Social history is a branch of history which attracted attention in the 1960s.
Historians had previously studied political, economic, and military history, to
name a few. Social history is the study of the ordinary people, the majority of
the population, going about their daily business. Questions asked in social
history are: what were their working conditions like? What did they do during
times of unemployment? What did they eat? Who did they marry? Who got
married and why? What was their social status and how did it affect their lives?
Were they literate?
Other kinds of history:
Political history: the history of power, and the people who wielded this power.
Questions asked are: How did this person obtain power? What did this person
do with the power? What laws did he/she create? This kind of history has often
led to biographies. Biographies are often the most entertaining of histories
because they are about a person who had power. The problem with biographies
is that the historian tends to analyze a person who has been dead for quite
some time. Often times the person has not left a diary or memoir, and the
historian turns into an amateur (and not very good) psychiatrist.
Economic history: this is the study of what was produced in a country, how much of it was
exported, what was imported, the price of goods, and the quantity produced. This history
can be broken down into industrial and agricultural history. Questions asked are: Why did
production decrease, or increase? What were the seed-yield ratios? What caused the
depression? This is usually a dry topic in history but it is extremely valuable.
Military history: the study of battles. Questions asked are: Why did a battle go the
the way that it did? How did the battle start? What were the weapons used in the
battle? This can also be a dry history topic as one battle begins to look like another one
after a while.
Social history came out of all these different types of history. Political historians were asked
how the decisions of “great men” affected the common people. Economic historians were
asked how high grain exports affected the quality of life of the common people. Military
historians were asked how the men lived during combat operations. The historians could not
answer these questions because they had never asked these questions of themselves. Social
history was born out of this curiosity about the hidden