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Quantification in History


Coclanis, Peter A. & Jarausch, Konrad H. (2015). Quantification in History.. Wright, James D. (Ed.) (pp. 695-699). Oxford, England: Elsevier Press.


The concept of quantification is defined and the evolution of quantification as a methodological tool in history is traced. Originating in the early modern period and gaining greater prominence in the nineteenth century, quantification in history came of age in the 1960s. For a time, in the 1970s and early 1980s, quantitative approaches seemed poised to revolutionize history as a field. Beginning in the mid-1980s, however, other approaches and methods, often drawn from anthropology and literature and inspired by postmodernism, began to surpass quantification in popularity, and since the late 1980s, quantitative work in history has been increasingly marginalized. But over the past decade, postmodernist approaches have lost momentum in history, and there have been some small victories by quantifiers, particularly in the field of economic history. Yet despite the fact that the approach remains indispensable for answering certain kinds of historical questions and despite the effective employment of quantitative approaches by many historically inclined scholars in other social sciences, the future of quantification in the discipline of history itself remains uncertain.


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Coclanis, Peter A.
Jarausch, Konrad H.