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1

What’s History Got to Do With It?

Counterfactual History
How does seemingly insignificant historical events contribute to larger historical processes

2

What’s History Got to Do With It?

Goals:
Starting point for analysis for term paper
The past is a good starting point - understanding processes in time that led to the development
Historical Events - Logical and based on evidence
Rarely a simple processes of A-B

3

What’s History Got to Do With It?

We will talk about history a lot
Think about it concretely
Historical sociologists
Weber thought capitalism as a step in evolution
Marx saw futilism as first step and communism as last step

4

Methodenstreit

German for “method dispute”
Disagreement and debate over what role HISTORY should play in explaining social dynamics

5

Methodenstreit

Controversy beginning in the 1880s and lasting for more than a decade
But these debates have persisted for decades right up to the present day

6

Methodenstreit

Debate on what role history should play
How much credit should we give to historic events in creating present structures

7

Counter-Factual History

Historiography that attempts to answer counter-factuals.
Counter-Factuals- “What if?” Questions
How would it change history? How would it affect present structures?

8

What if Germany had won World War II?

Turning Points
Specific events may play a role, but there are other variables that play roles

9

What if Germany had won World War II?

E.g. WWII: What is Hitler died in WWI? If you look at broader picture, WWI would have ended the same way. Germany would still be bankrupt. There would still be many extremist right wing. There would still be the great depression.

10

What if Germany had won World War II?

At the end of the day, someone else would have filled the role, albeit not in the same way. We still have to look at the broader picture, not just at one role.

11

What if the Roman Empire Never Fell?

Instead of watching American Idol we’d be watching gladiators

12

Turning Points

Critical junctures in the course of world history. If relatively MINOR events had unfolded differently during these turning points, the course of world history would have been DRAMATICALLY altered.

13

Turning Points

E.g. Cleopatra: if her nose was a little smaller, would the world be the same?

14

Pseudo-Turning Point

Collins concedes that TURNING POINTS can be influential and PATH DEPENDENT for relatively “small” events or DETAILS of larger historical trends

15

Pseudo-Turning Point

When you look at long term processes e.g. class, stratification, demography, small events are unlikely to affect it
There are small events that can have turning points

16

Bottlenecks

A key historical event which results in the RESTRICTING of possible subsequent outcomes (hence the analogy of the bottleneck), thus making a certain historical trajectory almost INEVITABLE

17

Bottlenecks

Very careful in making an assumption that an event makes present situation inevitable
It can hard to nail down that one event locked it an trajectory because there are other variants

18

Path Dependence

People’s CHOICES in the PRESENT are LIMITED/RESTRICTED by events that have occurred in the PAST.

19

Path Dependence

Because an event in the past set this sequence of events in motion, we are stuck in this bottleneck
Events that locked us in may be something that was seemed insignificant at the time

20

Path Dependence

Sometimes small minor events can lead to major developments
E.g. invention of the steam engine
Steam engine led to the industrial revolution

21

Path Dependence

Bottleneck would argue if we had no steam engine, we would have no industrial evolution and we would be living as agrarians

22

Increasing Returns Theory

A long term outcome becomes LOCKED IN as a result of an early, small, random, or accidental event. This outcome might not be efficient.

23

Increasing Returns Theory

Outcome may not be efficient
When events happen, they become habit as we repeat them

24

Increasing Returns Theory

Had that event been different, that can be repeated and change our present
A lot of the times we do things because of tradition

25

Increasing Returns Theory

E.g. QWERTY
Ergonomics would tell us we could be more efficient with a different layout
Early on when printing press developed, typewriters came with this layout, and it kept getting reproduced

26

Lessons for us?

1. Events are consequential, but not in isolation
History does matter? We shouldn't assume one event would be inconsequential.

27

Lessons for us?

2. An event is but one of a number of events, patterns, trends, and/or forces that, together, contribute to a present outcome.

28

Lessons for us?

Events are one of a number of events. You have to think of the bigger picture. You have to think about the conditions. Talk about one key event, but also talk about other events* (assignment)

29

Lessons for us?

3. Sometimes events that played a role might be surprising. Don't limit focus on something that might seem related.
Consequential events can often seem relatively small, accidental, and unrelated

30

Lessons for us?

4. Present outcomes of past events are never “inevitable”- events don’t produce history, people do
Path dependence ignores that people make choices. We aren't locked in despite of events that occur.

31

First KKK

Founded by six CONFEDERATE veterans on December 24th, 1865 during the RECONSTRUCTION of the South
Wanted to control the dramatically changed social situation and restore WHITE SUPREMACY.

32

First KKK

Used public VIOLENCE against BLACK people as a form of intimidation.
For the south, the changes were radical

33

First KKK

People there for a long time were seeing Black people get rights that they previously learned to see as property and inhuman

34

First KKK

KU KLUX KLAN ACT OF 1871- Federal law enacted that was used to enforce civil rights provisions under the constitution.

35

First KKK

1870- federal court deems the KKK to be a TERRORIST ORGANISATION.
By 1872, clan was disbanded, but during this time LYNCHINGS peaked

36

First KKK

Law was passed very quickly against KKK - quick negative reaction
Even thought the clan was disbanded, the lynchings peaked

37

First KKK

Lynchings not necessarily a result of the KKK, because they were disbanded
In 1870s - Selling of postcards depicting lynchings
When these atrocities were taking place, the KKK was essentially gone

38

Second KKK Clan

1915 – film Birth of a Nation is released.
“Clan Craze”
LYNCHING of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman

39

Second KKK Clan

New ANTI-IMMIGRANT, ANTI-JEWISH, ANTI-CATHOLIC, PROHIBITIONIST and ANTI-SEMITIC
Membership reaches 4, 000, 000 by 1920, or 1 in 5 Americans

40

Second KKK Clan

Decades later The Birth of a Nation played a role in why the KKK came back
Depicted as a film classed, despite its racist undertones

41

Second KKK Clan

Celebration of the KKK, call to come back
At the time, there were advocacy groups for african americans, but it was a box office success

42

Second KKK Clan

Film played an important role, but there are possible other factors
1920s - new laws that were anti-immigant…

43

Second KKK Clan

KKK came to embody all of these, it spoke to a large amount of sentiments which allowed it to grow
Had the film not been released, we don't know if the KKK would have still emerged
There isn't enough evidence

44

KKK and Politics in the US, 2

Membership comprised of both Democrats and Republicans; KKK candidate endorsements
1924- Clan member Edward Jackson is elected GOVERNOR of Indiana

45

KKK and Politics in the US, 2

Anaheim California CITY COUNCIL taken over by the KKK in 1924
1926- Former clan chief Bibb Graves elected GOVERNOR of ALABAMA

46

KKK and Politics in the US, 2

All positions on city council went to KKK members
During prohibition, the city council was very lax at the time so they came in to strictly enforce it
KKKK - in Canada was celebrated

47

KKK and Politics in the US, 2

Films may have been different
Something small such as a film happening as determining an event would put us on shaky ground

48

KKK and Politics in the US, 2

If you look at history such as the KKK, among factors such as hatred sentiments, lynchings, and the film
Yes the film made a role, it is still used as a recruitment tool
You need to find a careful balance between key events and factors

49

Assisted Death in Belgium

The Case of Assisted Suicide in Belgium
Process in which euthanasia is being legalized in Canada
What should the law look like? How do we regulate it?

50

Assisted Death in Belgium

Belgium legalized it in 2006
Not just applied to incurable physical illness
Certain people qualify for assisted suicide

51

Assisted Death in Belgium

E.g. Treatment resistant depression
What constitutes intolerable suffering?

52

Euthanasia

Euthanasia – The intentional termination of life by another person at the explicit request of the person wishing to die
Removed age restriction with the consent of parents
Passive vs. Active

53

Euthanasia

Passive Euthanasia- Hastening death by altering treatment and/or letting nature take its course
e.g. Doctors take them off medication or the machine with request of patient
Active Euthanasia- Causing death via direct action

54

Euthanasia

Voluntary Passive Euthanasia- Physician supplies advice, help, or means of to commit suicide to a patient wishing to end their life.

55

Belgium

Significant debate in netherlands televised in Belgium
Activist groups in 80s

56

Belgium

95 - euthanasia bill proposals
96 - committee advise governments on what bill would look like

57

Historical Context of Belgium’s 2002 Euthanasia Act

Steadily aging population since 1960
Many ppl were getting older and asking for assisted suicide
90s many doctors were practicing assisted suicide
Close geographic proximity to the Netherlands, who

58

Historical Context of Belgium’s 2002 Euthanasia Act

legalised euthanasia in 2000
Widespread popular support among the population
Dioxin food scandal
Democrats successful party

59

Historical Context of Belgium’s 2002 Euthanasia Act

99 - government became aware of contaminated products
Tests and further actions were not taken so the left wing government used this scandal to win against right wing democrats

60

Historical Context of Belgium’s 2002 Euthanasia Act

2000s - legalized same sex marriage and assisted suicide
If this crisis didn't happen, would assisted suicide have happened
But we know it did play a role