideological
we
condemn motiva
the case in the human
sciences,
may happily
a
would
be
and
result.
life
However,
tion, method,
great deal simpler
of history were advanced
if our understanding
by those
exclusively
or in
on all
with whom we are in agreement
sympathy
public
in fashion.
is at present
and even private matters.
Social history
care to be seen keeping
it would
None
of those who practice
come under
with
those
who
the same
all
company
ideological
more
is
than to
what
historical
Nevertheless,
important
heading.
social history stands today
define one's attitude is to discover where
if
and
of unsystematic
after two decades
copious
development,
whither

it

might

go.
I

has
20

term

social history has always been difficult to define, and


to define
there has been no great pressure
it, for it
recently
interests which
and professional
vested
lacked the institutional

The
until

Social History to the History of Society


until
insist on precise
demarcations.
Broadly
normally
speaking,
was in
at least of the name?it
the present vogue of the subject?or
senses. First,
it
in three sometimes
the past used
overlapping
or
more
to
the history of the poor
lower classes, and
referred
spe
move
movements
of
the
the
of
the
"social
to
(
poor
history
cifically
term could be even more
The
ments").
specialized,
referring
to the
essentially
history of labor and socialist ideas and organiza
social history and the
tions. For obvious reasons this link between
or socialist movements
has remained
of
social
protest
strong.
history
to the subject
A number of social historians
have been attracted
were
in
radicals or socialists and as such interested
because
they
to
sentimental
relevance
them.1
of
great
subjects
the term was used to refer to works on a variety of
Second,
difficult to classify except in such terms as "man
human activities
for linguistic rea
life." This was, perhaps
ners, customs, everyday
a
since
the
lacks
sons,
usage,
language
English
largely Anglo-Saxon
for what the Germans who wrote about similar sub
in a rather
also
and journalistic manner?
jects?often
superficial
This kind of social history was
called Kultur- or Sittengeschichte.
not
oriented
toward the lower classes?indeed
rather
particularly
the opposite?though
the more
radical
practitioners
politically
to them. It formed the unspoken
basis of
tended to pay attention
what may be called the residual view of social history, which was
in his English
Social
put forward by the late G. M. Trevelyan
as
It
out."
with
the
left
1944)
(London,
History
"history
politics
suitable

requires

terms

no

comment.

third meaning
the most common
of the term was certainly
and for our purposes
the most relevant:
"social" was used in com
with
bination
"economic
outside
the Anglo
Indeed,
history."
in
Saxon world,
the title of the typical specialist
this field
journal
before the Second World War
I
think
bracketed
the two
)
(
always
as
u.
in
the
Sozial
words,
fuer
Vierteljahrschrift
Wirtschaftsgeschi
E. 6- S., or the Annales
d'Histoire
E. ?r
chte, the Revue dHistoire
must
S. It
be admitted
that the economic
half of this combination
was
were
There
preponderant.
overwhelmingly
hardly any social
histories of equivalent
the numerous
caliber to set beside
volumes
to the economic
various
devoted
of
and
countries,
history
periods,
were
in
not
There
fact
economic
and
social
very many
subjects.
a few such works,
1939 otie can think of
histories.
Before
only
sometimes
authors
(Pirenne, Mikhail
impressive
admittedly
by
W.
and the mono
Rostovtzeff,
J.
perhaps Dopsch),
Thompson,
The

21

DALUS

or
even sparser. Nevertheless,
literature was
graphic
periodical
the habitual
in the
of
and
economic
social, whether
bracketing
or under
of the general field of historical
definitions
specialization
the more specialized banner of economic history, is
significant.
to
It revealed
the desire
for an approach
history
systemati
one. What
from the classical Rankean
interested
cally different
of this kind was the evolution
historians
of the economy,
and this
in turn interested
on
it
them because
the
threw
the struc
of
light
more
on
ture and
in
the relation
changes
society, and
especially
as
between
classes
and
social
Unwin
ad
groups,
ship
George
This social dimension
is evident even in the work of the
mitted.2
or
so
as
most narrowly
economic
historians
cautiously
long
they
claimed to be historians. Even J. H. Clapham
that
economic
argued
was of all varieties
the most
of history
fundamental
be
history
cause it was the foundation
of society. The predominance
of the
over the social in this combination
economic
had, we may suggest,
two reasons.
to a view of economic
It was
partly owing
theory
refused to isolate the economic
from social, institutional,
and
which
as with
other elements,
the Marxists
German
and the
historical
over the
to the sheer headstart
of economics
school, and partly
other social sciences. If history had to be
into the social
integrated
to come to terms
sciences, economics was the one it had primarily
with. One might go further and argue (with Marx)
that, whatever
the essential
in human
the
economic
the
of
social
and
inseparability
society, the analytical base of any historical
inquiry into the evolu
tion of human
societies must be the process
of social production.
a spe
of the three versions
of social history produced
None
field of social history until the 1950's,
at
cialized academic
though
one time the famous Annales
and Marc Bloch
of Lucien
Febvre
the economic
half of its subtitle
and proclaimed
itself
dropped
was a
war
social.
this
of
diversion
the
However,
purely
temporary
now been
the title by which
this great
journal has
for a quarter of a century?Annales:
?conomies,
soci?t?s,
well as the nature of its contents,
civilisations?as
reflect the origi
aims of its founders.
nal and essentially
global and comprehensive
Neither
the subject itself, nor the discussion
of its problems,
de
in
The
1950.
it, still
journals specializing
veloped
seriously before
few in number, were not founded until the end of the 1950's: we
years,
known

and

in Society and His


Studies
perhaps
regard the Comparative
as the first. As an academic
social
(1958)
specialization,
new.
is
therefore
quite
history

may

tory

22

Social History to the History of Society


and growing
the rapid development
What
emancipa
explains
in the past twenty years? The question
could
tion of social history
in terms of technical and institutional
within
be answered
changes
the deliberate
of social science:
the academic
speciali
disciplines
in
of the
to
with
the
fit
zation of economic
requirements
history
of
the
which
economic
and
analysis,
theory
rapidly developing
an
is
and
the
remarkable
world
"new economic
history"
example;
as an academic
of sociology
wide
subject and fashion,
growth
in turn called
service-branches
which
historical
for subsidiary
cannot
to those required
economics
departments. We
analogous
by
as
the
who
historians
such
factors.
(such
Marxists)
Many
neglect
economic
the
had previously
labeled
because
themselves
prob
or even
in were
not
lems they were
interested
encouraged
plainly
ex
themselves
considered
found
history,
by orthodox
general
economic
truded from a rapidly narrowing
history and accepted
or welcomed
if their mathe
the title of "social historians," especially
matics were poor. It is improbable whether
in the
of
atmosphere
like R. H. Tawney would have
the 1950's and early 1960's someone
a
been welcomed
the economic
historians
had he been
among
researcher

and

not

of the Economic
History
president
academic
and
redefinitions
Society. However,
professional
shifts hardly explain much, though they cannot be overlooked.
was the
Far more
of the social
significant
general historization

young

such

sciences

took place
to have been

this period,

and may retrospec


within
appear
tively
important development
to
it is not necessary
them at this time. For my present purpose
to avoid drawing attention
explain this change, but it is impossible
to the immense
for
and struggles
of the revolutions
significance
of
and economic
colonial
and
semicolonial
political
emancipation
which

during
the most

drew the attention


of governments,
international
countries, which
and consequently
and research
also of social sci
organizations,
are
to what
of historic
transforma
entists,
essentially
problems
or at
tions. These were
which
had
been
hitherto
outside,
subjects
in the social sciences,
best on the margins
of, academic
orthodoxy
and had
increasingly been neglected by historians.
At all events
historical questions
and concepts
( some
essentially
or "economic
times, as in the case of "modernization"
growth,"
even
crude
have
the
concepts)
excessively
captured
discipline
to history, when
immune
not actually,
hitherto most
like Rad
social
to
cliffe-Brown's
it.
This
hostile
pro
actively
anthropology,
infiltration of history is perhaps most evident
in economics,
gressive
23

DALUS
an

where

initial field of growth


whose
economics,
assumptions,
more
were
the cookery book
those
of
sophisticated,
or
a
quantities
through n, mix
ingredients
following
and the result will be the take-off
into self-sustained
has been
succeeded
that
realization
by the growing

though much
("Take the
and

cook,

growth"),
factors outside
economic
economics
also determine
development.
In brief, it is now
to pursue many activities
of the social
impossible
in any but a trivial manner without
scientist
to
terms with
coming
social structure
and its transformations:
the history
of
without
were
societies.
It is a curious paradox
that the economists
begin
some
of social (or at any rate not
ning to grope for
understanding
when
the economic
) factors at the very moment
strictly economic
the
of
economists'
fifteen
models
historians,
years earlier,
absorbing
were
to
make
themselves
look
hard
than
rather
soft by for
trying
about
and
statistics.
except equations
getting
everything
can we conclude
What
from this brief glance at the historical
of
social
It can hardly be an adequate
history?
development
guide
to the nature and tasks of the
subject under consideration,
though
it can
certain more or less
explain why
subjects of
heterogeneous
research came to be
under
this
title, and
loosely grouped
general
in other social sciences
how developments
the
prepared
ground
for the establishment
of an academic
theory specially demarcated
as such. At most
it can provide us with some hints, at least one of
which
is worth mentioning
immediately.
of social history in the past seems to show that its best
with
have always felt uncomfortable
the term itself.
practitioners
to whom we owe so
They have either, like the great Frenchmen
as historians
to describe
themselves
and
much,
preferred
simply
as
or
as
or
men
to
their aim
"total"
who
history,
"global"
sought
in
sciences
the
contributions
of
social
all
relevant
integrate
history,
rather than to
any one of them. Marc Bloch, Fernand
exemplify
are not names which
can be
Lefebvre
Braudel, Georges
pigeon
as
holed as social historians
insofar
except
they accepted Fustel de
statement that "History is not the accumulation
of events
Coulanges'
in the past. It is the science of human
of all kinds which
occurred
A survey

societies."

Social history can never be another specialization


like economic
or other
its
matter
cannot be
because
histories
hyphenated
subject
can define certain human activities
as economic,
isolated. We
at
least for analytical
and
then
purposes,
study them historically.
this may be (except for certain definable
purposes ) artifi
Though
24

Social History to the History of Society


it is not
In much
the same way,
impracticable.
level of theory, the old kind of intellectual history
which
ideas from their human context and traced
isolated written
one
to
writer to another is possible,
if one wants
their filiation from
or
do that sort of thing. But the social
societal aspects of man's
ex
cannot be separated from the other aspects of his
being
being,
at
or
cost
extreme
the
of
trivialization.
cannot,
cept
They
tautology
for more than a moment,
be separated from the ways
in which men
even
and
their
their
environment.
material
get
They cannot,
living
be separated
for a moment,
from their ideas, since their relations
with one another are
in
and formulated
expressed
language which
as soon as
their
mouths.
And so on.
they open
implies concepts
no
to
The
intellectual
his
attention
historian may
(at
risk) pay
economic
historian
to
the
the
but
social
economics,
Shakespeare,
historian who neglects
either will not get far.
while
Conversely,
it is
on
that a
improbable
extremely
poetry
proven?al
monograph
or one on inflation in the sixteenth
will be economic
cen
history
both
in
a
could
be
to
treated
make
tury intellectual
way
history,
them social history.
cial or unrealistic,
at a lower
though

II
Let us turn from the past to the present and consider
the prob
lems of writing
concerns
the history of society. The first question
can
societal historians
how much
from
other
social
sciences, or
get
indeed how far their subject is or ought to be merely
the science of
as it deals with
the past. This question
is natural,
society insofar
two
the
of
the
two dif
decades
past
though
experience
suggests
to it. It is clear that social
ferent answers
since
has
1950
history
been powerfully
not
and
the
stimulated,
shaped
only by
profes
sional structure of other social sciences
their specific
(for example,
course requirements
for university
and by their methods
students),
and techniques,
but also by their questions.
It is
hardly too much
to say that the recent efflorescence
in
of studies
the British
indus
a
once
trial revolution,
own
its
subject
grossly neglected
by
experts
because
the validity of the concept of industrial revo
they doubted
to the urge of economists
in
lution, is due primarily
(doubtless
turn
that
of
to
and
how
discover
governments
echoing
planners)
industrial revolutions
them
and what
happen, what makes
happen,
With
have.
certain
notable
consequences
sociopolitical
they
excep
in the past
tions, the flow of stimulation
twenty years has been one
25

DAEDALUS
in
developments
of
convergence
by
workers
from different disciplines
toward sociohistorical
problems.
is a case in
The study of millennial
point, since among
phenomena
on these
we find men
writers
coming from anthropology,
subjects
not
to mention
students
of
science,
political
history,
sociology,
so
as
am
econo
far
I
literature and religions?though
aware,
not,
mists. We
also note the transfer of men with
other
professional
to
at
least
work
which
historians
would
formations,
temporarily,
consider historical?as
with Charles Tilly and Neil Smelser
from
Sir
Eric
from
Everett
Wolf
and
Hagen
sociology,
anthropology,
from
economics.
John Hicks
is
best regarded not as con
Yet the second tendency
perhaps
never be
as conversion.
must
it
For
that if
but
vergence
forgotten
way. On the other hand,
another way, we
shall be

if we

struck

look

at recent

the obvious

to ask
social scientists have begun
properly historical
it is because
to
ask
for
historians
answers,
questions
they
if they have sometimes
turned them
themselves
have none. And
it is because
the practicing members
selves into historians,
of our
Marxists
the
with
the
notable
of
and
others?
exception
discipline,
not necessarily Marxisants?who
have
accept a similar problematic,
a
now
are
few
not
there
answers.5
the
Moreover,
though
provided
made
social scientists
from other disciplines
have
who
themselves
expert in our field to command
respect, there are more
sufficiently
a few crude mechanical
who have merely
and
concepts
applied
a
dozen
For
Vend?e
several
models.
every
Tilly, there are, alas,
by
of Rostow's
others
Stages. I leave aside the numerous
equivalents
into the difficult
source
who have ventured
territory of historical
an
are
material without
of the hazards
adequate
knowledge
they
or of the means
encounter
over
to
of
and
there,
likely
avoiding
is one in which his
coming them. In brief, the situation at present
nonhistorical

and

to learn from other


all their willingness
torians, with
disciplines,
are
to teach rather than to learn. The
required
history of society
cannot be written
the meager
available models
from
by applying
new ones?
it
the
construction
other sciences;
of
requires
adequate
the development
of existing
or, at least (Marxists would
argue),
sketches into models.
and methods,
This is not, of course, true of techniques
where
are
to a substantial
net debtors
the historians
extent, and
already
or
more
even
at
to
least
and
will,
go
ought,
heavily
systematically
into debt. I do not wish to discuss this aspect of the problem of the
a
or two can be made
in
history of society, but
point
passing. Given
26

Social History to the History of Society


a
of our sources, we can hardly advance much beyond
of the suggestive
the
and
hypothesis
apt anecdotal
illustration without
the techniques
for the discovery,
the statistical
and
of
of
data, where necessary
grouping,
large quantities
handling
with the aid of division of research labor and
devices,
technological
which
other social sciences have long
At the opposite
developed.
for the observa
extreme, we stand in equal need of the techniques
tion and analysis in
of
small
individuals,
groups, and
depth
specific
have also been pioneered
outside
and
situations, which
history,
which may be adaptable
to our purposes?for
the
partici
example,
of the social
the interview-in
pant observation
anthropologists,
even
At the very least
methods.
depth, perhaps
psychoanalytical
can stimulate
these various
the
search
for adaptations
techniques
in our field, which may
and equivalents
to answer otherwise
im
help
questions.6
penetrable
I am much more doubtful
about the prospect
of turning social
a backward
into
as
of turning eco
of
projection
history
sociology,
nomic
into
economic
these
retrospective
history
theory, because
us with useful models
do not at present
or
disciplines
provide
the
frameworks
for
of
socio
historical
analytical
study
long-run
economic
Indeed
transformations.
the bulk of their
thinking has
not been concerned with,
or even interested
if
such
in,
changes,
we
as
trends
such
Marxism.
it
be
Moreover,
except
may
argued that
in important respects their
have been developed
analytical models
and most
from historical
systematically,
profitably,
by abstracting
This
is
of sociology
and
true, I would
change.
notably
suggest,
social anthropology.
the nature

combination

fathers of sociology have indeed been more his


founding
than the main
minded
school of neoclassic
economics
torically
not
the
than
school
of
classical
( though
necessarily
original
political
but theirs is an
less developed
science.
economists),
altogether
The

to the difference between


has rightly pointed
the
Stanley Hoffmann
"models" of the economists
and the "checklists" of the
sociologists
are more
and
than mere checklists.
anthropologists.7
Perhaps
they
These sciences have also provided us with certain visions,
patterns of
structures
can
of
which
elements
be
possible
composed
permuted
and combined
in various ways,
to Kekul?'s
vague analogues
ring
at the
of unverifia
glimpsed
top of the bus, but with the drawback
bility. At their best such structural-functional
patterns may be both
elegant

and

heuristically

useful,

at least for some. At a more modest


27

DAEDALUS
level, they may provide us with useful metaphors,
concepts, or terms
aids in ordering our material.
( such as "role" ), or convenient
as models,
it may
from
their deficiency
Moreover,
quite apart
or
of sociology
constructions
social
be argued that the theoretical
(
most successful by excluding history, that
been
have
anthropology)
or oriented
is, directional
change.8 Broadly
speaking, the structural
in common
in
societies
illuminate
what
functional
have
patterns
our
is
with
their
whereas
what
of
differences,
they
spite
problem
Amazonian
tribes can
have not. It is not what
light L?vi-Strauss's
throw on modern
(indeed on any) society, but on how humanity
or
cavemen
to modern
industrialism
got from the
postindustrialism,
were
in society
and what changes
associated with this progress, or
for it to take place, or consequential
upon it. Or, to use
necessary
it is not to observe
the permanent
of
another illustration,
necessity
or
to supply themselves with food by growing
all human societies
what
this
but
when
otherwise
it,
function,
acquiring
happens
having
been overwhelmingly
fulfilled
(since the neolithic
revolution)
by
comes
the majority
of their societies,
of peasants
forming
to be fulfilled by small groups of other kinds of agricultural producers
in
and may come to be fulfilled
ways. How does
nonagricultural
I do not believe
this happen
and why?
that
and social
sociology
are
at present
however
helpful
anthropology,
incidentally,
they
us with much
provide
guidance.
current
I remain
of most
On the other hand, while
skeptical
as a framework of the historical
societies
of
economic
analysis
theory
I am
(and therefore of the claims of the new economic
history),
for the histor
inclined to think that the possible value of economics
is an essentially
ian of society is great. It cannot but deal with what
in
the
element
dynamic
history,
namely
process?and,
speaking
social production.
and on a long time-scale,
globally
progress?of
Insofar as it does this it has, as Marx
saw, historical
development
built into it. To take a simple illustration:
the concept of the "eco
to
nomic surplus," which
the late Paul Baran revived and utilized
to any historian
fundamental
such good effect,9 is patently
of the
of societies, and strikes me as not only more objective
development
in terms of
and quantifiable,
but also more
primary,
speaking
the
Of
than, say,
Gemeinschaft-Gesellschaft.
dichotomy
analysis,
course Marx knew that economic models,
if they are to be valuable
cannot be divorced
from social and institu
for historical
analysis,
com
tional realities, which
include certain basic types of human
classes

munal
28

or

kinship

organization,

not

to mention

the

structures

and

Social History to the History of Society


or cul
socioeconomic
formations
assumptions
specific to particular
as
tures. And yet,
not
one of
Marx is
for nothing
regarded
though
the major
(directly
founding fathers of modern
thought
sociological
and through his followers
the fact remains
and critics),
that his
a
Das
intellectual
the
form
of
of
took
work
major
project
Kapital
are
con
economic
to
We
with
neither
his
agree
analysis.
required
to
But we would be unwise
clusions nor his methodology.
neglect
the practice
of the thinker who, more
than any other, has defined
or
to which
the set of historical questions
social scientists
suggested
find themselves drawn today.

Ill
How are we to write the history
or model
me to
a definition
produce
here, or even a checklist of what we
Even if I could, I do not know how
ever, it may be useful to put up a

of society? It is not possible


for
of what we mean by society
want to know about its history.

this would be. How


profitable
assort
small and miscellaneous
ment of signposts to direct or warn off future traffic.
( 1 ) The history of society is history; that is to say it has real
are concerned
time as one of its dimensions. We
not
chronological
structures
with
and
their
mechanisms
of
and
only
persistence
and with
the general
and patterns
of their
change,
possibilities
but also with what
If we are
transformations,
actually happened.
us
in his article on
Braudel has reminded
not, then (as Fernand
we
et
are
not
"Histoire
historians.
Longue Dur?e"10)
Conjectural
a
even
place in our discipline,
history has
though its chief value is
us assess the
to
of present and future, rather, than
help
possibilities
its
is taken by comparative
past, where
place
history; but actual
is what we must
or
history
explain. The possible
development
in imperial China
of capitalism
is relevant
to us
nondevelopment
as it
only insofar
helps to explain the actual fact that this type of
economy developed
fully, at least to begin with, in one and only one
contrasted
region of the world. This in turn may be usefully
(again
in the
of general models
with
the
for other systems
)
light
tendency
of social relations?for
the
feudal?to
example,
broadly
develop
a
much more
in
areas. The
and
number
of
greater
frequently
history
of society is thus a collaboration
between
of social
general models
structure and
ac
which
change and the specific set of phenomena
is
true
occurred.
or
This
whatever
the
chrono
tually
geographical
logical scale of our inquiries.
29

DALUS

The history
of society
that of
is, among other
(2)
things,
in
and
definable
specific units of people
living together
sociological
as well as of human
terms. It is the
(as
history of societies
society
distinct
from, say, that of apes and ants), or of certain types of
(as in such terms as "bour
society and their possible
relationships
or
or
of
the
of
geois"
"pastoral"
society),
general
development
as a whole. The definition
a
considered
of
in
this
humanity
society
sense raises difficult
even if we assume that we are de
questions,
an
as seems
we
objective
fining
reality,
reject as illegit
likely, unless
as
imate such statements
in
1930
differed
from
"Japanese
society
even if we eliminate
For
the confusions
between
English
society."
different uses of the word "society," we face
a ) because
(
problems
the size,
and scope of these units varies, for
complexity,
example,
at different historical
or
and (b)
stages of development;
periods
one set of human
because what we call society is merely
interrela
tions among several of
scale
and
into
varying
comprehensiveness
are classifiable
or
which
often
simultane
themselves,
people
classify
In extreme cases such as New Guinea
or
ously and with overlaps.
Amazon
sets
these
various
same
define
the
tribes,
may
group of
in
this
is
rather
fact
But
this
people,
though
improbable.
normally
is
neither
with
such
relevant
units
group
congruent
sociological
as the
nor with
certain wider
systems of relationship
community,
of which
the society forms a part, and which may be
functionally
to it (like the set of economic
essential
or nonessential
relations)
( like those of culture ).
as self-classifi
or Islam exist and are
Christendom
recognized
a
class of societies
cations, but though
they may define
sharing
are not societies
certain common
in the sense
characteristics,
they
in which we use the word when
or modern
talking about the Greeks
in many ways Detroit
Sweden. On the other hand, while
and Cuzco
a
are
today part of
single system of functional
interrelationships
one economic
few would
of
(for example,
part
system),
regard
them as part of the same society, sociologically
speaking. Neither
would we regard as one the societies of the Romans or the Han and
a
those of the barbarians who formed, quite
part of wider
evidently,
we
of
with
How
them.
do
define
these
system
interrelationships
units? It is far from easy to say,
us
solve?or
evade?
though most of
some outside criterion:
the problem by choosing
territorial, ethnic,
or the like. But this is not
political,
always satisfactory. The problem
more
is
than methodological.
One of the major themes of the history
of modern
societies
is the increase
in their scale, internal homo
30

Social History to theHistory of Society


or at least in the centralization
and directness
of social
geneity,
an essen
an
to
the
from
relationships,
essentially
change
pluralist
structure.
In tracing this,
of definition
be
tially unitary
problems
as every student of the
come very troublesome,
of
development
national societies or at least of nationalisms
knows.
The history
if not a
of societies
(3)
requires us to apply,
of such structures,
formalized
then at least an
and elaborate model
order of research priorities
and a working
approximate
assumption
the central nexus or complex of connections
about what constitutes
of our subject, though of course these things imply a model. Every
social historian does in fact make
and hold such
such assumptions
I
Thus
doubt
whether
of
historian
any
priorities.
eighteenth-century
Brazil would give the Catholicism
of that society analytical
priority
over its
or any historian of
Britain would
slavery,
nineteenth-century
as central a social nexus as he would
in
regard kinship
Anglo-Saxon
England.
seems to have established
a
A tacit consensus
among historians
common
of this kind, with
variants.
model
One
fairly
working
starts with
and historical
the material
environment,
goes on to the
some
of production
coming
(demography
structure of the consequent
economy?
of labor, exchange,
divisions
distribution
of the sur
accumulation,
so forth?and
and
the
relations
social
these.
from
plus,
arising
These might be followed by the institutions
and the image of so
which
underlie
them. The shape of the
ciety and its functioning
social structure
is thus established,
the specific characteristics
and
insofar as they derive from other sources, can then
details of which,
most
be determined,
is
likely by comparative
study. The practice
to
work outwards and upwards
thus
from the process of social pro
in its specific
duction
will be tempted?in
my
setting. Historians
on one
view
or
com
relation
relational
rightly?to
pick
particular
as central and
in
(or type of society)
specific to the society
plex
and to group the rest of the treatment
around
it?for
question,
Bloch's
"relations
of interdependence"
in his Feudal
example,
or those
out
of
industrial
in
Society,
arising
production,
possibly
in its
industrial society, certainly
Once
form.
structure
the
capitalist
has been established,
it must be seen in its historical movement.
In
the French
must
seen in
"structure"
be
phrase
"conjuncture,"
term must not be taken to exclude other, and
though this
possibly
more relevant, forms and
patterns of historical
change. Once again
the tendency
is to treat economic
movements
(in the broadest
forces
where

and techniques
in between),

the

31

DAEDALUS
sense) as the backbone
the society is exposed
then allow
formation

of such an analysis. The tensions to which


of historic
change and trans
to expose
the general
(1)
structures
mechanism
which
the
of
tend
society simultaneously
by
to lose and reestablish
their equilibria,
and (2) the phenomena
are
which
the subject of interest
to the social his
traditionally
for
collective
social
the
torians,
consciousness,
movements,
example,
social dimension
of intellectual
and cultural changes, and so on.
I believe?perhaps
what
My object in summarizing
wrongly?
to be a
is not to
widely
plan of social historians
accepted working
recommend
in its favor. It is rather
it, even though I am personally
to suggest that we try and make the
the opposite:
implicit assump
tions on which we work
to ask ourselves whether
this
explicit and
is in fact the best for the formulation
nature
of
struc
the
and
plan
ture of societies and the mechanisms
of their historic
transforma
tions (or stabilizations),
other plans of work based
on
whether
can be made
or
are
other questions
to
with
be pre
it,
compatible
ferred to it, or can simply be superimposed
to
the his
produce
torical equivalent
of those Picasso portraits which
are simultane
full-face and in profile.
ously displayed
as
In brief, if
historians of society we are to help in producing?
of all the social sciences?valid
for the benefit
models
of socio
historic dynamics, we shall have to establish a greater unity of our
at the present
and our theory, which
practice
stage of the game
means
in the first instance to watch what we are
probably
doing, to
correct it in the
to
of
and
the
it,
generalize
problems
arising
light
out of further practice.
in the process
the historian

IV
I should like to conclude by surveying
the actual
Consequently,
in the past decade or two, in order to see
social
of
practice
history
it suggests. This
and problems
future approaches
what
procedure
inclina
that it fits in both with the professional
has the advantage
tions of a historian
little we know about the actual
and with what
have
attracted
of sciences. What
progress
topics and problems
are the
most attention
in recent years? What
What
growing-points?
answers to such questions
are the interesting
The
do
people doing?
not exhaust analysis, but without
them we cannot get very far. The
or distorted
or?
consensus
of workers may be mistaken,
by fashion
as
case
a
as is
in such
the study of public disorder
field
the
obviously
32

Social History to the History of Society


but
and administrative
requirements,
impact of politics
our
has
at
The
science
it
derived
less
progress of
neglect
peril.
a
to define perspectives
and programs
from the attempt
priori?if
from an obscure and
it did we should now be curing cancer?than
often simultaneous
worth
upon the questions
convergence
asking
and, above all, those ripe for an answer. Let us see what has been
in the
at least insofar as it is reflected
impressionistic
happening,
view of one observer.
the

?by
we

Let me suggest that the bulk of interesting


in the
ten or fifteen years has clustered
past
or
of questions:
topics
complexes

work
around

in social
history
the following

( 1 ) Demography and kinship

(2 ) Urban studies insofar as these fall within our field


(3 ) Classes and social groups
or collective
or
consciousness
(4) The history of "mentalities"
sense
of "culture" in the anthropologists'
of societies
(for example, moderniza
(5) The transformation
tion or industrialization
)
of social protest.
and phenomena
(6 ) Social movements
first two groups can be singled out because
they have al
as fields,
of the im
themselves
institutionalized
regardless
ready
now
own
and
their
their
of
possess
organ
subject matter,
portance
Historical
and system of publications.
ization, methodology,
demog
rests not so
and fruitful field, which
is a rapidly growing
raphy
a
as
on
on
a
in research
innovation
set
technical
of problems
much
it
to
derive
that
makes
interesting
possible
(family reconstitution)
or exhausted
hitherto regarded as recalcitrant
results from material
(parish registers ). It has thus opened a new range of sources, whose
in turn have led to the formulation
of questions. The
characteristics
of historical
lies in
interest for social historians
demography
major
on
structure
certain
it
of
and
the light
sheds
behav
aspects
family
at different
and on inter
of people
ior, on the life-curves
periods,
are
important
changes. These
though limited by the
generational
than the most
limited
nature of the sources?more
enthusiastic
in
the
of
and
themselves
allow,
subject
by
champions
certainly
the framework
of analysis of "The World We
sufficient to provide
the fundamental
Have
Lost." Nevertheless,
of this
importance
and it has served to encourage
field is not in question,
the use of
The

strict quantitative
effect?or
techniques. One welcome
to arouse a greater
in historical
interest
been

has

side effect?
problems

of
33

DAEDALUS
structure than social historians might have shown without
kinship
a modest
this stimulus,
demonstration
effect from social
though
not to be neglected.
nature
The
and prospects
anthropology
ought
of this field have been
to
make
debated
further dis
sufficiently
cussion unnecessary
here.
a certain
deter
Urban
also possesses
history
technologically
a
is
lim
mined unity. The individual
normally
city
geographically
its
with
ited and coherent unit, often
and
specific documentation
even more
lends itself to research on the
often of a size which
of urban problems which
scale. It also reflects the urgency
Ph.D.
the major, or at least the most dramatic,
have increasingly
become
in modern
and management
industrial
of social planning
problems
tend to make urban history a
societies. Both these influences
large
container
and sometimes
with
indis
ill-defined,
heterogeneous,
contents.
It includes
about cities. But it is clear
criminate
anything
to social
at least
that it raises
germane
history,
problems peculiarly
in the sense that the city can never be an analytical
framework
for
must
a
it
be
economic macrohistory
of
(because
part
economically
as
it
a
is
found
self
and politically
larger system),
only rarely
a
contained
city state. It is essentially
body of human beings
living
a
in
and the characteristic
of
way,
process
particular
together
in modern
societies makes
urbanization
it, at least up to the pres
ent, the form in which most of them live together. The technical,
out of the
of the city arise essentially
social, and political problems
in
interactions
of masses
of human beings
close
to
living
proximity
one another;
mere
those

the ideas about the city ( insofar as it is not a


for the display of some ruler's power and glory) are
the Book of Revelation
men?from
tried
on?have

and even

stage-set
in which

to express their aspirations


about human communities.
in
Moreover,
recent centuries
it has raised and dramatized
the problems
of rapid
social change more
than any other institution. That the social his
torians who have flocked into urban studies are aware of this need
hardly be said.11 One may say that they have been groping toward
as a
a view of urban
of social change.
I doubt
history
paradigm
I
it can be this, at least for the period up to the present.
whether
studies of the
also doubt whether
many
really impressive
global
larger
sidering

cities

history must
only because
34

era have

of the industrial

the vast

quantity
remain a central
it brings

so far been
con
produced,
in this field. However,
urban
concern of historians
of society,
if

of work

out?or

can

bring

out?those

specific

aspects

Social History to the History of Society


and social
which
sociologists
concerned.
psychologists
peculiarly
have not so far been insti
The other clusters of concentration
one or two may be
this stage of
tutionalized,
approaching
though
The history of classes and social groups has plainly
development.
out of the common assumption
that no understanding
of
developed
com
an
is
of
the
without
major
society
understanding
possible
on
no
ponents of all societies no longer based primarily
kinship. In
field has the advance been more dramatic
the
neglect
and?given
in the
of historians
list of the
The briefest
necessary.
past?more
of societal

change
are

and structure with

most

in social history must


works
include Lawrence
significant
on the
on the Elizabethan
E.
Le
aristocracy,
Roy Ladurie
on the
the
En
Edward
of
peasants,
Thompson
making
Languedoc
on
the Parisian bourgeoisie;
class, Adeline Daumard
glish working
in what
is already a sizeable mountain
but these are merely
peaks
to these the study of more
restricted
social
range. Compared
been
less
for
instance?has
groups?professions,
significant.
or
The novelty of the enterprise has been its ambition. Classes,
as
are
of
such
relations
slavery,
today being
specific
production
on the scale of a society, or in inter
considered
systematically
or as
of social relationship.
societal comparison,
They
general types
are also now considered
in
that
is, in all aspects of their
depth,
is new,
and the
and behavior.
This
social existence,
relations,
are
work
the
achievements
has
striking,
already
though
barely
we
as the
intense activity,
of
fields
such
except
specially
begun?if
a
number of difficulties
study of slavery. Nevertheless,
comparative
can be discerned,
and a few words about them may not be out of
Stone

place.

for these studies is such


( 1 ) The mass and variety of material
is
artisan technique of older historians
that the preindustrial
plainly
teamwork
and
the
utilization
require
cooperative
inadequate. They
I would
technical
of modern
guess that the massive
equipment.
will mark the early phases of this
works of individual
scholarship
kind of research, but will give way on the one hand to systematic
( such as the projected
study of the Stockholm
projects
cooperative
on the other hand
and
in
nineteenth
class
the
century)12
working
at syn
still
to periodic
(and probably
attempts
single-handed)
in the field of work with which
I am most
thesis. This is evident
class. Even the most ambitious
familiar, the history of the working
no more
than a great torso,
P. Thompson's?is
work?E.
single
a rather short
with
it
deals
(J?rgen Kuczynski's
period.
though
35

DALUS

unter dem Kapitalismus,


titanic Geschichte
der Lage der Arbeiter
as its title
on certain
concentrates
aspects of the work
only
implies,
class.
)
ing
even where
technical difficulties,
(2) The field raises daunting
as
measurement
the
of
conceptual
clarity exists, especially
regards
over time?for
into and out of any spe
the
flow
change
example,
in peasant
We
cified social group, or the changes
landholdings.
sources
to
be
have
which
such
from
may
lucky enough
changes
can be derived
the recorded
of the
(for example,
genealogies
the material
and gentry as a group ) or from which
for
aristocracy
our
constructed
the
methods
be
of
(for
may
analysis
example, by
or the data on which
historical
valuable
the
studies
of
demography,
the Chinese bureaucracy
But what are we to do,
have been based).
we
to have contained
about
Indian
which
also
know
castes,
say,
such movements,
but about which
it
presumably
intergenerational,
is so far
to make even
statements?
impossible
rough quantitative
serious are the conceptual
(3) More
problems, which have not
historians?a
fact which
confronted
does
been
by
always
clearly
can
work
be
and
ridden
not preclude
(horses
recognized
by
good
can't define
that we have
those who
them), but which
suggests
of social structure and
been slow to face the more general problems
in turn raise technical
These
and their transformations.
as those of the
such
of the
specification
problems,
possibly changing
of a class over time, which
quantitative
complicates
membership
more
of the multidimen
general problem
study. It also raises the
a few
there is the well
sionality of social groups. To take
examples,
one sense it is a gen
term
In
known Marxian
of
the
"class."
duality
in another a product of
eral phenomenon
of all post-tribal
history,
one sense almost an
in
con
modern
bourgeois
society;
analytical
sense of otherwise
struct to make
in an
inexplicable
phenomena,
in their
other a group of people actually seen as belonging
together
own or some other
or both. These
consciousness,
group's
problems
in turn raise the question of the
of consciousness
language of class?
the changing,
and sometimes
ter
often overlapping,
unrealistic
relations

classification13
about which we
contemporary
in
terms.
(Here historians might
yet very little
quantitative
at the methods
look
and preoccupations
of social anthro
carefully
L. Girard and a Sorbonne
while
team are
pologists,
pursuing?as

minologies
know as

doing?the
ulary.14)
Again,
36

of

such

systematic
there

are

quantitative
degrees

of

study
class.

To

of
use

sociopolitical

vocab

Theodore

Shanin's

Social History to the History of Society


is a "class of low
of Marx's
18th Brumaire
phrase,15 the peasantry
a
is
of
class
whereas
Marx's
classness,"
very high, per
proletariat
There are the problems
of the homo
"classness."
of
maximal
haps
or
or
what
much
be
of classes;
the same,
may
heterogeneity
geneity
to other groups and their internal
in relation
of their definition
and

divisions

of

problem
at any given

In the most general sense, there is the


static
between
classifications,
necessarily
the multiple
and changing
behind
reality

stratifications.
the

relation

time,

and

them.

serious difficulty may well be the one which


(4) The most
It arises
toward the history of society as a whole.
leads us directly
in isolation,
from the fact that class defines not a group of people
both vertical and horizontal.
Thus it
but a system of relationships,
is a relationship
and
of difference
of
distance, but
(or similarity)
a
of
of
different
also
social function,
relationship
qualitatively
on
must
Research
class
of dominance/subjection.
there
exploitation,
it is a part. Slaveowners
fore involve the rest of society of which
cannot

be

sectors

of society.

without
the nonslave
understood
slaves, and without
It might be argued that for the self-definition
of
to
the nineteenth-century
middle
classes
the
European
capacity
over
exercise power
(whether
through property,
people
keeping
the patriarchal
and
servants, or even?via
family structure?wives
over
of
not
direct
and
exercised
them
children),
power
having
selves, was essential. Class studies are therefore, unless confined to
a
restricted and partial aspect, analyses of society. The
deliberately
most
Le Roy Ladurie's?therefore
go far beyond
impressive?like
the limits of their title.
that in recent years the most direct ap
It may thus be suggested
come
proach to the history of society has
through the study of class
we believe
in this wider
sense.10 Whether
that this reflects a correct
we
or whether
of the nature of post-tribal
societies,
perception
it down to the current
influence of Marxisant
history,
merely
put
the future prospects of this type of research appear bright.
In many ways
the recent interest in the history of "mentalities"
to central
marks an even more direct
methodological
approach
prob
It has been
lems of social history.
by the tradi
largely stimulated
tional interest in "the common people" of many who are drawn to
social history. It has dealt largely with the individually
inarticulate,
undc ^umented, and obscure, and is often indistinct from an inter
or in more
est in their social movements
of so
general phenomena
an
cial behavior, which
also
interest
in
includes
today, fortunately,
37

DAEDALUS
in the
fail to take part in such movements?for
example,
as well as in the militant
or
worker.
socialist
passively
a
treatment
This very fact has encouraged
dynamic
specifically
as those of the
to
of culture by historians,
studies
such
superior
those who

conservative

of poverty" by anthropologists,
though not uninfluenced
by
so
and pioneering
their methods
They have been not
experience.
or not
studies of an aggregate
of beliefs and ideas, persistent
much
there has been much valuable
thought about these mat
?though
of ideas in action and,
ters, for example, by Alphonse Dupront17?as
more
in situations
of social tensions and crisis, as in
specifically,
so much
Grande Peur, which has
Lefebvre's
sub
Georges
inspired
sources for such
of
work.
The
nature
has
sequent
study
rarely al
to confine himself
lowed the historian
to
factual
study and
simple
to
He
has
outset
been
construct
from
the
models,
exposition.
obliged
that is, to fit his partial and scattered data into coherent
systems,
without
which
than anecdotal.
be little more
The cri
they would
is or
terion of such models
its components
should
ought to be that
a
fit together
and provide
to both the nature of collective
guide
in specifiable
action
social situations
and to its limits.18 Edward
of preindustrial
concept of the "moral economy"
Thompson's
Eng
land may be one such; my own analysis of social banditry has tried
to base itself on another.
Insofar as these systems of belief and action are, or imply, im
arises,
(which may be, as occasion
ages of society as a whole
or
its
its
either
and
transformation),
permanence
images
seeking
to certain aspects of its actual reality,
insofar as these correspond
us closer to the core of our task. Insofar as the most suc
they bring
or customary
so
cessful such analyses have dealt with
traditional
even
with
im
sometimes
such
societies
under
the
cieties,
though
their scope has been more
limited.
pact of social transformation,
For a
and
characterized
fundamental
by constant,
rapid,
period
a
the in
change, and by
complexity which puts society far beyond
even
or
dividual's
the
models
deriv
grasp,
experience
conceptual
a
con
able from the history of culture have probably
diminishing
tact with the social realities.
even
not
any longer be very
They may
in
useful
the pattern of aspiration
of modern
society
constructing
("what society ought to be like"). For the basic change brought
in the field of social
about by the Industrial Revolution
thought has
on
been to substitute a system of beliefs
progress
resting
unceasing
can be
as a process,
toward aims which
for one rest
specified only
on the
can be described
of permanent
order, which
assumption
ing
"culture

38

Social History to the History of Society


or

some concrete
social model,
normally
or
drawn from the past, real
imaginary. The cultures of the past
the cul
their own society against such specific models;
measured
can
measure
tures of the present
them only against possibilities.
in introducing
of "mentalities"
has been useful
Still, the history
to the discipline
of the social anthropologists
something
analogous
is very far from exhausted.
into history, and its usefulness
studies of social conflict,
of the numerous
I think the profitability
more careful assessment.
riots to revolutions,
from
requires
ranging
attract research today is obvious. That they al
Why
they should
are
crucial aspects of social structure because
they
ways dramatize
cer
in
not
is
doubt.
the
to
here strained
Moreover,
breaking point
in and
cannot be studied at all except
tain important problems
into
not
of eruption, which do
merely bring
through such moments
and
that is normally
the open so much
latent, but also concentrate
illustrated

in terms

of

the
for the benefit of the student, while?not
phenomena
magnify
our documentation
least of their advantages?normally
multiplying
less would we
about them. To take a simple example: How much
know about the ideas of those who normally do not express them
ex
or at all in
selves commonly
but for the extraordinary
writing
is so characteristic
which
of
of
articulateness
plosion
revolutionary
of pamphlets,
the mountains
and to which
letters, articles,
periods,
court de
and speeches, not to mention
the mass of
police reports,
and
bear
witness?
How
the study
fruitful
positions,
general inquiries
can be
revolutions
of the great, and above all the well-documented,
which has
of the French Revolution,
is shown by the historiography
been studied longer and more intensively perhaps than any period of
returns. It has been, and
visibly diminishing
equal brevity, without
the historian.19
still remains, an almost perfect
for
laboratory
to isolate
in
the
of
lies
this
The danger of
type
temptation
study
a
context
overt
crisis
from
wider
of
the
of
the phenomenon
society
This
transformation.
great
danger may be particularly
undergoing
when we launch into comparative
studies, especially when moved
( such as how to make or stop rev
by the desire to solve problems
or so
in
is not a very fruitful approach
olutions ), which
sociology
common
one
in
have
riots
with
cial history. What,
another
(for
say,
even
It
be
be
trivial.
insofar
may
illusory,
example, "violence") may
an anachronistic
as we may be
criterion,
imposing
legal, political,
or otherwise,
on the
stu
which
historical
phenomena?something
same may or
are
to
dents of criminality
avoid.
The
may
learning
not be true of revolutions.
I am the last person to wish to
discourage
39

DAEDALUS
an interest

in such matters,
since I have spent a
good deal of pro
time on them. However,
we
in
them
to
studying
ought
define the precise purpose
of our interest clearly. If it lies in the
transformations
of society, we may find,
that
major
paradoxically,
our
the value of
itself is in inverse propor
study of the revolution
on the brief moment
tion to our concentration
of conflict. There are
fessional

or about human
things about the Russian Revolution,
history, which
can
on the
discovered
be
only
by concentrating
period from March
to November
1917 or the subsequent Civil War; but there are other
matters which
cannot emerge
from such a concentrated
study of
brief periods of crisis, however dramatic and
significant.
and similar subjects of
in
On the other hand, revolutions
study (
can
a
movements
into
be
social
wider
)
normally
integrated
cluding
field which does not merely
lend itself to, but requires, a comprehen
sive grasp of social structure and dynamics:
the short-term
social
as such, which
and
labeled
stretch
transformations
experienced
or
over a
a few decades
are
not
generations. We
period of
dealing
a continuum
out
with
chunks
carved
of
of
simply
chronological
or
with
but
brief
historic
growth
development,
relatively
periods
as the very
is reoriented
and transformed,
society
during which
( Such periods may of course
phrase "industrial revolution"
implies.
cannot be
include great political
but
revolutions,
chronologically
The
such
crude terms
delimited
of
by them.)
popularity
historically
as

"modernization"

hension

or

"industrialization"

indicates

certain

appre

of such phenomena.
are enormous, which
is
of such an enterprise
The difficulties
are as yet no
of
studies
the
there
adequate
eighteenth
perhaps why
as social processes
for any
nineteenth
century industrial revolutions
are
one or two excellent
works
local
and
country,
regional
though
now available,
and
such as Rudolf Braun on the Zurich countryside
on
It may be that a
Oldham.20
early nineteenth-century
John Foster
can
at
be
to
such phenomena
present derived
practicable
approach
in
not
has
economic
from
(which
history
inspired studies of
only
in the field
science. Workers
dustrial revolution ), but from political
liberation have naturally
and history of colonial
of the
prehistory
in an exces
been forced to confront such problems,
though perhaps
and
studies
have
African
perspective,
proved par
sively political
to
recent attempts
to extend this
approach
ticularly fruitful, though
the political
India may be noted.21 In consequence
science and po
litical sociology dealing with the modernization
of colonial societies
can furnish us with some useful
help.
40

Social History to the History of Society


I
(by which
and
ad
acquired by conquest
directly
is that here an entire society or group of societies
is
ministered)
an outside
contrast
its
various
defined
with
and
force,
by
sharply
as well as its reactions to the uncontrol
internal shifts and
changes,
lable and rapid impact of this force, can be observed
and analyzed
as a whole. Certain
in other societies are internal, or
forces which
operate in a gradual and complex interaction with internal elements
of that society, can here be considered
for
and
practical purposes
in the short run as
is
which
external,
very help
entirely
analytically
ful. We
shall not of course overlook the distortions
of the colonial
(
The analytical
advantage
mean that of formal colonies

of the colonial

situation

societies?for
and so
example, by the truncation of their economy
cial hierarchy?which
also result from colonization,
but the interest
of the colonial
situation does not
on the
that
depend
assumption
colonial society is a
of
noncolonial.
)
replica
a more
is
A central preoc
There
.specific advantage.
perhaps
in
of
workers
this
field
has
been nationalism
and nation
cupation
and here the colonial situation can provide a much closer
building,
to the
approximation
general model. Though historians have hardly
come
to
can be
with
which
it, the complex of phenomena
yet
grips
called national (ist) is clearly crucial to the
of
social
understanding
structure and dynamics
in the industrial era, and some of the more
in
has come to recognize
it.
interesting work
sociology
political
The project conducted
Stein
on
Eric
and
others
Rokkan,
Allardt,
by
"Centre Formation,
and Cultural
pro
Nation-Building
Diversity"
vides some very interesting approaches.22
invention
of the past two hundred
The "nation," a historical
immense
whose
years,
significance
today hardly needs dis
practical
raises
the
several
crucial
of
cussion,
questions
history of society, for
the change in the scale of societies,
the transformation
of
example,
ones
social
into
linked
with
di
systems
unitary
indirectly
pluralist,
rect
smaller societies
(or the fusion of several preexisting
linkages
into a larger social system ), the factors
the boundaries
determining
of a social system ( such as territorial-political
and
others
of equal
),
are these boundaries
To
what
extent
im
significance.
objectively
of economic
which neces
posed by the requirements
development,
sitate as the locus of, for
the
example,
type
nineteenth-century
a territorial state of minimum
or maximum
industrial economy
size
in

extent do these
To what
circumstances?23
requirements
not
the
and destruction
of
automatically
only
imply
weakening
earlier social structures, but also particular
of
degrees
simplification,
given

41

DAEDALUS
and centralization?that
standardization,
is, direct and increasingly
"center" and "periphery"
exclusive
links between
(or rather "top"
to fill
extent
is the "nation" an attempt
and "bottom")? To what
of earlier community
the void left by the dismantling
and social
structures
which
could
function
as, or
by inventing
something
a
the
of
substitutes
for,
consciously
produce
symbolic
functioning
or
(The concept of the "nation
society?
community
apprehended
then combine
these objective
state" might
and subjective
develop
ments. )
more
The colonial and ex-colonial
situations are not necessarily
suitable bases for investigating
this complex of questions
than is
European
history, but in the absence of serious work about it by the
and twentieth-century
of nineteenthhistorians
Europe, who have
been hitherto?including
the Marxists?rather
baffled by it, it seems
history may form the most convenient
likely that recent Afro-Asian
starting-point.
V
us toward a
the research of recent years advanced
on
I
cannot
me
the
table.
Let
point
put my cards
history of society?
to any single work which exemplifies
the history of society to which
we
to aspire. Marc Bloch has given us in La so
ought, I believe,
indeed an exemplary, work on the nature
ci?t? f?odale, a masterly,
of a certain type
of social structure, including both the consideration
illuminated by the
of society and of its actual and possible variants,
into the dangers
and the much
method,
greater re
comparative
to enter here. Marx has sketched
I do not propose
wards of which
a model
out for us, or allows us to sketch for ourselves,
of the ty
How

far has

the long-term
pology and
societies which
remains
ahead of its time as were

historical

transformation

and evolution
as
almost

and

of
far

immensely
powerful
the Prolegomena
of Ibn Khaldun, whose
own model, based on the interaction of different
types of societies,
in
has of course also been fruitful, especially
ancient,
pre-history,
and oriental history.
of the late Gordon
Childe
(I am thinking
there
have
been
ad
and Owen
Lattimore.)
important
Recently
vances toward the
those
study of certain types of society?notably
based on slavery in the Americas
of antiquity
(the slave-societies
and those based on a large body of peas
appear to be in recession)
ant cultivators. On the other hand the
to translate a com
attempts
me so far as
social
into
strike
prehensive
synthesis
history
popular
42

Social History to the History of Society


not
all their great merits,
unsuccessful
or, with
relatively
as schematic
is stimulation,
and tentative. The
the least of which
is still being constructed.
I have in this essay tried
history of society
to assess some of its practice,
to suggest some of its problems,
and
to hint at certain
which
from
might benefit
incidentally
problems
more concentrated
it would be wrong
to conclude
But
exploration.
either

state of
the remarkably flourishing
noting, and welcoming,
to be a social historian. Even those of
the field. It is a good moment
name will not want to
us who never set out to call ourselves
by this

without

it

disclaim

today.

References
1. See

the

remarks

of A.

J. C. Rueter

in IX
congr?s

international

des

sciences

historiques (Paris, 1950), I, 298.


2. R. H.
34,

Tawney,

Studies

in Economic

History

(London,

1927),

pp.

xxiii,

33

39.

3. J. H. Clapham, A Concise Economic History of Britain


(Cambridge, Eng.:
University

Press,

1949),

introduction.

4. Two

from
the same document
and Social
Studies
(Economic
quotations
Social
Conference
Board,
Istanbul,
Aspects
of Economic
Development,
illustrate
the
motivations
this new
behind
1964)
may
divergent
pre
of the board:
"Economic
occupation;
By the Turkish
president
development
or
in the
areas
is one of the most
retarded
growth
economically
important
. . . Poor
which
the world
confronts
countries
have made
questions
today
a
of this issue of
is to them
ideal. Economic
development
high
development
associated
with
and a sense
of sovereignty."
political
independence
By
Daniel
Lerner:
"A decade
of global
with
social
and
experience
change
us. The
economic
lies behind
has been
decade
with
development
fraught
in every part of the world,
to induce
economic
without
efforts,
development
to accelerate
cultural
economic
without
chaos,
producing
growth
disrupting
societal
to promote
economic
without
equilibrium;
mobility
subverting

political stability" (xxiii, 1 ).


5.

. . .will
Sir John Hicks's
is characteristic:
complaint
"My 'theory of history'
a
. . .
nearer
to the kind of
was
good deal
thing that
by Marx
attempted
Most
to order
of [those who
believe
ideas can be used by historians
their
. . .
so that the
course
can be fitted
of history
into
material,
general
place]
use the Marxian
or some modified
would
version
since
of
them;
categories,
be

is so little in the way


version
of an alternative
it is
that is available,
that they should.
It does,
remain
nevertheless,
surprising
extraordinary
a
that one hundred
after Das
after
which
years
Kapital,
century
during
enormous
there have
in social
so little
been
else
science,
developments
A
should have
Clarendon
(Oxford:
of Economic
emerged."
Theory
History
Press,
1969),
pp. 2-3.
there

not

43

DALUS

6. Thus

Marc

Ferro's

of

sampling
first weeks
of

in the

grad

the

of a retrospective
been
thought

equivalent
it would

for

and
telegrams
revolution

nonhistorical

M.

purposes.

sent

resolutions
of

may

of opinion
1917
de

development
La R?volution

Ferro,

to Petro

the
plainly
doubt whether
is

1917

One

survey.
opinion
public
the earlier
of without

have

research

the

February

(Paris: Aubier, 1967).


7. At
8.

on New

the conference
not

I do

such

regard

creasing

devices

for

as historical.

complexity"

in History,

Trends

inserting
may,

They

9. P. Baran, The Political Economy of Growth


Press,
10.

1957),
an

For

1968.

J., May

direction

into

of course,

be

societies

as

"in

true.

(New York: Monthly Review

2.

chap.

version

English

N.

Princeton,

this

of

see

article,

important

Social

Science

Infor

mation, 9 (February 1970), 145-174.


in a broader
view of urban
is the
of making
history
possibility
to the
of urbanization
central
of social
process
study
change.
Efforts
to
should be made
in ways
urbanization
that actually
conceptualize
social change."
Eric Lampard
in Oscar
Handlin
and John Burch
represent
and the City
Mass.:
M.I.T.
ard, The Historians
Press,
1963),
(Cambridge,

11. Cf.

"At

the

stake

societal

p. 233.
12. This

is in progress
under
of Stockholm.

work

of Professor

the direction

Sven-Ulric

Palme

at the
University
13.

For

the

possible
about

discussions
America.

14.

See

N.

Cliffs,
A.

et

des

typologie

in Latin

Relations
in the New

Slavery
p. 221.

1969),

J.: Prentice-Hall,
"Vocabulaire

Prost,

of Race

"The History
M?rner,
and E. D. Genovese,

Magnus
in L. Foner

ica,"
wood

between
and
classification,
divergences
reality
the complex
socioracial
hierarchies
of colonial

familles

World

see

the

Latin
Amer
(Engle

Cahiers

politiques,"

de lexicologie, XIV (1969).


15. T.

"The

Shanin,

(1966),
16. Class

has

example,
I, 298-299.

Peasantry

as a Political

long
A.

been

the

central
in IX

J. C. Rueter

of
preoccupation
international

congr?s

17. A. Dupront,
et m?thodes
"Probl?mes
Annales:
lective,"
?conomies,
soci?t?s,
3-11.
1961),
18.

14

Review,

Sociological

dune

histoire

civilisations,

social
des

de
16

historians.
sciences

for

See,
historiques,

la psychologie

col

(January-February

a
I mean
connection
between
together"
"fitting
systematic
establishing
and sometimes
of the same
different,
unconnected,
syn
apparently
parts
drome?for
the beliefs
of the classic
liberal
example,
nineteenth-century
in both
a
structure.
individual
bourgeoisie
patriarchal
liberty and
family

By

19. We

look

historians
44

Factor,"

17.

forward
with

to

the

comparable

time

when

opportunities

the

Russian

Revolution

for the twentieth

will

century.

provide

Social History to the History of Society


20.

R.

Braun,

und

Industrialisierung

Volksleben

. . . im 19. und
Foster's

thesis

20.

Jahrhundert

is being

21.

Stokes, who
in African
history.
Asian
Nationalism:

22.

Centre

Eric

prepared

Rentsch,

(Erlenbaeh-Zurich:

in einem l?ndlichen Industriegebiet

1960); Sozialer und kultureller Wandel

Rentsch,

(Erlenbaeh-Zurich:
for publication.

1965).

J. O.

the results
of work
of applying
this, is conscious
doing
E. Stokes,
Resistance
Movements
Traditional
and Afro
in India
The Context
of the 1857 Mutiny-Rebellion

is

( forthcoming ).
Formation,

Nation-Building

Symposium Organized by UNESCO


sium was
23.

held

August

28-September

and

Cultural

sary

role

of

economic

the

state

in economic

Report

on

1, 1968.

as a
has developed
Though
global
capitalism
its
in
the
real
units
of
fact
tions,
development
units?
U.
French,
German,
British,
political
due to historic
accident
but also
( the question
purest

Diversity:

(duplicated draft, n.d.). The sympo


of
system
have been

economic
certain

S. economies?which

development,

remains

open
even
in

interac
territorial

be
may
) to the neces
the era of the

liberalism.

45