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Additional info for Comparison and History: Europe in Cross-National Perspective
2 COMPARATIVE HISTORY: METHODS, AIMS, PROBLEMS Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Jürgen Kocka The relative significance of comparative history depends very much upon an individual nation’s historiographic traditions. Comparative history is more common in Germany than in France or Italy, where historians have instead tended to devote far greater attention to regional studies and to interactions across borders. Across all nations, however, particular subjects seem to have lent themselves more readily to comparative inquiry.
One cannot compare phenomena in their multilayered totality. Rather, we select aspects. Comparison requires selection, abstraction, detaching of the case from its context. Comparisons that involve many cases make the need for abstraction obvious. Comparing, say, industrialization in twenty countries or slavery in sixty requires that the object of comparison be abstracted and removed from its synchronic and diachronic contexts. Historians, however, are reluctant to work in this way. But although the problem may be less pronounced when we choose to compare only two or three cases, it does not entirely disappear.
Jürgen Kocka, White Collar Workers in America 1890–1940 (London, 1980). 35. Peter Baldwin, The Politics of Social Solidarity: Class Bases of the European Welfare State (Cambridge, 1990). 36. Peter Baldwin, Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830–1930 (Cambridge, 1999). Comparing and Generalizing • 21 37. Stephen Morillo, “Guns and Government: A Comparative Study of Europe and Japan,” Journal of World History, 6: 1 (1995), 75–106. 38. , Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, p. xiii. 39. Quincy Wright, A Study of War, 2nd ed.