athousandwinds: (Aberystwyth)
[personal profile] athousandwinds
I think the reason why I find economic history so mind-numbingly awful is that you can't prove a damn thing. In political history, this happens and that happens: there are incontrovertible facts to deal with which generally fit into a narrative. With economic history, you have to rely on official statistics (which don't agree from one historian to another) and you have to make horrible generalisations about people in Languedoc based on what people in Brittany were doing and basically. No proof.

Also, it helps if you know things about economics, which I don't. I barely grasped mercantilism, which is outdated even by the period I'm studying (19th century) and. I hate it.

How do you prove that a nation is on the brink of a Malthusian crisis, anyway? Or do you just wait until it has one, and then say, "Ah, I knew it all along"?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darkelf105.livejournal.com
I, too, do not like economic history. Although some of it is okay because it deals largely with stuff that was left behind.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] athousandwinds.livejournal.com
There's some interesting bits - like, why did the French peasantry stick to only growing what they needed to survive for so damn long? Because even if they did grow a surplus, they couldn't sell it because the roads were so shit and they couldn't cart it along to the nearest town. That's interesting, because it's human and it's real, in a way that saying, "the French rural peasantry continued with subsistence farming due to market fragmentation" isn't. Both are true, both essentially mean the same thing, but one is more understandable than the other.

But I think I'm particularly frustrated with it this evening because I spent 150 words talking about the political origins of the French Revolution - evil aristos! A weak king! Liberté, egalité, fraternité! - and then 350 about the economic origins which are so boring in comparison. I mean, the Tennis Court Oath is the most cinematic thing never filmed by Hollywood, it's pure inspirational beauty and I get goosebumps just thinking about it, and market fragmentation and percentage values of exports are merely letters and numbers on a page.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darkelf105.livejournal.com
Exactly. Well said. Man this cold is making me even this intelligible than normal, but basically that was what I was saying, just not with those particular examples, lol.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] athousandwinds.livejournal.com
Heh. I'm very stressed about this essay, that's all, I keep trying to explain stuff over and over again.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-shoveller.livejournal.com
I'm sure economic historians say the same thing about political historians.

The postmodernist in me says that "historical narrative" is a lie anyway.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 11:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] athousandwinds.livejournal.com
Yes, it is, but narrative is one of the main ways in which we process the past - we can say, "well, the real way to look at it is that just a bunch of stuff happened" and that's true, but it's almost impossible (for me, personally) to process that emotionally. So it becomes a story, because that's how humans make sense of things.

I suppose it's all about believing there's a point to existence. Which there isn't, but no one really, truly believes that, the same way that no one really, truly believes that they're not important (I'm thinking of the Total Perspective machine from H2G2).

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