By Miles Fairburn
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Extra info for Social History: Problems, Strategies and Methods
Summary This chapter has argued that there is a conflict between the basic subject-matter and the basic methodology that are conventionally prescribed for social history. On the one side, social history by definition is concerned with collectivities and the social categories that make up collectivities. On the other side, social historical accounts of past social life are expected to include all categories of people who lived there. These objectives are impossible to reconcile. Any one social category is not only indefinitely divisible but is also capable of being converted into an indefinite number of hybrids.
Studying histoire structurale required a knowledge of geography and associated disciplines such as climatology. The Mediterranean is divided into three parts, each dealing with one of the durees. The first is concerned with histoire structurale. Here Braude! detailed the Mediterranean's physical environment and its impact on human geography (the location of urban centres, the main transport routes and so forth). The second examines the Mediterranean's social and economic systems, the conjoncture.
I must emphasise that all this does not mean that the three propositions and the associated claim are wrong. Rather it means that the propositions and their associated claim are weakly founded and that they could, in their own terms, be easily refuted. 5 Many practitioners who are dependent on the method of demonstrating by example, but obviously feel uncomfortable with it, have tried to strengthen it in a variety of ways. The Problem of Generalising from Fragmentary Evidence I 47 Methods by which demonstration by example can be strengthened D Appealing to the testimony of experts One such strengthening devices is to cite examples that consist of the observations of contemporary 'expert' witnesses, that is, the testimony of professional or knowledgable people of a past society who had a close and specialised knowledge about any given aspect of the aggregate we happen to be studying.