Charles Tilly Historical Sociology

May 19th, 2015
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In 1844, Auguste Comte’s Lecture on the Positivist Outlook (Discours sur l’esprit positif) proposed the name “sociology” for the general science of humanity. In Comte’s vital vision, the hierarchy of sciences proceeded from mathematics at the base through astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology to sociology at the summit.

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HISTORICAL SOCIOLOGYArticle for the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral SciencesCharles TillyColumbia University29 June 19993016 words in textIn 1844, Auguste Comtes Lecture on the Positivist Outlook (Discours sur lesprit positif) proposed the name sociology for the general science of humanity. In Comtes vital vision, the hierarchy of sciences proceeded from mathematics at the base through astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology to sociology at the summit. The maturing of basic sciences, he declared, now made it possible to construct the capstone science, sociology. In that defining moment for the sociological discipline, Comtes conception of sociology included history, in fact consisted largely of analyzing the development of humanity through historical stages. From that point onward, however, professional history and professional sociology moved in very different directions. As the historical discipline organized later in the nineteenth century, professional historians came to specialize in particular times and places, for example modern Latin America or ancient China. This specialization built up clusters of expertise in the sources, languages, and institutions peculiar to different time-place settings, which in turn promoted collective research programs, debate among experts, education of newcomers, and exclusion of non-professionals from the historical guild. It also made syntheses of all human h

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