Essays on the history of british sociological research

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Open global navigation Cambridge University Press Academic. Include historic titles Search products. Register Sign in. Register Sign in Wishlist. Unlocking potential with the best learning and research solutions. Home Academic Sociology Sociology: general interest. Add to cart Add to wishlist Other available formats: Hardback Looking for an inspection copy? This title is not currently available on inspection. First book on the general history of US sociological research methods Questions many conventional interpretations Contains systematic archival, documentary, and interview data on topics discussed without research.

History of the Human Sciences 'The bibliography of this book will in itself provide an excellent resource for sociological historians, methodologists and practitioners alike … in the ultimate analysis, the key finding of this important book lies in the evidence it provides of the continuing need for intellectual justification of changing practices, and of the significance of critical analysis for methodological advance in a discipline, which … is shown to be cumulative in the best sense of the word. Log in to review.

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Eugenicists had adhered briefly to the Sociological Society after The eugenics movement, though not university based, had powerful support through the work of the statisticians Galton, Pearson and Fisher, particularly at University College, London. The National Eugenic Laboratory there, with its journal Biometrika, became the centre for the statistical study of genetic biology.

This was important for social investigation because of its impact upon demography. The Department of Social Biology at L. Hogben's work is discussed below.


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The studies of social mobility and social selection of the 's, as well as thefloweringof demographic research after , may be traced back to this tradition. Quite distinct is the fifth strand, academic social anthropology. This is not the place for a thumbnail sketch of British anthropology cf.

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Kuper , but several points are significant for the story of British sociology. Anthropology in general has a longer academic pedigree than most social sciences in Britain, in part because of its association with physical anthropology and human biology. Even social anthropology, going back to Tylor and Frazer, had a longer history than sociology and, more important, a stronger foothold in the university.

In contrast to sociology, anthropology gradually became established in the ancient universities, and did not have to battle so hard for recognition. This in turn led to the recruitment of anthropologists from higher status and less marginal backgrounds to those of the sociologists described by Halsey in chapter 9. More integrated into the national elite and closer to its central value system, anthropologists and Development of sociology and empirical social research 13 their subject were more accepted than sociology.

These social and institutional characteristics were allied to two intellectual tendencies. One was the thoroughgoing commitment to first-hand observation in simple societies.


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  • From , when Haddon in Cambridge organised the expedition to the Torres Straits whose members included Rivers, Seligman and Myers, serious empirical investigation began to be a necessary rite de passage for becoming a social anthropologist. RadcliffeBrown studied the Andaman Islanders in Fieldwork proper, rather than reliance on informants and colonial administrators, began with Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands in This commitment to research in thefieldhas never been matched by a comparable requirement among British sociologists. The second tendency, which only became apparent between the wars, was the alliance offirst-handinquiry with a commitment to rigorous general theory.

    Classical functionalism is no longer fashionable, but what characterises the work of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown and their students was a determination to set theirfindingsin a more general framework, and one with considerable sociological content. There were sharp differences between Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, but they agreed on the importance of general theory. Radcliffe-Brown, of course, was considerably influenced by Durkheim, treating French sociology more seriously than his few British sociological colleagues were wont to do.

    It is noteworthy that when John Rex published Key Problems in Sociological Theory in , an influential text on general theory, Hobhouse and Ginsberg do not appear but Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown are discussed at length. Social anthropology thus to some extent took the place of sociology, but transposing it to the colonial sphere. Paradoxically, social scientists flowed overseas while neglecting their home territory. When Mark Benney went to the north-east of England in to work in the mining industry, he found 'a tribe of Englishmen so distinctive in their way of life that, had they been situated on a remote island in the South Seas, they would have been the subject of a dozen ethnographic monographs' Benney No British social scientist had hitherto studied them.

    Frazer in had defined social anthropology as a brand of sociology that dealt with primitive peoples, and at L. Westermarck held a chair in sociology though his main work was anthropological Malinowski was one of his students. The tendency of anthropology to colonise sociology persisted well into the latter part of the century, even to the extent of appointing a social anthropologist, John Barnes, as the first Professor of Sociology in Cambridge in The earlier academic establishment and institutionalisation of anthropology, together with the commitment to empirical research, was also decisive in obtaining 14 Martin Bulmer grant aid at a much earlier date than sociology.

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    The creation of the International African Institute with Rockefeller funding in led to the provision of graduate studentships abroad for the academic leaders of the next generation. This was followed by the creation of research centres, notably at Makerere in Uganda and on the Northern Rhodesia Copperbelt, which after the war were supported by the Colonial Social Science Research Council. If a true parallel is sought in Britain to the Chicago School, it is arguably the group of anthropologists which Max Gluckman formed at the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute on the Copperbelt, later transposed to Manchester Brown By comparison to the steady maturation of anthropology up to , the history of academic sociology the sixth strand is that of a sickly infant.

    The strength of idealism which was such a marked trait at an earlier period cf. Collini persisted. The narrow base which L. Hobhouse was a more suitable choice than Patrick Geddes would have been, but he was not a scholar of the stature of Herbert Spencer, Durkheim, Weber or Robert Park. Hobhouse's background, as Collini has shown, lay in philosophical idealism and radical journalism.

    His contribution to sociology lay in an evolutionism which saw moral institutions as of central concern; a weak historical functionalism; and a belief that social development was shaped by the growing rationality and self-consciousness of mankind MacRae He also collaborated with Wheeler and Ginsberg in a major comparative, quantitative institutional study that was a rare example of its kind Hobhouse, Wheeler and Ginsberg The student of early university 'sociology' must wrestle with the question of what, at this period, the term meant.

    Collini , implies that it was not what academic sociologists nowadays mean by it, and was none the worse for that. There is a real question, however, about the extent to which Hobhouse's concerns were truly sociological. Donald MacRae, for example, has suggested that 'his vision of rational moral harmony in society while very amiable is very unconvincing and not sociology nor scholarship' A review of Hobhouse's major sociological work, Social Development , by the dean of Chicago sociology, Albion Small, in , struck him very much as a book on railroading, by the foremost engineer of England, would affect American railroad men, if it turned out to be chiefly an abstract treatise on the relations of transportation to human welfare in general, with such allusions as it contained to railroads in the concrete in terms of Charing Cross and Euston stations as we knew them forty years ago.

    It does not yet appear that the center of Professor Hobhouse's Development of sociology and empirical social research 15 interest is in sociology rather than in general philosophy Small , Hobhouse's lack of influence has also been attributed to the marginal position of L. What is clear is that today Hobhouse is almost entirely forgotten as a sociologist, and to some extent this reflects his lack of impact at the time cf.

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    Hawthorn Talcott Parsons, who studied for a year at the L. Parsons was introduced to Weber by the historian R. Tawney and to Durkheim by Malinowski MacRae Hobhouse's sole protege of distinction was Morris Ginsberg, who succeeded him to the chair of sociology in 19 30, and carried on the philosophical and anti-empiricist tradition of the department Hawthorn Ginsberg's view of sociology was in tune with that of Hobhouse, if more vigorous and more aware of contemporary European developments Fletcher His leadership was no more dynamic than that of Hobhouse, for though an effective teacher, he was of a very shy and retiring disposition.

    Ginsberg was for a quarter of a century, from to , thedoyen of British sociologists and a respected figure cf. Fletcher His residual influence appears to have been relatively slight, certainly compared to someone like Malinowski, though this would be disputed MacRae Academic sociology before - to all intents and purposes L. The lack of impact of Hobhouse and of Ginsberg upon empirical social inquiry between the wars no doubt partially accounted for its relative impoverishment, but it reflected also an impoverishment in the conception of sociology held by the holders of the L.

    One way of approaching the recent history of empirical social research in Britain is to pose the question: why, given the strong nineteenth-century tradition, did it take until the second half of the century for empirical inquiry to be securely established? What obstacles were there to institutionalisation?

    A History of Sociology in Britain: Science, Literature, and Society

    Why until did academic sociology play such a comparatively minor part? These were questions close to Philip Abrams's interests, and some hints at answers are given by him in chapter Three particular aspects deserve closer attention, although they do not provide an exhaustive answer to the problem. The story of empirical inquiry at L.

    The social survey tradition, as Raymond Kent shows in chapter 3, continued to flourish. Social anthropology made notable advances. The scientific study of population became fairly firmly established. Sociology, however, retained a rather uncertain position, pulled between philosophy, anthropology, fact-gathering and amateur efforts like Mass-Observation.

    At the end of the First World War the London School of Economics and Political Science, though it had a number of distinguished staff, was a small and relatively obscure part of London University. Under the Directorship of William Beveridge from to , it grew in strength and reputation. During the period the number of graduate students increased ninefold, many new buildings were erected, the library was expanded and rehoused, new chairs were created in several subjects and modest research funds were available to support the research of staff.