When in 1962 Harold Perkin reviewed the academic position of social history at that time, he could have had no idea how far things would proceed in the next 40 years. ‘Social history is the Cinderella of English historical studies’, he argued ‘Judged by the usual criteria of academic disciplines, it can scarcely be said to exist: there are no chairs (i.e. professorships in social history) and, if we omit local history, no university departments, no learned journals, and few if any textbooks.’1 This was not the case, however, with Cinderella’s ‘second eldest sister’, economic history, whose scope was well defined and whose invitation to the ball was always open. Economic history, established in the early years of the twentieth century by such luminaries as George Unwin and John Clapham, enjoyed direct links to the historical mainstream. Clapham, for example, was an apostle of the economist, Alfred Marshall, and of Lord Acton. Economic history thus enjoyed a degree of acceptance — and acceptability — which social history was slow to acquire. Economic history existed beyond question, with universities providing a home to ensure its permanency. Whereas social history, even at the time Perkin was writing, lay at the edge of the discipline; it was experimental and inchoate, lacking the clear objectives and methodologies enjoyed by economic history.
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- Cinderella Gets Her Prince? The Development of Social History
Donald M. MacRaild
- Macmillan Education UK
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