Social history

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Social history researches and describes the development of societies in the past .

Initially, social history - mostly as "social and economic history " - was regarded as a sub-discipline of historical studies alongside the dominant political history . It is about the groups, estates, strata or classes that shape a society. In the 20th century, different directions arose that use the term social history differently. Structural history examines structural elements of historical societies and the social processes that take place in them, based on terms from sociology . In contrast, “social history as a socio-historically oriented interpretation of general history” is also referred to as social history.


In German historical studies , which for a long time focused on the research and description of state action , social history was traditionally neglected. This orientation was confirmed in the dispute between the leading authorities and Karl Lamprecht in the 1890s. Social history was suspect of socialism .

During the time of National Socialism , the “ people's history ” turned away from the politics-centered approach. Völkisch sociologists such as Hans Freyer were received here. In 1957 Otto Brunner and Werner Conze founded the working group for modern social history and pursued structural history , an approach with which they wanted to investigate political, social, economic and other topics. They understood social history as a specific way of looking at general historical studies, “a way of looking at the inner structure, the structure of human associations, while political history is about political action and self-assertion”, according to Otto Brunner's definition .

Influenced by this and in contrast to this, the social history of the Bielefelder Schule , understood as " historical social science ", emerged in the 1960s , which has had its own forum since 1975 in the journal Geschichte und Gesellschaft . It tries to operate social history as the total history of historical societies.

However, there is also an understanding of social history as the history of social movements, above all the labor movement . This social history as a historical sub-discipline with a limited subject area is expressed, for example, in the journal Workers' Movement and Social History . It is loosely related to a research area that pursues the history of social progress in order to contribute to the analysis of current problems. Finally, research on the history of poor relief and the welfare state has established itself as a branch of social history.


Outside of Germany, socio-historical approaches were already widespread in the interwar period. The French Annales School was very influential, but it was only adopted later in Germany.

In the context of the increasing specialization of historical studies, the debate about concepts and approaches in French and English historical studies, as well as in the systematic debate with Marxist historical studies about the image of history , social history , together with economic history , gained increasing importance in the second half of the 20th century .

The everyday life developed first in a polemical distinction from the social history in their Bielefeld form, they too strong fixation on structures and disregards the experience of the individuals accused of one. Among other things, from everyday history, the New Cultural History, an approach that competes with social history today.


Epoch representations

History and theory of science

  • Ute Daniel : "'Culture' and 'Society'. Reflections on the subject area of ​​social history". In: Geschichte und Gesellschaft , Vol. 19, 1993, pp. 69-99.
  • Jürgen Kocka: Social history in Germany since 1945. Rise, crisis and perspectives . Bonn 2002. ISBN 3-89892-136-0 .
  • Lutz Raphael (ed.): From folk history to structural history. The Beginnings of West German Social History 1945–1968 . Leipziger Universitäts-Verlag, Leipzig 2002, ISBN 3-534-06096-2 .
  • Bettina Hitzer, Thomas Welskopp (ed.): " The Bielefelder Sozialgeschichte. Classical texts on a historical program and its controversies ". Bielefeld 2010. ISBN 978-3-8376-1521-0
  • Arnd Hoffmann: Chance and contingency in the theory of history: with two studies on the theory and practice of social history . Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-465-03369-8 .
  • Jürgen Kocka (ed.): Social history in an international overview. Research results and trends . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1989, ISBN 3-534-06096-2 .
  • Jürgen Kocka: Social History. Concept, development, problems . 2nd edition, Göttingen 1986. ISBN 3-525-33451-6 .
  • Günther Schulz, Christoph Buchheim , Gerhard Fouquet (eds.): Social and economic history. Areas of work - problems - perspectives . Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 978-3-515-08771-1 .
  • Klaus Nathaus: Social history and historical social science , Version: 1.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte , September 24, 2012.
  • Pascal Maeder, Barbara Lüthi, Thomas Mergel (eds.): Why still social history? A discipline in transition , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2012.


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jürgen Kocka: Social history. Concept, development, problems . 1st edition, Göttingen 1977. ISBN 3-525-33416-8 , p. 98.
  2. See Winfried Schulze: German History after 1945 . Munich 1989. ISBN 3-486-54811-5 , especially pp. 281-301.
  3. Hans-Ulrich Wehler: History as historical social science . Frankfurt am Main 1974.
  4. See Hans-Ulrich Wehler: What is social history . In: Hans-Ulrich Wehler: Learn from history? Munich 1988. ISBN 3-406-33001-0 , pp. 116-129.
  5. ^ Labor movement and social history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Journal for the regional history of Bremen .
  6. See, for example, the magazine Sozial.Geschichte online .
  7. See collection of sources on the history of German social policy 1867 to 1914 , 40 volumes, 1966-2016 by Wolfgang Ayaß , Florian Tennstedt and others.