Sociology Index

Historical Sociology

Historical sociology has been one of the most important developments in contemporary sociology and history after a setback due to Fascism and Stalinism. Historical sociology developed through Karl Marx, Max Weber, Evolutionary Psychology, Functionalist Explanation. Historical Sociology studies the past to find out how societies work and how societies change. Historical sociology is deeply divided between explanatory sociological approaches and more empirical evidence approaches, like modernization theory approaches, late Marxist approaches, and historical geography. Historical sociology has become an increasingly conspicuous part of the broader field of International Relations theory.

Themes in historical sociology from state formation, nationalism, social movements, social classes, patriarchy, architectural sociology, sociology of religion and moral regulation. Between sociologists and historians there has existed since the first inception of sociological ideas a sharp difference which grows out of two different sources, a psychological and a scientifico-logical.

The Rise of Historical Sociology - by Dennis Smith.

In the aftermath of its near-demise by fascism and Stalinism, the resurgence of historical sociology has been one of the most important developments in contemporary sociology and history. Dennis Smith traces the spectacular growth of interest in social history in the West in a much-needed survey that combines lively critique of key works with a framework of interpretation for this intellectual field.

Dennis Smith locates the 'second long wave' of historical sociology extending from the post-World War II era into the present and provides a reliable and informative guide to the most influential authors who have contributed to this field in recent times.

The author identifies three phases of postwar historical sociology. These periods were shaped by the battle with totalitarianism; the protest movements for student rights, Black Power, an end to the Vietnam War; the Women's Movement; and the fragmentation of the stable bipolar world of the Cold War.

Within the context of these sociopolitical eras, Smith discusses the work of the following historical sociologists: Talcott Parsons, Smelser, Eisenstadt, Lipset, Marshall, Bendix, Bloch, Elias, Moore, Thompson, Skocpol, Tilly, Anderson, Wallerstein, Braudel, Mann, Runciman, and Giddens.

Historical Sociology Abstracts

Have Historical Sociologists Forsaken Theory? Thoughts on the History/Theory Relationship - JILL QUADAGNO, STAN J. KNAPP.
With the re-emergence of historical sociology as a dominant focus of inquiry has come a renewed interest in more general methodological, theoretical, and epistemological issues that have long occupied debates about the relationship between history and theory. The authors argue that these conclusions are based on a narrow definition of the enterprise of historical sociology and on an attempt to confine the definition of theory to general laws. In this article, they first demonstrate that historical sociologists have not forsaken theory.

Historical Sociology and Time - RONALD AMINZADE.
Historical sociologists have criticized their discipline for a tendency to ignore the temporal dimensions of social life, either by studying the correlates of outcomes rather than the character of temporally connected events or by treating events as surface manifestations of large-scale and long-term processes of change.

The Fourth Wave in Historical Sociology: Lessons From and For International Relations
Lawson, George. Abstract: In his groundbreaking study of historical sociology, Dennis Smith argued that there had been three waves of post-war historical sociology, each of which had emerged out of the challenges of a particular historical conjuncture. It is therefore little surprise that the post-Cold War world has seen the emergence of a renewed and re-emboldened historical sociology, both within and beyond IR.

Time-Sensitivity in Comparative-Historical Sociology: Temporality and the Techniques of the Late “Second Wave” -Villegas, Celso. Abstract: As comparative-historical sociology moves towards a “Third Wave,” there are implicit tensions between a more formalized comparative historical sociology, based on “big questions” and an explicitly critical comparative historical sociology that focuses on rethinking what were once “given” concepts like race, class, gender, group, etc.

Historical Sociology in International Relations: Open Society, Research Programme and Vocation - George Lawsona. Abstract: This article sets out an identifiable set of assumptions and precepts for Historical Sociology in International Relations based on deep ontological realism, epistemological relationism, a methodological free range, and an overt normative engagement with the events and processes that make up contemporary world politics. As such, Historical Sociology in International Relations can be seen as operating as an open society, a research programme and a vocation.

The Debate on Historical Sociology: Rational Choice Theory and Its Critics - Edgar Kiser, Michael Hechter. Abstract: In the past two decades, many sociologists have denied the usefulness of general theories in favor of more particularistic approaches to historical explanation, which makes it difficult to specify both the causal relations and the causal mechanisms that account for social outcomes.

Why Political Economy Needs Historical Sociology - Leonard Seabrookea. Abstract: Much of the literature in political economy seeks to capture an essential insight into the evolution of political and economic systems to provide a foundation for policy advice. Historical sociology provides a way to generate information about the complexities that make events unique, as 'contextual constellations', through two 'tonics': intentional rationality and social mechanisms. With the assistance of these tonics, historical sociology widens political economy's policy imagination.

Which historical sociology? A Response to Stephen Hobden's 'Theorising the International System' - DANIEL NEXON. Abstract: In a recent article in the Review of International Studies, Stephen Hobden does a great service by initiating a critical evaluation of the potential for historical sociology in international relations theory.

Revisiting general theory in historical sociology - The role of general theory in the field of historical sociology has been the subject of a long and heated debate.

Romancing the Field: The Marriage of Feminism and Historical Sociology - AVA BARON. This essay explores the diverse ways that the relationship between feminism and historical sociology has been represented. The author notes some of the ways historical sociology has changed over the past few decades and the ways some researchers have incorporated gender into their analyses. The relationship of feminism and historical sociology raises the broader question of whether feminism should be integrated into traditional disciplinary approaches or whether such integration threatens the basis for feminist critical inquiry.

From Universal History to Historical Sociology - J. A. Banks. Abstract: The first two professors of sociology in England thought their major research task to be to examine the writings of historians, anthropologists and others in order to write comparative and evolutionary histories of mankind. Historical sociology nevertheless languished until the impact of second-wave feminism, with its emphasis on women having been hidden from history, gave it an impetus which promises much in the future.

Transforming Localities Reflections on Time, Causality and Narrative In Contemporary Historical Sociology - Larry W. Isaac. In the Call for papers for this thematic issue of Historical Methods, I solicited empirical contributions that demonstrate the theoretical and methodological diversity, novelty, utility, and aesthetic that historical sociologists have brought to a wide variety of substantive areas.

Negotiating a Market, Performing Theory: The Historical Sociology of a Financial Derivatives Exchange - Donald MacKenzie. Yuval Millo. Abstract: This analysis of the origins and development of a key financial derivatives market, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, suggests that social interaction in such markets generates trust, permits solution of collective action problems, and affects pricing.

HISTORY AND SOCIOLOGY - by Franz Oppenheimer - in: William Fielding Ogburn, Alexander Goldenweiser, The Social Sciences and their Interrelations, Cambridge 1927.

Historical Sociology - Bibliography

The Rise of Historical Sociology - by Dennis Smith.
The author identifies three phases of postwar historical sociology. These phases were shaped by the battle with totalitarianism; the protest movements for student rights, Black Power, an end to the Vietnam War; the Women's Movement.

Philip Abrams, "History, Sociology, Historical Sociology," Past and Present 87 (1980): 3-16

Charles Tilly, “Historical Sociology” prepared for the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, June 1999.

Theda Skocpol, "Recurrent Strategies and Emerging Agendas in Historical Sociology," Chapter 11 of Vision and Method in Historical Sociology.

The Sources of Social Power: Volume 1, A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 - Michael Mann.


A collection of essays that explore a variety of topics in religious history, both East and West, using theoretical frameworks derived from the comparative-historical sociology of Max.


Making of America. Resource provided by the Univ.of Michigan contains images of over 1,600 books and 50,000 journal articles. Browse or search for images.


Thoemmes Press publishes primary sources and reference works in the History of Ideas for the academic community.

William Sewell, "Marc Bloch and the Logic of Comparative History," History and Theory 6 (1967): 208-18.

Ron Aminzade, “Historical Sociology and Time,” Sociological Methods and Research 20 (1992): 459-80.

Larry J. Griffin, “Temporality, Events and Explanation in Historical Sociology,” Sociological Methods and Research 20 (1992): 403-427.

William H. Sewell, “Historical Events as Transformations of Structures: Inventing Revolution at the Bastille,” Theory and Society 25/26 (1996): 841-881.


Charles Tilly, “Micro, Macro, or Megrim?” in Mikrogeschihte, Makrogeschichte: komplmentar oer inkommensurabel? Mit Beitragen von Maurizio Gribaudi, Giovanni Levi und Charles Tilly (Wallstein Verlag, 1998).