Comparative history

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Comparative history is the comparison of different societies which existed during the same time period or shared similar cultural conditions. The comparative history of societies emerged as an important specialty among intellectuals in the Enlightenment in the 18th century, as typified by Montesquieu, Voltaire, Adam Smith, and others. Sociologists and economists in the 19th century often explored comparative history, as exemplified by Alexis de Tocqueville, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. In the first half of the 20th century, a large reading public followed the comparative histories of Oswald Spengler,[1] Pitirim Sorokin,[2] and Arnold J. Toynbee.[3] Since the 1950s, however, comparative history has faded from the public view, and is now the domain of specialized scholars working independently.[4] Recent exemplars of this approach include American sociologist Barrington Moore, historians Herbert E. Bolton and Carroll Quigley; British historians Arnold Toynbee and Geoffrey Barraclough; and German historian Oswald Spengler. Several sociologists are prominent in this field, including Max Weber,[5] S. N. Eisenstadt,[6] Seymour Martin Lipset, Charles Tilly,[7] and Michael Mann.[8]

Historians generally accept the comparison of particular institutions (banking, women's rights, ethnic identities) in different societies, but since the hostile reaction to Toynbee in the 1950s, generally do not pay much attention to sweeping comparative studies that cover wide swaths of the world over many centuries.[9]

Notable topics[edit]

Atlantic history[edit]

Atlantic history studies the Atlantic World in the early modern period. It is premised on the idea that, following the rise of sustained European contact with the New World in the 16th century, the continents that bordered the Atlantic Ocean—the Americas, Europe, and Africa—constituted a regional system or common sphere of economic and cultural exchange that can be studied as a totality.

Its theme is the complex interaction between Europe (especially Britain and France) and the New World colonies. It encompasses a wide range of demographic, social, economic, political, legal, military, intellectual and religious topics treated in comparative fashion by looking at both sides of the Atlantic. Religious revivals characterized Britain and Germany, as well as the First Great Awakening in the American colonies. Migration and race/slavery have been important topics.[10]

Although a relatively new field, it has stimulated numerous studies of comparative history especially regarding ideas,[11] colonialism,[12] slavery, economic history, and political revolutions in the 18th century in North and South America, Europe and Africa.[13]

Modernization models[edit]

Beginning with German and French sociologists of the late 19th century, modernization models have been developed to show the sequence of transitions from traditional to modern societies, and indeed to postmodern societies. This research flourished especially in the 1960s, with Princeton University setting up seminars that compared the modernization process in China, Japan, Russia and other nations.[14][15][16][17]

Modernization theory and history have been explicitly used as guides for countries eager to develop rapidly, such as China. Indeed, modernization has been proposed as the most useful framework for World history in China, because as one of the developing countries that started late, "China's modernization has to be based on the experiences and lessons of other countries.".[18]

Comparative politics[edit]

The field of comparative history often overlaps with the subdivision of political science known as comparative politics.[19][20] This includes "transnational" history [21] and sometimes also international history.[22]

Comparative history of the Jews and the Assyrians in Kurdistan[edit]

Mordechai Zaken, an Israeli scholar, who studied comparative history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, under Benjamin Z. Kedar, was faced with a major methodological problem while studying the history of the Jews, Muslims and Christians in Kurdistan. The severe dearth of written sources on both the Jews and the Kurds in Kurdistan drove Zaken to oral history fieldwork. He interviewed more than sixty elderly Jews, altogether conducting hundreds of interviews, thus saving their memoires from being lost forever. His study unveils new sources, reports and vivid tales that form new historical records on the Jews and the tribal society.[23] At the second phase of his lengthy study, he compared two non-Muslim minorities in Kurdistan and his comparative study on Jews and Assyrian Christians and their Muslim rulers and chieftains during the 19th and 20th centuries, was commended by members of the PhD judicial committee,[24] and the same with his book, published in 2007.[25] His book has been widely spread and has been translated, in full or in part, into several languages, including Arabic,[26] Kurmanji,[27] Sorani, French[28] and Farsi.

Military history[edit]

Military historians have often compared the organization, tactical and strategic ideas, leadership, and national support of the militaries of different nations.[29][30]

Historians have emphasized the need to stretch beyond battles and generals to do more comparative analysis.[31]

Slavery[edit]

The study of slavery in comparative perspective, ranging from the ancient world to the 19th century, has attracted numerous historians in recent years.[32]

Economics[edit]

Much of Economic history in recent years has been done by model-building economists who show occasional interest in comparative data analysis. However more traditional research methodologies have been combined with econometrics, for example in the comparison of merchant guilds in Europe.[33]

Quantitative methods[edit]

Since the work of Sorokin,[34] scholars in comparative history, especially if sociologists and political scientists, have often used quantitative and statistical data to compare multiple societies on multiple dimensions.[35][36] There have been some efforts made to build mathematical dynamic models, but these have not come into the mainstream comparative history.[37]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Spengler (1918)
  2. ^ Sorokin (1950); Sorokin (1959)
  3. ^ Toynbee (1934-61)
  4. ^ Barraclough (1979), chapter 1.
  5. ^ Stephen Kalberg, Max Weber's Comparative-Historical Sociology (University of Arizona Press, 1994)
  6. ^ Eisenstadt, (1968)
  7. ^ Tilly, (1984)
  8. ^ Mann (1993)
  9. ^ William H. McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life (1989) ch 1
  10. ^ William O'Reilly, "Genealogies of Atlantic History," Atlantic Studies 1 (2004): 66–84.
  11. ^ Robert Palmer, Age of Democratic Revolution (2 vol 1966)
  12. ^ Stoler (2001)
  13. ^ Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (2009)
  14. ^ Cyril Edwin Black, ed. The Modernization of Japan and Russia: a comparative study (1975)
  15. ^ Cyril Edwin Black, The dynamics of modernization: a study in comparative history (1966)
  16. ^ Gilbert Rozman, Urban networks in Ching China and Tokugawa Japan (1974)
  17. ^ Gilbert Rozman, The Modernization of China (1982)
  18. ^ Qian Chengdan, "Constructing a New Disciplinary Framework of Modern World History Around the Theme of Modernization," Chinese Studies in History Spring 2009, Vol. 42#3 pp 7-24; in EBSCO
  19. ^ Doyle (1986)
  20. ^ Meritt and Rokkan, (1986)
  21. ^ McGerr, (1991)
  22. ^ Iriye, (1989)
  23. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_history#In_Israel:_the_creation_of_new_sets_of_records_on_the_Jews_and_the_Kurds. Retrieved 7 June 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ Prof. Moshe Sharon of the Hebrew University and Prof. Joyce Blau previouslu of INALCO, Paris and Prof. Yona Sabar of UCLA
  25. ^ Jewish Subjects and their Tribal Chieftains in Kurdistan: A Study in Survival, (Leiden and Boston): Brill, 2007. ISBN 978-9004161900
  26. ^ Yahud Kurdistan wa-ru'as'uhum al-qabaliyun: Dirasa fi fan al-baqa'. Transl., Su'ad M. Khader; Reviewers: Abd al-Fatah Ali Yihya and Farast Mir'i; Published by the Center for Academic Research, Beirut, 2013; يهود كردستان ورؤساؤهم القبليون : (دراسة في فن البقاء) / تأليف مردخاي زاكن ؛ ترجمة عن الانكليزية سعاد محمد خضر ؛ مراجعة عبد الفتاح علي يحيى، فرست مرعي. زاكن، مردخاي، ١٩٥٨م-;خضر، سعاد محمد; بيروت, 2013  : المركز الأكاديمي للأبحاث.
  27. ^ French into Kurmanji translation of an article by Moti Zaken, "Jews, Kurds and Arabs, between 1941 and 1952", by Dr. Amr Taher Ahmed Metîn n° 148, October 2006, p. 98-123.
  28. ^ "Juifs, Kurdes et Arabes, entre 1941 et 1952," Errance et Terre promise: Juifs, Kurdes, Assyro-Chaldéens, etudes kurdes, revue semestrielle de recherches, 2005: 7-43, translated by Sandrine Alexie.
  29. ^ Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (Random House, 1987)
  30. ^ Victor Davis Hanson, The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern (Bloomsbury Press, 2010)
  31. ^ Robert M. Citino, "Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction," American Historical Review Vol. 112, no. 4 (October 2007), pp. 1070–1090 online version
  32. ^ David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1966); Seymour Drescher, Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery (Cambridge University Press, 2009); Paul Finkelman, and Joseph Miller, eds. Macmillan Encyclopedia of World Slavery (Macmillan, 2 vol 1998)
  33. ^ Regina Grafe, and Oscar Gelderblom, "The Rise and Fall of the Merchant Guilds: Re-thinking the Comparative Study of Commercial Institutions in Premodern Europe," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Spring 2010, Vol. 40 Issue 4, p477-511,
  34. ^ Pitirim A. Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics (4 vol 1932
  35. ^ Richard L. Merritt, and Stein Rokkan, eds. Comparing Nations: The Use of Quantitative Data in Cross-National Research (Yale UP, 1966)
  36. ^ See Bruce Russett, Harvey Starr, and David Kinsella, World Politics: The Menu for Choice (2010) p. 432
  37. ^ Peter Turchin, History and Mathematics: Historical Dynamics and Development of Complex Societies (Moscow: KomKniga, 2006).

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