Comparative historical research

Comparative historical research is a method of social science that examines historical events in order to create explanations that are valid beyond a particular time and place, either by direct comparison to other historical events, theory building, or reference to the present day.[1] Generally, it involves comparisons of social processes across times and places. It overlaps with historical sociology. While the disciplines of history and sociology have always been connected, they have connected in different ways at different times. This form of research may use any of several theoretical orientations. It is distinguished by the types of questions it asks, not the theoretical framework it employs.

Major researchers

Some commentators have identified three waves of historical comparative research.[2] The first wave of historical comparative research concerned how societies came to be modern, i.e. based on individual and rational action, with exact definitions varying widely. Some of the major researchers in this mode were Alexis de Tocqueville,[3] Karl Marx,[4] Emile Durkheim,[5] Max Weber,[6] and W.E.B. Du Bois.[7] The second wave reacted to a perceived ahistorical body of theory and sought to show how social systems were not static, but developed over time.[8] Notable authors of this wave include Barrington Moore, Jr.,[9] Theda Skocpol,[10] Charles Tilly,[11] Michael Mann,[12] and Mark Gould.[13] Some have placed the Annales school and Pierre Bourdieu in this general group, despite their stylistic differences.[14] The current wave of historical comparative research sociology is often but not exclusively post-structural in its theoretical orientation. Influential current authors include Julia Adams,[15] Anne Laura Stoler,[16] Philip Gorski,[17] and James Mahoney.[18]