Quantitative history

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Quantitative history is an approach to historical research that makes use of quantitative, statistical and computer tools. It is considered a branch of social science history and has four leading journals: Historical Methods (1967– ),[1] Journal of Interdisciplinary History (1968– ),[2] the Social Science History (1976– ),[3] and Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution (2010– ).[4] Quantitative historians start with databases. Large quantities of economic and demographic data are available in print format. Quantifiers move these into computerized databases. The largest repository is the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan, which provides access to an extensive collection of downloadable political and social data for the United States and the world.

Data bases: economic

Economic historians use major data sets, especially those collected by governments since the 1920s. Historians of slavery have used census data, sales receipts and price information to reconstruct the economic history of slavery.

Content analysis is a technique borrowed from journalism research whereby newspapers, magazines or similar sources are numerically coded according to a standardized list of topics.[5]

Political history

Quantifiers study topics like voting behavior of groups in elections, the roll call behavior of legislators, public opinion distribution, and the occurrence rate of wars and legislation. Collective biography uses standardized information on a large group to deduce patterns of thought and behavior.

New social history

The "new social historians" (new in the 1960s) use census data and other data sets to study entire populations. Topics include demographic issues such as population growth rates, rates of birth, death, marriage and disease, occupational and education distributions, and migrations and population changes.

An especially challenging technique is linking names ("nominal record linkage") of the same person whose information appears in multiple source such as censuses, city directories, employment files and voting registration lists.


Cliodynamics employs a scientific approach to the study of history and combines insights from cultural evolution, macrosociology, and economic history/cliometrics to produce and analyse large quantitative datasets and identify general principles about the evolutionary dynamics and functioning of historical societies.


In 2007–2008, the most viewed articles in Social Science History represented the breadth and style of the field. The five most viewed were:[6]

  1. S. J. Kleinberg, "Children's and Mothers' Wage Labor in Three Eastern U.S. Cities, 1880-1920" Mar 01, 2005; 29: 45-76.
  2. Ted L. Gragson, Paul V. Bolstad, "A Local Analysis of Early-Eighteenth-Century Cherokee Settlement," Sep 01, 2007; 31: 435-468.
  3. Helen Boritch, "The Criminal Class Revisited: Recidivism and Punishment in Ontario, 1871-1920," Mar 01, 2005; 29: 137-170.
  4. Javier Silvestre, "Temporary Internal Migrations in Spain, 1860-1930," Dec 01, 2007; 31: 539-574.
  5. Eric W. Sager, "The Transformation of the Canadian Domestic Servant, 1871-1931" Dec 01, 2007; 31: 509-537.

See also


  1. Historical Methods online
  2. Journal of Interdisciplinary History online
  3. Social Science History online
  4. "Cliodynamics". http://escholarship.org/uc/irows_cliodynamics. 
  5. For example: Neuendorf, Kimberly A. (2017) [2002]. The Content Analysis Guidebook (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications. ISBN 9781412979474. OCLC 932302266. 
  6. Reports, dukejournals.org


  • Aydelotte, William O., Allan G. Bogue, and Robert William Fogel, eds. The Dimensions of Quantitative Research in History (Princeton University Press, 1972). Essays by leading pioneers with case studies in the social, political, and economic development of the United States, France, and Great Britain.
  • Clubb, Jerome M., Erik W. Austin, and Gordon W. Kirk, Jr. The Process of Historical Inquiry: Everyday Lives of Working Americans (Columbia University Press, 1989). Uses case study of American textile workers in 1888-90
  • Clubb, J. M., and E. K. Scheuch (eds.) Historical Sozial Research: The Use of Historical and Process-Produced Data, Stuttgart 1980, European emphasis
  • Dollar, Charles, and Richard Jensen. Historian's Guide to Statistics, (Holt, 1971; Krieger 1973); detailed textbook of quantitative political and social history with bibliography
  • Fogel, Robert William and G. R. Elton, Which Road to the Past: Two Views of History (Yale University Press, 1983). Debate over merits.
  • Haskins, Loren and Kirk Jeffrey. Understanding Quantitative History (M.I.T. Press, 1990). textbook
  • Hollingsworth, T.H. Historical Demography. Hodder & , London 1969
  • Hudson, Pat. History by Numbers: An Introduction to Quantitative Approaches (Arnold, 2000). Comprehensive textbook; examples drawn mainly from British sources.
  • Jarausch, Konrad H. and Kenneth A. Hardy, Quantitative Methods for Historians: A Guide to Research, Data, and Statistics (University of North Carolina Press, 1991). textbook
  • Kousser, J.M., "History QUASSHed: quantitative social scientific history." American Behavioral Scientist 23(1980), p. 885-904
  • Lorwin, Val R. and. J. M. Price, ed. The Dimensions of the Past: Materials, Problems and Opportunities for Quantitative Work in History, Yale UP 1972
  • Kimberly A. Neuendorf. The Content Analysis Guidebook (2002)
  • Rowney, D.K., (ed.) Quantitative History: Selected Readings in the Quantitative Analysis of Historical Data, 1969
  • Swierenga, Robert P., ed. Quantification in American History: Theory and Research (Atheneum, 1970). Early essays on methodology, and examples of political, economic, and social history.
  • Wrigley, E.A. (ed.) Identifying People in the Past. Edward Arnold, 1973. Using demographic and census data

Other sources

External links