Social history – What it is, definition and concept

Social history is an area of ​​history that deals with studying the way in which historical events affect society.

Faced with other areas of history, more focused on historical events such as battles, wars or historical figures such as presidents and monarchs, social history fully addresses social phenomena. In other words, it is essential for social history to analyze social changes and the historical events that they caused.

Eric Hosbawn, one of the leading social historians, established that this branch of history addressed the following types of questions:

  • The study of demography and kinship.
  • Urban studies.
  • Analysis of social classes.
  • Mentalities.
  • Social changes
  • Protests and social movements.

Origins of social history

It should be noted that social history is a relatively recent discipline. And it is that its origin dates back to the end of the XIX century, from the hand of the School of Annales (France) and Past and Present (United Kingdom).

Thus, the social branch of history emerged as a response to political history, addressing the daily life of ordinary men in the face of events led by political elites and the nobility.

Taking the Annales School as a starting point, we find its founders, the French Lucien Fevre and March Bloch. The name of this school has its origin in the magazine Annales d ‘histoire économique et sociale.

The story from below

Another way of approaching social history is the so-called history from below. This school has its roots in Great Britain. Its purpose is to study the customs and daily life of the town, focusing on the most forgotten historical actors, such as peasants and workers.

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Within this current we find numerous British historians of communist affiliation. Its most prominent historians include the British Eric Hosbawn.

It is important to note that, according to Hosbawn himself, social history could be analyzed from three different perspectives. In the first place, history should be studied from the point of view of the most disadvantaged. Second, the analysis must analyze a series of human activities that traditionally remained outside the historical analysis. Finally, you have to take a combination of economic and social history.

Factors that drove the development of social history

Marxist ideology, with a more materialistic perspective on history, led to a way of approaching History from a more sociological perspective, in which History was related to other areas of knowledge, among which is also the Economy.

On the other hand, the profound social changes that humanity has undergone throughout the 20th century also drove social history. And it is that throughout the twentieth century there were events such as the two world wars, numerous processes of decolonization or the Russian revolution.

Precisely in the years of greatest growth in this branch of knowledge, specialized departments arose in universities and specialized magazines emerged.

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