This course offers a methodologically pluralist introduction to historical analysis and methods in the social sciences. Social scientists working in different disciplines and different research programs have varying, sometimes competing, assumptions about what it means to be “historical.” Rather than take sides, this workshop introduces and compares a variety of self-avowedly historical contemporary research programs: new institutional economic history, comparative historical analysis, historical institutionalism, and historical sociology. In moving across these research programs, we engage statistical and case study methods, positivist and interpretive methodologies, as we follow cross-disciplinary contrasts and connections to explore how historical topics such as colonial legacies and regime transformations have been analyzed by an array of economists, political scientists, and sociologists.
In our readings we engage reflective and prescriptive pronouncements about the substantive and methodological orientation of research programs alongside concrete examples of historical work. The aim is to examine and evaluate both the framing and actual research practices of each program. Our workshop sessions will be run as seminars in which I provide an organizational outline and introductory remarks, but the bulk of class time is devoted to active discussion of the readings. Participants who are themselves planning or undertaking historical research are welcome and indeed encouraged to raise in our discussion issues connecting the readings to choices and challenges they face in their own research. The goal of the sessions is to help workshop participants to identify, understand, and assess the varied assumptions, pronouncements, and practices of diverse contemporary research programs in historical social science, and to spur those undertaking historical research to articulate the particular modes of historical analysis and methods that best fit their own intellectual interests, aims, and intended audience.
Workshop Outline & Reading List
Workshop Part I - Friday, January 10
Session 1 - Comparing Approaches to Comparative Historical Social Science
2:00pm - 3:20pm
Theda Skocpol, and Margaret Somers, “The Uses of Comparative History in Macrosocial Inquiry,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 22, no. 2 (1980): 174-97.
James Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschemeyer, “Comparative Historical Analysis: Achievements and Agendas, in Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, eds. Mahoney and Rueschemeyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), chap. 1.
Kathleen Thelen and James Mahoney, “Comparative-Historical Analysis in Contemporary Political Science,” in Advances in Comparative-Historical Analysis, eds. James Mahoney and Kathleen Thelen (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), chap. 1.
Session 2 - New Institutional Economic History
3:30pm – 4:50pm
Johan Myhrman, and Barry R. Weingast, “Douglass C. North’s Contributions to Economics and Economic History,” Scandinavian Journal of Economics 96, no. 2 (1994): 185-93.
Douglass C. North and Barry R. Weingast, “Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England,” Journal of Economic History 49, no. 4 (1989): 803-32.
Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James A. Robinson, “Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 117, no. 4 (2002): 1231-94. [Read closely 1231-37, 1244-52, 1256-79]
Session 3 - The Comparative Study of Colonial Legacies: Alternative Methods
5:00pm – 6:20pm
Matthew Lange, James Mahoney, and Matthias vom Hau, “Colonialism and Development: A Comparative Analysis of Spanish and British Colonies,” American Journal of Sociology 111, no. 3 (2006): 1412-62.
Ajay Verghese, The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Violence in India (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016), introduction and appendixes.
In 2020, for the first time, the WSSR is collaborating with the Southern Political Science Association and is hosting a series of half- and full-day workshops during their conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Join us between January 8th and January 11th and attend one or more of our workshops: