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Data sources

Cleometrics is a method of historical inquiry. Pioneered by Marxist historiographers, cleometric history draws on records of comprehensive, primarily numeric, data.[1][2]


For the most part a doctrinaire approach to the study of history by Marxist historians has ebbed in its significance. However, growing out of a Marxist approach is an enthusiasm for history as something other than merely the story of elites, or even more narrowly, the story of great men. Therefore, this branch of historiography stands in direct contradiction to influential philosopher / historians of the early 19th century like Friedrich Schiller and Thomas Carlyle.

Marxist historians felt obliged to write their histories about the proletariat. After all, for Marxists the end point of all previous history would be the proletarian revolution and an end of all social, political and economic hierarchy. From that point of view the conventional approach of most historians was fast becoming irrelevant.

However, the problem for Marxist historians was how to tell the story of common people. The activities of peasants and plebeians were not the subject of conventional source material. Historians like Herodotus didn't describe their exploits, they seldom showed up in literature, and for the most part they left little in the way of their own written record.

Yet Marxist historians believed that such a vital field of study couldn't be left exclusively to archeology and anthropology. Cleometrics was born out of the Marxist historian's desire for a more prominent role in telling this story. "Cleo" or "Clio" is the name of the Greek muse of history and "metrics" simply stands for measurement. In the absence of rich interpretive sources the history of common folk could be inferred from more pedestrian sources like tax records, census records, baptismal records, agricultural records etc.

One of the great practitioners of this kind of history was the French scholar, Marc Bloch. To write his seminal work, "Feudal Society," he combed through feudal records and was able to tell more than anyone might have supposed about the regular and routine affairs of common people.

Marxism may not be as intellectually influential as it once was. However, the use of quantitative source materials and a methodology that relies on measurement and statistical analysis is still an important area of historical study. Cleometrics has been particularly important in relatively new areas of historical research like feminist history and black history where a long tradition of scholarship does not exist.


  1. ^ Ballard, E. G. (1989). Philosophy and the liberal arts. Contributions to phenomenology, v. 2. Dordrecht [Netherlands]: Kluwer Academic. ISBN 978-0-7923-0241-4
  2. ^ Frontiers of Quantitative Economics. by M. D. Intriligator. Blackwell, 1974