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Answers to questions Maza
1) ' What is special then , about history as a discipline? ' (p. 1) Maza wonders. Why is it so hard to
For several reasons, which make it clear that history has less sharp commonalities than many other
scientific disciplines. The research object, for example: history studies the past, but so do all kinds of other
disciplines. There is no fixed set of skills, no highly developed proprietary jargon, no fixed historical
method – whatever some other textbooks would have you believe.
2) What is the difference between past, history and historiography?
First, the difference between past and history. These are partly synonymous and thus partly have the same
meaning, but history has multiple meanings. History and past are synonymous in their meaning 'the things
that happened before the present/now'. All these things together we call 'the past' or 'the history'. But
history (and not past) also means the story aboutthe history / the past. 'History of the Netherlands' can
refer to both the Dutch past and a book about that past. So the first meaning of history refers to what
happened, the second meaning refers to the story about/study of history. You can therefore also refer to
such a story or such a study with history (as you follow the study history), and not with 'past.
Second, the difference between history and historiography (past and historiography are quite easy
to distinguish). Firstly, here again there is a certain synonymy, after the literal (but less current and
important) meaning of historiography : historiography . But by historiography is meant something more
specific . Historiography is a very specific type of historiography, or part of historiography, namely history
in the second degree. Where history in the first degree has the past as its subject, history in the second
degree (historiography) likes to have historiography about the past as its subject.
We distinguish two types of this historiography, which we refer to in this subject as historiography
large and small . Historiography small is everything that has been published about a certain subject, and
which is therefore the starting point of any historical research: after all, for that you have to know the
historiography about your subject and position yourself in it. Historiography is greater than historiography
as a historical specialism, just as there are historians concerned with women, the environment, war,
international relations, or natural science. There are also historiographers, who specifically study the
history of historiography .
3) Is history an empirical science? Explain why and why not .
That is a difficult question, because empirical science is understood to mean that science that focuses on
experiential knowledge, more specifically: the sensory experience. Consequently, empirical science is
concerned with observable reality.
On the one hand, history has empirical credentials, but mainly in the sense that it differs from, for
example, philosophical science or law, whose object is imperceptible anyway, and in the sense that it is
usually less theoretical than other sciences. such as sociology et cetera, which are more based on the
testing of theories, where history rather attempts to study concrete, one-off pasts. History is generally
fairly down to earth , and that's been referred to as empirical (as opposed to theoretical).
On the other hand, if we take empiricism in the stricter sense as a starting point, history has a
problem: after all, the past is no more. It is therefore impossible for history to actually perceive the object
to be studied. Historians may be able to observe the sources they study, but they are not the same. That is
the tragedy of the historian: an empirical scientist of a lost empiricism. The historian's work is therefore
(re)construction work. (And unnecessarily, which is not a relativistic remarks about the history but an
arrangement is , or something like that ).
4) History is ' what the present needs to know about the past' (p. 6). Explain what Maza means by
this statement. Use Pieter Geyl as an example.
She means that history is not fixed, but constantly changing. As the present changes, the questions we ask
of the past change, and so do the answers. Democratization leads to more social history, the second wave
of feminism leads to women's history and so on. So, logically, history changes with the present.
In Pieter Geyl we also clearly see a historiography that is driven by the needs of the present. Geyl
wrote at a time when the Greater Netherlands movement was large, and he supported that movement.
That choice arose from his sympathizing with the Flemish Movement in Belgium. And that position in the
present again determined his reading of the past, in which he studied the Netherlands and Belgium as a
unit. But of course the influence of the present did not only apply to Geyl , but also to his contemporaries,
who also based their choices on the present: the existing national borders of Belgium and the Netherlands
also determined their study of the past, while those countries of course did not existed as a unit. (What
does the Netherlands mean in 1400? What is Belgium in 1550? – yet histories have been written about it)
How the present determined his view of the past also became apparent in his conception of the
historical discipline: it was, Geyl wrote with a positive appreciation, a 'discussion without end'. But that
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statement again comes from the historical context in which free debate as a feature of a liberal, open
society was embraced by Geyl , as an antidote to totalitarian regimes, where that freedom of discussion
did not exist.
5) What is the point of studying historiography?
Its utility is multiple, and it concerns every historian. The historiography offers:
1. Positioning. You have to start your research somewhere and you have to position yourself
somewhere to know where you stand/can stand. For that you need the work of other historians. So
when you start a subject, you first have to know the historiography about that subject. This applies
both at this level (small historiography), of one study into a specific subject, and at the level of the
discipline as a whole (large historiography): to determine your place in the discipline, you need
knowledge of the historiography.
2. Inspiration and modesty. We can take examples from it (to imitate or disapprove), but we also see,
through the confrontation with all kinds of fellow historians who have practiced history in a
different way, that our way of working is not the way of working, but one of many forms of history
writing. This leads to a certain modesty about one's own pretensions.
3. Historiography is of course a cultural element, just like music, film, science and so on. That means
that historiography is part of, acts as a mirror of, and tells us something about the culture that
produces it. So it is a way to get to know the culture of the past.
6) How is Maza 's handbook colored by the author's background?
As she herself indicates, she too has a particular specialism: cultural history and social history (especially
of class identity and gender), and historiography. She is also a specialist in French history. She is educated
and works in the United States. This naturally colors her approach: the way in which she looks at the
discipline is naturally inspired by this, as she herself indicates. This becomes clear, for example, in the
examples she gives, which deal a lot with history in Europe and North America. And that also applies to
the historians who are discussed, they come from the same region: there are not many Asian, African or
South American historians in the book.
1) History has long been the history of Great Men, and a single woman. ' Maza says that great men
of history coincides with a focus on political history, and that focus on political history a set of
assumptions imply "(p. 13). What assumptions are those? And why do you get it for free with a focus
on political and great men's history?
The assumptions involved here are that:
- political history is the most important form of history, which is what everything revolves around, and
so that the state and government are the important domains of society.
- political leaders matter and that it is they who drive political change forward.
- persons are more important than the circumstances in which they arise.
- that politics is also something limited to the public sphere.
When you make history, you make certain choices. And actually those are choices that go with how you
think the world works, implicitly or explicitly. After all, if you're practicing great men's history of politics,
that also means saying that what those great men do in politics matters. What they do determines how
history unfolds – even if you, as a historian, don't say it in so many words. Of course, that's not just true of
this great-man history, but it's equally true if you study grain prices to explain uprising and revolution. With
that you say: it is the economy that is the most important, not the politics.
And that is of course what this is about, also in the chapter of Maza : these are choices that you
could also make differently. You can also say that the economy is the most important factor, not politics;
that political leaders are the plaything of all kinds of circumstances and that their decisions depend on
chance; that people do not decide their own fate but that their behavior is governed by social structures
such as religion or culture ; that politics is much broader than that, for example the power struggles that
take place in the private sphere (see also later in the chapter of Maza ). In short, all historical choices have
certain implications, which you may not always immediately see.
2) The rise of social history led to the use of new quantitative approaches, according to Maza . Why
was that the case? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of this quantitative approach?
In the first place it was a way to show the rest of the historians and also other scientists that social history
had good scientific papers. This also criticized the other sub-disciplines of historiography: it was not
necessary to focus on great individuals, but on social structures in order to properly understand societies
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from the past. In other words, this was also an attempt to draw historiography out of the humanities and
In addition, this approach was not illogical: social history was initially mainly concerned with major
social developments – social structures, relationships and economic circumstances: matters that lend
themselves well to a qualitative approach.
Advantages of a quantitative approach:
Large data sets allow historians to make claims about much larger groups of people over longer time
periods than was previously possible. Development and change are quantifiable.
The classic problem of extrapolating from case-based research results is also partly resolved (see
also Maza , chapter 2, pp. 49-50 on Family Fortunes ).
A first disadvantage is that, certainly for the study of periods before the twentieth century, the available
source material is often of the same type and origin. Reliable data sets are often dependent on data
collected by governments from other authorities, which were collected for a very specific purpose and are
therefore limited. The data is usually economic data, basic personal data and electoral material. As a
result, a quantitative approach lends itself best to big questions about the development of economies,
populations and political behavior.
In addition, the figures only tell part of the story: the major development, but not the meaning that
people gave it. A quantitative approach also restricts the human room for action ('agency') – people
literally and figuratively become numbers that happen to developments without playing an active role
The advantages and disadvantages mentioned ensure that qualitative methods are still used, but
studies that only use qualitative source material are now less common.
Things that Maza does not mention, but which are not irrelevant:
-The quantitative approach also became more feasible from the mid-twentieth century than before due to
technological developments; With the increasing availability of digital source material, it cannot be ruled
out that we as historians will enter a new quantitative phase.
-In some cases, there is a lack of quality source material to write down certain groups in history.
Quantitative source material still enables the historian to conduct research into the group in question
3) A common thread running through Maza 's chapter is the broadening of the understanding of
politics in history. Explain what that broadening means using Thompson and women's history.
Political history was originally fairly narrow with regard to the actors: princes, leaders, great thinkers,
parliamentarians, etc. The political field was thus mainly limited to governments and parliaments. Insofar
as the 'ordinary' man and woman appeared in this form of political history, it was mainly as a mass.
Early social history added an important political layer in the form of extra-parliamentary action
groups such as trade unions. But in the description of their histories, the great figures were again central.
What made Thompson's Making of the English Working Class so groundbreaking was that it did not focus
on the great figures and large, long-standing organizations such as unions, but on the ordinary worker
(and then those outside the factories , the craftsmen in particular ). Thompson also showed that what is
political is not limited to what is decided by kings and cabinets, but that these losers of industrialization
were also political with their protest action, which sometimes seemed irrational, but was absolutely not .
What was political, and who engaged in politics, was now stretched by Thompson and others.
Women's history took this one step further: by focusing on exclusion and emancipation, not only
ordinary and less ordinary women were entered into political history, but it also became clear that 'politics'
is practiced at every imaginable level in society. With the attention that resulted from women's history for
the way in which societies and cultures give meaning to being male and female ('gender'), everyday life and
the relationship between the sexes also became part of politics. The personal had become political.
4) What do historians mean by agency and what ' implicit ideal ' (p. 33) is implicit in this notion?
Maza describes that 'agency' can be explained as 'self-directed action'. (p. 33) The ability of individuals to
act independently and to make their own free choices, to be autonomously active and creative. (p. 31)
In recent decades, social historians have used the term in particular in the context of 'restoring the
agency'/ 'restoring agency' of oppressed groups. With this, historians show that the oppressed did not
suffer passively, but deliberately acted against their circumstances. Albeit through daily actions, rather
than through open protest. (p. 33)
Implicit ideal : Following the American historian Walter Johnson, Maza argues that we should keep
in mind that 'restoring agency' conceals an implicit ideal of liberal individualism : The assumption that a
central purpose of life (and therefore a natural focus of historical research) is to change for the better to
take action and one's own circumstances. (p. 33-34) This Johnson and want Maza not mean that the
concept of agency is unusable, but that historians must remain prepared to explain why 'agency', in
historical research matters. (p. 34) And that they must realize that agency is therefore a notion that fits
within a certain culture and tradition of historiography. The idea that one's life is the product of his or her