Comparative labour history

Breuilly, John
December 1990
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Winter90, Vol. 55 Issue 3, p6
Academic Journal
This article focuses on the practice of comparative labor history. Comparative history involves comparing and contrasting two or more particular events or sets of events. It is important for the comparative historian not to make one of the cases being compared the norm by which other cases are understood. Questions such as why did no major socialist party develop in the U.S. or why did an independent labor party take so long to develop in Great Britain are often implicitly comparative in this way. They tend to assume the norm of a major socialist party or the earlier development of a labor party. The first thing to avoid in comparative history is the use of the ideas of norms and its corollary, exceptions. To base comparisons of 'socialism' on differently defined and studied versions of socialism is not to compare comparable subjects. Comparison requires the employment of similar definitions and procedures for each of the cases considered. Indeed, one advantage of comparative history is that it compels the historian to be explicit about these definitions and procedures.


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