Book Review: The Study Of History And Sociology

The Study Of History And Sociology, by Frank W. Blackmar

In reading this long-forgotten book, collected from a series of lectures from an early 20th century professor of history at the University of Kansas, of all places, it is pretty easy to see why this book has been forgotten.  It is not a bad book, far from it in fact, but it is the sort of book that does not age well.  This is a modestly accomplished work from someone who is very well read that seeks to define the study of history and sociology to students, and it reflects the concerns of the age and happens to miss a lot of trends that would end up being very important not long afterward.  Even so, this book does address at least a few elements of history and related subjects that remains important and contentious today [1].  Any book that has relevance far outside of its time is worth remembering, even if this book is not one that has worn well over the last century or so.  History is a subject that has encouraged people to try to define it and draw boundaries, and it is worthwhile to read efforts like this.

This short book of 70 pages contains a great deal of worthwhile material.  After some references and an introduction the author begins with a look at the nature of history, including issues of narrative, philosophy, and history as a science.  After this the author looks at the scope of history, including issues of politics, institutions, economics, religion, anthropology, geography, and even languages.  The author then turns to the connection between history and related subjects like law, philology, art, and architecture.  At this point the author looks at the complex nature of sociology, including everything from social work on the practical side to sociology as a philosophical and scientific and descriptive study.  After this the author discusses the methods of studying history, from more traditional narrative history to more contemporary specialization and topical and scientific methods that are less fluent.  The author then closes this collection of lectures with a discussion of the benefits of scientific study and some notes on how history should be taught to people before their entrance into college in such a way that encourages interest rather than boring through a rote discussion of isolated and not particularly exciting facts, as history teachers are commonly and proverbially accused of doing.

There are a few aspects where this book would be a bit embarrassing to discuss at present, including the author’s frequent discussion of the Aryan race and the importance of philology in history along the lines of determining the location of the Indo-European area of origin.  While the area of race, something frequently discussed by the author, and once mentioned as a discussion of the “Negro problem” in sociology, is one area of discussion that would likely not fare well in contemporary studies, there are other areas of massive interest that are ignored like the problem of political bias (including Communism and political correctness) that affect contemporary historical research as well as the issue of comparative historical studies when one is dealing with issues like the rise of radical Islam and a growing hostility among secularist elites for the importance of Judaism and Christianity throughout history.  This is a book written by someone who has read well but makes no particular claims for being a prophet nor shows any great skill in anticipating future trends even if the contentious nature of history was something that was occurring in his own day and remains important in our own day.  This is a book worth reading for getting an understanding of a past approach to history that remains of worth today.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/07/11/the-historian-and-the-lawyer-should-be-friends/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/05/27/book-review-sometimes-an-art/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/07/18/not-just-telling-stories/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/08/03/the-challenges-of-history-from-below/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/08/06/on-the-importance-of-chronology-in-understanding-history/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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