The “New History”

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. "The 'New History'." Commentary Magazine. 1975.


A sociologist friend recently complained to me of the amorphous state of his discipline. Sociology, he said, is totally undefined, both as to subject matter and methodology; no one knows what it is supposed to comprise or how it is supposed to do what it purports to do. He envied history its good for-tune in having fixed boundaries and focal points—periods, countries, regimes, dramatic events, and great leaders. And he admired its clear and firm notions of scholarly procedure: how one inquires into a historical problem, how one presents and documents one’s findings, what constitutes admissible evidence and adequate proof. I gently disabused him. Whatever advantages history may once have enjoyed, it is rapidly disburdening itself of them all. In fact, it seems bent upon transforming itself into something like sociology.

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