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The State of Social Science History in the Late 1980s

Kousser, J. Morgan (1989) The State of Social Science History in the Late 1980s. Historical Methods, 22 (1). pp. 13-20. ISSN 0161-5440. doi:10.1080/01615440.1989.9956333.

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Is social science history a dated fad, or has it been so fully accepted as to have become uncontroversial? Is it more or less popular with professors and graduate students today than in the recent past? Is its status higher at the most prestigious universities, or among their graduates, than at less highly ranked colleges? What do historians and other social scientists see as the strengths and weaknesses, the achievements and deficiencies of social science history (ssh)? To what degree do more traditional historians agree or disagree with social scientific historians and historically oriented social scientists about these matters? How widespread is the teaching of statistics and theory in history departments, and how sophisticated is it, compared with the offerings in social science departments? Has the field become truly interdisciplinary? To gauge opinion and gather facts on these and other topics, I sent out 456 questionnaires in May 1987 to individuals in three groups: historians who were members of the Social Science History Association (SSHA), nonhistorian SSHA members, and one non-SSHA member at each of the universities listed in the American Historical Association's Guide to Departments of History that claimed to offer Ph.D. programs. The response, partially stimulated by a reminder to those who did not reply within six weeks, was gratifyingly high: 105 SSHA historians, 101 SSHA members whose self-described primary departmental affiliation was not with a history department, and 98 non-SSHA historians returned at least partially completed questionnaires. Not only was the overall response rate of two-thirds respectable for a mail survey, but many people wrote useful and interesting comments in the margins, as I had invited them to, while others enclosed innovative syllabi or reflections on the subject. A copy of the questionnaire with the responses of the three groups to each question indicated appears as an appendix to this paper, and readers may wish to refer to it for the exact wording of questions and the precise numbers who answered each way. The non-SSHA group received only Part I of the survey, while the SSHA sample got both parts.

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Additional Information:© 1989 Heldref Publications. I want to thank several colleagues for useful comments on draft versions of the questionnaire and the paper: Lance Davis, Nick Dirks, Phil Hoffman, James Lee, and Doug Rivers. My largest debt is to the 304 respondents to the survey, many of whose marginal remarks have affected my interpretation of the results. An. earlier version of this paper was presented at the Social Science History Convention in 1987.
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Deposited On:30 Aug 2013 16:00
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