Historical Method: Introduction, Definitions and Need for Historical Methods in Sociological Study

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  • Origin – Historical Sociology
  • Can be traced in writings of Marx and Weber
  • ‘All history is a history of class struggle’
  • Qualitative method from Quantitative or Scientific temperament
  • Interdisciplinary like study of cultural history
  • Study of events and institutions of past civilizations to find the origin of contemporary society


  • If sociology is defined as the study of human society, with an emphasis on generalizations about its structure and development then ″ , Burke would say, ″ history is defined as the study of human societies … placing the emphasis on the differences between them ″ -Burke
  • G. E. Howard regard history to be past Sociology, and Sociology present History.

Need for Historical Methods in Sociological Study

  • To understand the role of past events in the society՚s structure today
  • Changeability of entities and ideas with time and context
  • Time and space-based change in society
  • To find roots of our present forms of life
  • Clearer picture of the subject


  • Primary: Images, songs, recordings, published or unpublished writings
  • Secondary: Journal articles, Government documents, autobiographies, and memoirs, etc.

Use of archives:

  • Archives are repositories, places where relevant materials are deposited and stored.
  • Material stored as holdings in form of records, books, private collections, microfilms, etc.

Narrow Scope

  • No evidence if literature and texts can be trusted
  • They are mostly in the form of life stories
  • Lack of objectivity and scientific investigation
  • Not capable of addressing all problems of society today
  • Relies on interpretation


  • Examining changes in society over time
  • Use of sources from the past to re-construct an event or happening in contemporary society


Q. 1. Assertion: When using the historical method, language knowledge is even more important.

Reason: Historical method often means also being able to work comfortably with multiple languages other than English since often ‘primary sources’ are available in local languages and not English.

1. A is false, and R is the wrong explanation of A

2. A is correct, and R is the correct explanation of A

3. A is false, but R is true

4. R is false, but A is true

Ans: 2

Q. 2. Consider the following statements:

a) Archives maintain records while libraries are repositories for books and journals.

b) Archives do not necessarily subscribe to journals or retain books.

A. a is true

B. b is true

C. Both are false

D. Both are true

Ans: D



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