Looking twice at the history of science

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How did things get this way? Part II

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Why are even the best historians of science shy about doing history for its own sake? According to WT, part of the answer lies in a game of leap-frog that history played with sociology between about 1970 and 1995. In the first leap, sociology vaulted forward on the back of history. On the second leap, history returned the favour. This exchange did some good for historians. But it also did them harm—some of which historians could have anticipated if they had been more clear-eyed in their application of sociology to history. Expand post.

How did things get this way? Part I

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In previous posts we have seen what Will's picture has to say about what historians do, why this is wrong, and why they do it anyway. But how did things get this way in the first place? What trends in the mid-late twentieth century led historians of science to practice their discipline in the way they now do? Will's picture includes some preliminary answers to these questions. The first is what WT calls The Great Escape, and is the topic of this post. The next post deals with the second answer, which I will call the Brush with Sociology. Expand post.