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Social history is an area of historical study, considered by some to be a social science, that attempts to view historical evidence from the point of view of developing social trends. In this view, it may include areas of economic history, legal history and the analysis of other aspects of civil society that show the evolution of social norms, behaviors and more.

It is often distinguished from political history, military history and the history of great men, although English historian G. M. Trevelyan saw it as the bridging point between economic and political history, reflecting that, "Without social history, economic history is barren and political history unintelligable."[1] Whilst the field has often been viewed negatively as history with the politics left out, it has also been defended as "history with the people put back in."[2]

Contents

Use

Social history is often described as history from below because it deals with the every-day people, the masses and how they shape History rather than the leaders. While proponents of history from below and the French annales school of historians have considered themselves part of social history, it is seen as a much broader movement among historians in the development of historiography. Unlike other approaches, it tries to see itself as a synthetic form of history not limited to the statement of so-called historical fact but willing to analyse historical data in a more systematic manner. A question in social history is whether the masses follow the leaders or whether it is the other way around.

An example can be seen in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Typical history would focus on the who, what, when and where; whereas social history focuses on the causes of the movement itself. Social historians would pose such questions as, "Why did the movement come about when it did?", and "What specific elements fostered the growth?" "What elements hindered the development?" This approach is favored by scholars because it allows for a full discussion on the sometimes less studied aspects.

Another example of social history may be found within the domain of Translation Studies, an area of research in which some scholars focus on translation history. They study the different types of translations of a given source text that were produced over time, and try to posit explanations for the differing translation strategies, uses of language, and so on, which are observed. They thus seek to account for the form of a given translated text, by asking themselves such questions as; What was the input of the individual translator? How does that translator's life and attitudes as portrayed in their writings, shed light on their interpretation of the source text and their translation solutions? How was the translation affected by such other causes as the prevailing norms or values attached to language and translation at the time; how did the function or target readership affect the target text; how did the differences between the source and target languages contribute to the form of the translation; what was the role of editors, publishers and so on?

See also

References

  1. ^ G. M. Trevelyan (1973). "Introduction". English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries from Chaucer to Queen Victoria. Book Club Associates. p. i. ISBN 058248488X.  
  2. ^ Mary Fulbrook (2005). "Introduction: The people's paradox". The People's State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker. London: Yale University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780300144246.  

Further reading

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