Types of History by Subfield:

        Political history: the story of government, political leaders, electoral activities, the making of policy, and the interaction of branches of government

        Diplomatic history: the study of the relations between nations, diplomats, and ideas of diplomacy

        Social history: the study of ways and customs, of family, education, children, demography (population change), and voluntary institutions (churches, for example)

        Cultural history: the study of language and its uses, of the arts and literature, sport, and entertainment, in constructing cultural categories

        Economic history: the study of how an entire system of production and consumption (or of any of its parts) works, of markets, industry, credit, and working people at all levels of the system

        Intellectual history: the study of ideology and epistemology, analyzing how ideas affect human actions and how the material world affects human ideas


Historical Schools of Interpretation:

        The Conservative-Consensus School views history in terms of broad continuities over time. Consensus historians believed that Americans agreed on basic ideas about politics and society; and American history is largely a success story. While criticizing numerous incidents in the American past, they generally approve of our nation's society, economy, and politics, and regard them as flexible enough to adapt to new realities without major internal disruption. This tradition has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century when amateur historians (people who did not teach history or receive post graduate training in the field) promoted the romantic vision of America as unique. They then depicted Americans as carrying out a spiritual mission to bring democracy to the world. The Consensus school reached its heyday in the 1950s and, although it has since declined in influence, historians who emphasize the country's pluralism and nationalism continue its legacy today. For pluralists, American history features interaction among a variety of groups and institutions, and major events grow out of a multiplicity of causes rather than single factors such as economics or ideology. The pluralists assume that U.S. institutions, both public and private, have provided a framework within which conflict can be channeled without major social disruption. Nationalists often exalt the virtue of the United States in its actions abroad.

        Progressive-New Left: views our nation's history predominantly as a series of conflicts between groups with different economic interests and stresses the way power and property have been used to repress weaker minorities at home and abroad. This school tends to criticize capitalism and support a variety of reform causes. It began during the 1900-1920 era after which it was named and Progressive historians flourished through the 1930s. During World War II and its aftermath, when criticism of the United States was discouraged, this school was eclipsed by the Consensus school. During the reform climate of the 1960s a resurgence of the school as labeled the New Left in order to distinguish it from an older group of communist and socialist writers. Historians of this school drew attention to the many groups that were left out of Conservative-Consensus history, including immigrants, women, African-Americans, Native Americans, and the very poor, often depicting them as victims of dominant elites and denied equal treatment. They also emphasized the role of economic motivation in the nation's politics and foreign policy; and today's "new political history" scholarship focuses on the history of different groups of people who either were or were not invested in a given vocabulary or prescriptive worldview. The more conservative trend that arose during the 1970s and 1980s created a hostile environment for the New Left from colleagues and students, however many of its central ideas, especially the need to include minority and women's history in textbooks, has enriched every history survey course. Today there is no particular dominance of any one school, and ideas from both continue to appear in many of the historical works of recent.

 


Back to Handouts Page

Home | Syllabus | Calendar


University of Kentucky
1601 Patterson Office Tower
Lexington, KY  40506-0027
Phone: 606-257-9739
Fax: 606-257-7034
Email: dolph@pop.uky.edu
http://www.uky.edu/~dolph/HIS316/handouts/types.html