The Revival of Quantification

In November, our fearless leader, Steve Ruggles, gave his presidential address at the annual Social Science History Association (SSHA) conference in Chicago. It was titled “The Revival of Quantification.” Ruggles describes long-run trends in quantification in history. He also focused on the relationship of historical quantification to political activism, relativism (no absolute truth), and objectivism (one Truth and that Truth is reached through empirical observation). 

Percent of Articles with Statistical Tables or Graphs

Ruggles identifies three eras of quantification in history: The Older New History of the progressive era (1905-1945), Newer New History (1965-1999), and the Revival of Quantitative History (2005-present). Within Newer New History, views split on their view of quantification, involvement with political activism, and whether they are relativist or objectivist by New Economic History, New Political History, and New Social History.

Characteristics of the New Histories

Don’t worry though — this wasn’t just focused on History. Ruggles kept with the interdisciplinary focus of the SSHA and documents a rapid increase in the use of quantitative historical data in Sociology, Political Science, Economics and Demography since the 1970s. You can see the full talk here.

Story by Emily Johnson
IPUMS Data Analyst

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