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Comparative History Notes

History Notes > Disciplines of History: Comparative History & Historical Argument Notes

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Why Compare?
Morillo - Need for centralised government before gunpowder can make a difference in governing
~ Comparison of Japan and Britain Compare different themes systematically - do not split into 2 national sections Florence, Tuscany v. Sicily - disparate split of regions
~ After the Black Death and famine
~ Looked at immigration - better in Tuscany
~ Yet population growth was better in Sicily
~ Issue of assuming that the societies were the same
~ Sicily - civil war
~ Tuscany - expansive war
~ Sicily had coastal specialisation
~ Geographically and temporally similar but not actually the same Comparison of English, French and Mexican revolutions
~ French revolution can be seen as a normative case Comparisons have a specific element or hypothesis - start with a theory Much of the time, comparison is used to defeat exceptionalism - shows similarities with other places Ideas of universal theories - search for general rules
~ Depends on type of comparison Take out intentions and narrative looks more systematic
~ Less like normal history Parallel causal structures - actors in these do matter 2 different types of historical explanation
~ Systematic and structural
~ Historical action, intention and influences Data can obscure just as much as it reveals Histoire croisee emphasises interdependence - particularly useful here French revolution and the Holocaust
~ Have served as a foundational past for each period
~ Subconscious and conscious comparison to 1789
~ Could say the same for the English revolution of 1688 Natalie Zemon-Davis worked on the rites of violence in the French wars of religion
~ In the light of the Holocaust

Some things are seen as more foundational than others
~ Reference point
~ Writings ostensibly on other topics can be linked to this French revolution gives a positive developmental view for liberal historians in Europe
~ Revisionists are returning to the terror e.g. works on the forms of popular violence Cannot take an objective view - historian is always influenced by contemporary events
~ 'Perfect form of comparative history' may not be possible
~ Can we look at cases in isolation?
Lack of objectivism can bring benefits new perspectives History has not been formed in isolation - cannot look at it in isolation Comparative history was very popular in the 1970s
~ Were absolutely uncritical of the central nation state
~ Nowadays we are in favour of globalisation Comparison can be a good starting point for entanglement In the case of differences, it is greatly useful to use comparative approaches Can maybe have a comparative method direct comparative history
~ e.g. Bloch's enclosure in France - takes elements from England rather than having a direct comparison Histoire croisee challenges us to develop out comparative method Use comparison to isolate factors - look at unique and specific factors in one country and then see if they are present in other countries Starting with a model can be a problem - history may not fit it
~ Similar economies and polities in borderlands across different geographical locations - successful use of a model
~ Also useful as borderlands are intersections
~ Shows the problems of the nation states French revolution and US revolution
~ Do not take place in states
~ Trying to compare units which are in formation Can risk having no units of comparison left

there is a need for comparison

Synchronic v. diachronic
~ Can we compare through time?
~ Comparison implies synchronic analysis At the moment we assume everything is global and interconnected

Popper - ideas are thought of
~ Talks about conjecture and scientific method
~ Look for evidence and contradictions to an idea
~ Do not create a theory from the evidence Revolutions - single or multiple explanations?
~ Same component parts or different?
~ Nothing to compare
~ Example of structural comparison Can use different case studies to illuminate causation in one particular case
~ Allows one to attach weight to one cause over another

!

Comparative+History+
Dr#Goldman#

!
!

Social#scientists#also#use#the#comparative#method#
Many#terms#are#predicated#on#comparison#
#
~#Stability#
#
~#Rising#living#standards#
#
~#Progressive#politics#
#
~#Strong#government#
#
#
~#All#judgements#imply#an#obverse#
Whig#historical#tradition#
!
#
~#Influential#since#the#mid#19th#century#
#
~#One#of#the#most#pervasive#theories#in#eh#historical#development#
#
~#Macaulay's#10th#chapter#G#tried#to#explain#the#prevailing#sense#of#British##
exceptionalism#
#
#
~#Parliamentary#government#
#
#
~#Individual#liberty#
#
#
~#Religious#toleration#
#
#
~#Inclusion#of#the#bourgeoisie#
#
~#Was#not#as#simple#as#that#yet#the#Whigs#have#both#implicit#and#explicit##
comparison#e.g.#France#G#revolution#and#instability#
#
#
~#Macaulay#wrote#his#chapter#after#the#1848#revs#in#Paris#and#other#parts#of#
#
#
Europe#
! American#exceptionalism#G#comparison#to#Europe#
! German#exceptionalism#

!

Origins+of+Comparative+History+
! 19th#century#historians#often#spoke#of#the#comparative#method#
! Enlightenment#G#viewed#mankind#and#history#as#unitary#
#
~#Societies#are#on#a#common#G#just#at#different#levels#of#progress#
#
#
~#Comparison#was#used#to#show#this#
! Comparative#method#in#anatomy,#jurisprudence,#geography#etc.#
! Comparison#was#the#key#method#of#18th#century#science#
! Mid#and#late#18th#century#G#comparison#of#different#stages#of#human#development#
! Opposite#use#of#comparative#method#G#search#for#factors#which#made#certain#societies#
unique#
#
~#19th#century#Romanticism#
#
~#Specific#national#traits#and#characteristics#
Enlightenment#G#focused#on#global#analysis#and#similarity#
!
! Romanticism#G#uniqueness#
! Comparison#can#show#essential#unity#and#essential#dissimilarity#of#science#
#
~#Both#approaches#are#open#G#are#not#mutually#incompatible#
#
~#Can#show#essential#'commonality'#yet#also#show#that#any#historical#event#is##
unique#

!
!
!

!

1860G1914#
#
~#Spencer,#Tyler,#Frazer,#Hobhouse#G#were#all#in#some#ways#social#evolutionists#
#
~#Primitive#societies#were#at#a#different#stage#of#development#
#
~##Study#of#objects#and#evidence#
#
~#Evidence#of#our#past#could#be#seen#in#contemporary#primitive#societies#G##
intrinsically#comparative#
! Evidence#threw#doubt#on#unitary#humanity#
! WWI#G#stopped#ideas#of#progress#
! Parsons#G#still#had#these#ideas#and#is#useful#

!
!

Can#argue#that#as#a#culture#becomes#more#specialised#it#cannot#be#compared#with#
others#
#
~#History#of#anthropology#shows#continuing#tension#between#histories#of#similarity#
#
v.#difference#
Politics#can#use#the#comparative#method#with#less#difficulty#
!
#
~#Ancient#as#Aristotle's#attempt#to#construct#different#typologies#of#state#and##
institution#G#comparison#of#countries#
! 19th#century#G#greater#evidence#led#to#a#broader#framework#of#political#analysis#
! European#Union#has#encouraged#comparative#studies#of#other#countries#
! Idea#of#political#development#leading#to#representative#institutions#and#democracy#may#
not#necessarily#be#accepted#

!

Tocqueville+
! Physically#embodied#comparison#G#in#France,#England#and#America#
! 'Democracy#in#America'#(1835#and#1840)#G#saw#image#of#democracy#
! Later#study#of#the#French#Revolution#
! These#2#works#are#part#of#a#single#grand#design#in#explaining#why#aristocracy#collapsed#
and#there#was#a#democratic#future#
! 'The#nations#of#our#time#cannot#precent#the#conditions#of#men#from#becoming#equal'#
! Universalising#work#through#looking#at#America#and#applying#it#elsewhere#
! Types#of#societies#are#compared#

!
!
!
#
#

!

Longitudinal#comparison#G#single#society#or#features#within#it#at#different#times#G>#more#
common#
Latitudinal#comparisons#G#across#countries#
~#Less#common#and#more#difficult#to#make#
~#Can#be#extremely#helpful#

German+Exceptionalism+
! 1960s#and#70s#G#German#peculiarities#were#explained#in#relationship#to#British#liberal#
society#
#
~#Idea#that#Germany#should#have#taken#this#route#
#
~#Failure#to#establish#British#civil#society#
#
~#Lack#of#free#institutions#and#inclusivity#of#society#on#a#British#type#with#a#lack#of#
#
civil#intervention#
! Germany#remained#enthralled#to#preGindustrial#elites#to#the#detriment#of#longGterm#
stability#

!

!
#
#
#
#
#
#
#

!
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#

!
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!

This#view#was#challenged#by#Eley#and#Blackbourn#
~#Questioned#whether#the#failure#of#a#'bourgeois#revolution'#in#Germany#actually#
occurred#anywhere#else#
#
~#Would#they#have#actually#espoused#liberalism?#
~#Better#explanation#of#the#rational#calculation#of#economic#benefits#G>#different#
course#of#action#
~#Accepted#that#the#development#of#the#bourgeoisie#was#isolated#from#the#workers#
#
~#Contrasts#with#greater#interaction#in#Victorian#Britain#
Gladstone#G#model#of#liberalism#
~#Not#as#secure#as#imagined#G#less#civil#and#more#exceptional#
~#Germany#was#therefore#not#as#unusual#
Comparative#method#is#used#as#a#test#for#the#path#of#German#history#
~#Germany#was#different#v.#essentially#quite#similar#to#neighbours#

Economic+Comparison+
! Economic#development#can#also#be#compared#
#
~#Idea#of#relative#backwardness#
#
~#Can#compare#industrial#revolutions#G#Britain#was#taken#as#a#model#of##
development#
! Since#the#1960s,#the#central#position#of#Britain#in#comparison#has#been#undermined#G#
studies#have#shown#there#were#different#types#of#economic#development#
! Historical#comparison#G>#understanding#of#common#development#and#differences#of#
Britain#
#
~#Question#of#the#British#model#of#industrialisation#itself#
#
~#Is#there#a#distinctive#model?#

!
!
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#
#
#

!
#
#
#

!

!
!
#

!
#
#
#
#
#

!
#

Comparison#can#show#important#points#of#similarity#
~#Common#features#of#later#industrialisation#of#Germany,#Japan#and#Russia#
#
~#Can#borrow#technologies#from#others#already#developed#
#
~#War#contributes#to#development#
#
~#Emergence#in#each#society#of#nonGdemocratic#forces#of#government#
Across#3#societies#comparison#also#reveals#differences#
~#Germany#G#free#ownership#
~#Japan#G#corporate#ownership#
~#Russia#G#communism#
Can#agree#on#common#features#and#different#features#
Convergence#G#unlike#divergence,#shows#similarities#
~#Differences,#when#found,#are#more#significant#
British#and#America#
~#British#emigrated#to#the#US#
~#Americans#read#British#books#
~#Groups#in#both#nations#made#common#cause#against#slavery#and#drink#
~#Class#conflict#in#Britain#G#yet#the#Americans#would#later#have#this#
~#Similar#institutions#
Contemporaries#constantly#made#comparisons#
~#Divergences#are#more#notable#and#significant#

!
!
!

No#strong#and#distinct#socialist#tradition#in#the#US#
US#is#divided#more#by#ethnicity#and#class#
Secularisation#in#Britain#in#the#19th#century#G#why#were#they#so#different#from#America?#
#
~#America#seems#to#against#the#fundamental#association#of#modernity#and##
secularisation#

!
!
#
#
#
#

!
!

!
!
#
#
#

!
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!
!

!

Comparison#can#also#be#used#in#intellectual#history#
~#Hold#a#set#of#ideas#constant#
~#Examine#them#in#different#social#and#historical#contexts#
~#e.g.#Darwinism,#relativity,#Freudian#psychology,#scientific#revolution#of#the#17th#
century#
Studies#have#worked#against#the#notion#that#science#is#immune#from#cultural#inflections#
Britain#in#the#18th#century#G#nobody#seemed#aware#that#there#was#an#Enlightenment#
Uniting#of#longitudinal#and#latitudinal#comparative#history#
~#History#of#slavery#
~#Athens,#Greece#4th#century#B.#C.#G>#Athens#in#19th#century#Georgia#
~#Try#to#look#for#similarities#
Other#forms#of#latitudinal#studies#have#narrowed#their#focus#
~#Wide#variety#of#factors#
Maryland#and#Virginia#v.#Mississippi#and#Texas#(New)#
Longitudinal#G#single#place#over#2#centuries#e.g.#South#Carolina#

Weber+
! Weber#was#an#archetypal#comparativist#
#
~#Great#knowledge#of#many#different#societies#
#
~#Compared#religion,#bureaucracy,#agriculture#etc.#
#
~#History#though#ideal#types#
#
#
~#Patrimonialism#(Feudalism)#
#
#
~#Modern#bureaucracy#
#
#
~#Ancient#bureaucracy#
! Across#geography#and#time#
! Models#could#be#compared#
#
~#Blueprints#could#be#compared#to#subtypes#
! Weber#described#an#ideal#type#as#a#limiting#concept#for#comparison#with#reality#
! Ideal#type#used#as#a#kind#of#fixed#point#
! Weber#was#not#aiming#to#construct#universal#theories#
#
~#Wanted#to#use#comparative#analysis#to#explain#various#trends#
! Explained#origins#of#capitalism#in#Protestantism#
#
~#'Protestantism#and#the#Spirit#of#Capitalism'#

!

Conclusion+
! Comparative#method#pursues#2#goals#
#
~#Seeks#to#isolate#particular#factors#of#an#individual#case#
#
~#Finds#general#traits#to#explain#events#G#shows#us#general#developments#and##
trends#
! Comparative#history#has#4#functions#

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