Social and Economic History of the United States: From Handicraft to Factory, 1500-1820

Social and Economic History of the United States: From Handicraft to Factory, 1500-1820

Social and Economic History of the United States: From Handicraft to Factory, 1500-1820

Social and Economic History of the United States: From Handicraft to Factory, 1500-1820

Excerpt

A little over a generation ago the English historian E. A. Freeman boldly asserted that history was "past politics." That this conception of history was generally accepted during the nineteenth century, and that it even yet finds considerable vogue both in Europe and America must be evident to any one who examines the writings of many eminent historians on both sides of the Atlantic. Up to the last decade the vast majority of our history texts, both school and college, were little more than superficial compilations of political and episodical happenings. Indeed, it was against the writing and teaching of just this sort of history that the distinguished philosopher-historian James Harvey Robinson raised his voice nearly a quarter of a century ago. In his thought-provoking volume The New History he decried the fact that the content of so much of our historical writing was composed almost entirely of surface events and of the irrelevant and the melodramatic -- of laws, of accounts of presidential administrations, dynasties, military exploits, romantic marriages, court scandals, diplomatic intrigues, assassinations, and reigns of terror -- and that little or no space was given to the social, economic, spiritual, scientific, and intellectual aspects of human development. The time had come, he declared, for a broader understanding and a larger synthesis.

In America Professor Robinson was not alone in his crusade for a more comprehensive and a more synthetic treatment of the subject. In the field of American history J. B. McMaster, F. J. Turner, E. B. Greene, J. F. Jameson, C. M. Andrews, C. A. Beard, and others were already stressing the importance of getting away from the narrow political-nationalistic path followed by George Bancroft, Palfrey, Hildreth and others of the so-called older school of historians.

Largely as a result of their efforts, the last twenty years have witnessed four significant tendencies in American historiography:

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