Commentary Magazine

The "New History"

A sociologist friend recently complained to me of the amorphous state of his discipline. Sociology, he said, is totally undefined, both as to subject matter and methodology; no one knows what it is supposed to comprise or how it is supposed to do what it purports to do. He envied history its good for-tune in having fixed boundaries and focal points—periods, countries, regimes, dramatic events, and great leaders. And he admired its clear and firm notions of scholarly procedure: how one inquires into a historical problem, how one presents and documents one's findings, what constitutes admissible evidence and adequate proof. I gently disabused him. Whatever advantages history may once have enjoyed, it is rapidly disburdening itself of them all. In fact, it seems bent upon transforming itself into something like sociology.

Anyone who has followed recent historical literature, watched the proliferation of new journals and the transformation of the old ones, served on panels for the distribution of research grants, or looked at the latest program for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, can testify to the revolution that is taking place in historical studies. Where once the great masters of history were Gibbon, Macaulay. and Ranke, they now seem to be Durkheim, Weber, and Lévi-Strauss. The currently fashionable subjects come directly from the sociology catalogue: class, mobility, family, childhood, work, leisure, literacy, poverty, crime, violence, mobs, ethnicity, deviancy, sexuality. . . . And the new subjects are accompanied by new methods. Where history was once primarily (often entirely) narrative, now it is primarily (often entirely) analytic. The old questions, What happened? and How did it happen?, have given way to the question, why did it happen? And prominent among the methods used to answer the question of “Why” are psychoanalysis and quantitative measurement.

One may speculate whether these new subjects spawned the new methods or whether the new methods spawned the subjects appropriate to them. In any event, there is no question of the growing importance of both psychoanalytic history (psycho-history) and quantitative history (quanto-history, or, in its more elegant guise, cliometrics). Not so long ago every graduate student in history was required to take a course on Historical Method—the proper mode of inquiry, verification, and presentation. I know of no major university which now offers, let alone requires. such a course. What every self-respecting university does offer, however, is a course on New Methods in History. I have nothing against such a course; indeed I have given it myself (having also argued, in vain, for a course on Historical Method in the old sense). But all too often the course on New Methods is given in a missionary spirit that is uncritical and undiscriminating, as if the novelty of any new method is its own justification, as if it has to be tolerated on its own terms and judged by its own rules, and as if the occasional flaws of the old method—narrowness, triviality, lack of originality, and, above all, mindlessness—are no longer faults when they appear under the aegis of the new.


One of the few serious examinations of the assumptions and implications of the new methods can be found in Jacques Barzun's Clio and the Doctors: Psycho-History, Quanto-History, and History1 Never one to shirk a good fight, Barzun has taken on two formidable adversaries. An attack on either one alone would have been sufficiently provocative in the present cultural climate: it might even have earned him the good will of the other. But Barzun is not interested in minor skirmishes or easy victories. He is intent not only upon destroying both flanks of the “new history” but in implicating each in the defeat of the other, in showing the common fallacy that makes them inimical to history as he understands it. His book contains few examples of the kinds of absurdities that psycho- and quanto-history abound in and that would have been easy game for his devastating wit. He is interested not in scoring points but in elucidating principles. And because he is concerned with principles, he spurns the strategy of compromise. He does not take refuge in the kind of latitudinarianism that is so common in the profession today. He does not say that he will admit the new historians into the ranks if only they behave temperately, if only they give up their excessive claims to truth. He does not say that every historian can “do his thing” so long as he extends the same tolerance to others. He knows that this kind of tolerance trivializes their “thing” as it does his own. He does his opponents the honor of taking them seriously. If he has principles, so, he assumes, do they. And it is their principles that he finds incompatible with the traditional principles of the historian.

Psycho-history, Barzun insists, is not merely the use of psychological explanations in historical contexts. There would be nothing new in that. Historians have always used such explanations when they were appropriate to a particular problem and when there was sufficient evidence for them. But this kind of eclectic, pragmatic use of psychology is not at all what the psycho-historian intends. He is committed to a particular theory of psychology—psychoanalysis—and a particular school of psychoanalysis at that—Freudianism or neo-Freudianism. And this commitment precludes a commitment to history as historians have always understood it. Psycho-history derives its “facts” not from history but from psychoanalysis, and deduces its theories not from this or that instance but from a view of human nature that transcends history. It denies the basic criterion of historical evidence: that the evidence be publicly accessible to, and therefore assessable by, all historians. And it violates the basic tenet of historical method: that the historian be alert to the negative instances that would refute his thesis and to alternative explanations that would make his own more tenuous. The psycho-historian, convinced of the absolute lightness of his own theory, is also convinced that his is the “deepest” explanation of any event, that any other explanation falls short of the truth.

Above all, what Barzun objects to is that psycho-history, not content to violate history (in the sense of the proper mode of studying and writing about the past), also violates the past itself. It denies to the past an integrity and will of its own, in which people acted out of a variety of motives and in which events had a multiplicity of causes and effects. It imposes upon the past the same determinism that it imposes upon the present, thus robbing people and events of their individuality and of their complexity. Instead of respecting the particularity of the past, it assimilates all events, past and present, into a single deterministic schema which is presumed to be true at all times and in all circumstances.

It is this lack of respect for the individuality and complexity of history that Barzun takes to be the common denominator—and the common fallacy—of psycho-history and quanto-history. Where the psycho-historian looks for the psychic mechanism that will explain all, the quanto-historian looks for the behavioral pattern—expressed in figures, charts, tables, and graphs—that will reduce the multiplicity of instances into manipulable units. Again the fallacy is that of a simplistic, mechanistic determinism. If people and events can be described and explained quantitatively, it can only be because they are conceived as homogeneous, hence quantifiable, units. The population of a country, the number of books produced, the tons of corn exported—these, Barzun says, can be counted because the units, for these purposes, are identifiable and identical. But violence, revolution, slavery—the subjects to which quantifiers have tried to apply their techniques—are not homogeneous. They can be added up, measured, charted, only by violating the particularity of each episode (each outbreak of violence, for example), by ignoring the dissimilarities and attending only to the superficial similarities, by arbitrarily focusing upon some one characteristic that is specifiable and measurable—and for which, moreover, we happen to have quantitative evidence. The medium, Barzun suggests, has become the message. A mechanistic approach to history implies a mechanistic view of man.

Against both factions of the new history, Barzun unhesitatingly aligns himself with traditional, conventional history. It is a measure of the distance we have come that such words as traditional and conventional should now be used almost invariably in a pejorative sense, so that it seems a mark of boldness on Barzun's part to apply them to himself. Traditional history, however, as he conceives it, is by no means the narrowly political history that its detractors make of it. For Barzun it draws upon a variety of techniques, disciplines, and sources; it counts, psychologizes, analyzes, compares, reflects, and judges. But above all it narrates. Without that narrative, he insists, we may have a worthy biography or economic treatise or psychological study, but we do not have history2


One cannot repeat often enough that psycho-history is not the occasional use of psychology to illuminate a particular historical situation. It is not, for example, an exercise in psycho-history to say that Hitler had a personal obsession with Jews and that this was an important fact in the history of Nazism. Few historians would dispute this proposition, for which there is ample evidence. It takes the psycho-historian, however, to go on to explain the precise psychic mechanism that caused that obsession and to make this psychic mechanism responsible for the precise nature of the historical events resulting from the obsession.

Thus, a recent article on Hitler traces not only the Holocaust but the specific use of gas chambers to the treatment administered to Hitler's mother by a Jewish doctor.3 A Dr. Bloch had operated on her for breast cancer, removing the breast, and then, when the cancer recurred, had vainly tried to arrest its progress by the use of an iodine compound called iodoform. Hitler, who had “loved Bloch like a kind father,” unconsciously blamed him for his mother's death, as well as for the “huge terminal bill paid on Christmas eve”—hence his later rage against “the Jewish cancer, the Jewish poison, the Jewish profiteer.” When Hitler himself was hospitalized for gas poisoning in 1918, the gas burned through his skin “just like iodoform,” and he naturally “associated” his own condition with his mother's. Shortly afterward, in a hysterical relapse, he experienced the hallucination in which he was called upon to undo Germany's defeat, the Germany he was going to avenge being “transparently his mother.” The gas chambers of World War II, similarly “associated” with the iodoform episode and his own gas poisoning, completed Hitler's “psychological continuum”: “the futile surgery performed on his mother's cancer (the expulsion program), yielding to the representation of her death as a mercy killing (the Euthanasia program), and this in turn to his retaliation against Bloch (the Final Solution).”

The precise correspondence that is being asserted between the psychic and the historical phenomenon may be seen more clearly in that part of Binion's article which purports to explain not only the Final Solution but the concept of Lebensraum. In appealing for living space for Germany, Hitler is said to have been re-experiencing his mother's trauma, a trauma induced by the death of three infants before Hitler was born and communicated to the infant Hitler literally at his mother's breast:

That is, even as he spoke to Germany's emergent need to relive a traumatic experience, his message was shaped by his oral-aggressive fixation and by the traumatic experience that his mother was reliving as she fixated him. His major premise was strictly oral-aggressive: that all history was a fight for feeding ground. His minor premise, that Germany could not feed her children adequately, expressed his mother's maternal trauma as it had come through to him in her compensatory overfeeding of him. And his conclusion, the eastern land-grab, pointed beyond itself toward world conquest, which points back to that satiety at the breast when self and world were one.


That this article is typical of the genre may be demonstrated by any issue of the journal in which it appeared. The genre should, however, be judged not by the typical but by the best example. And the classic of the form is generally agreed to be Erik Erikson's Young Man Luther (1958). Erikson traces Luther's rebellion against the Pope (equated with a rebellion against God) to his initial rebellion against his father and the “identity crisis” of his youth. The best known part of Erikson's analysis is the role assigned to toilet training and “anal defiance” in this momentous rebellion:

We must conclude that Luther's use of repudiative and anal patterns was an attempt to find a safety-valve when unrelenting inner pressure threatened to make devotion unbearable and sublimity hateful—that is, when he was again about to repudiate God in supreme rebellion, and himself in malignant melancholy. The regressive aspects of this pressure, and the resulting obsessive and paranoid focus on single figures such as the Pope and the Devil, leave little doubt that a transference had taken place from a parent figure to universal personages, and that a central theme in this transference was anal defiance.

The boldness of Erikson's thesis is matched by a methodological audacity that leaves the conventional historian breathless. Only certain minimal conditions have to be met for non-facts to acquire the same status as facts. “We are thus obliged,” Erikson says, “to accept half-legend as half-history, provided only that a reported episode does not contradict other well-established facts; persists in having a ring of truth; and yields a meaning consistent with psychological theory.” Moreover, the stock of facts and non-facts can come from any time or place in history, from any observer or experience, so that a theory about Jesus or an event in the life of Freud are as much the data of Luther's life as those facts (or legends or hypotheses) deriving from Luther's own childhood or career. A typical chapter of Erikson's book contains half-a-dozen pages on Hitler (this account itself based on various and conflicting sources), references to city gangs and Zen Buddhism, quotations from such diverse authorities as Crane Brinton, Nietzsche, William James, and Thomas Wolfe, and lengthy disquisitions on psychoanalytic theory and practice. And all of this is assumed to have an immediate bearing on the case of Luther. The facts are few, Erikson concedes. “But a clinician's training permits, and in fact forces, him to recognize major trends even where the facts are not all available.” The analyst, he assures us, has learned to make “meaningful predictions as to what will prove to have happened,” and to “sift even questionable sources” in order to produce those predictions. “The validity of this approach,” he writes, “lies in everyday psychoanalytic work.” The most critical historian could not have made the point better: whatever validity psycho-history may claim comes from psychoanalysis, not from history.4

It has been said that Erikson's books (on Gandhi as well as Luther) are contributions to psycho-biography rather than psycho-history, that psycho-history, properly speaking, concerns itself with collective entities—groups, classes, societies—rather than individuals. But Erkison himself has subtitled his book on Luther, A Study in Psychoanalysis and History. He draws freely (very freely) upon historical materials. And he purports to explain a historical event of the greatest magnitude—a reformation not only of the religious and political structure of Europe but of the “ethical and psychological awareness” of all mankind. It is surely a semantic quibble to deny to this work, and to the host of others for which it has served as inspiration and model, the character of psycho-history.

It has also been suggested that the term psycho-history should be reserved for subjects which have an obviously large psychological component—the history of childhood or the family, for example. But this is to confuse subject with method. As a subject, the history of childhood can be dealt with in the historian's usual eclectic, pragmatic manner. The historian might cite changes in technology and industry bringing about new patterns of work and family life, philosophical theories positing a novel view of human nature and therefore of socialization and education, the rise of the middle class, the development of political democracy—as well, of course, as changes in breast feeding, toilet training, or any other psychological data for which there is historical evidence. And he would be wary of attributing to the latter any necessary primacy or determinacy. The psycho-historian, by contrast, approaches the subject with a prior psychoanalytic commitment. He knows in advance what to look for. His “facts” are psychoanalytic constants. All he need do is to scour history—or “half-history,” as Erikson put it so well—for manifestations of those facts. Thus, the History of Childhood Quarterly (in which the article on Hitler cited above appeared) is properly subtitled The Journal of Psycho-history, for there childhood functions not as a historical problem in its own right but as the occasion for an extended commentary on psychoanalytic theory.


Most conventional historians, priding themselves on being enlightened, progressive, broadminded, are disposed to be sympathetic to psycho-history. Even if they do not themselves feel competent to engage in it, they would like to be appreciative of the efforts of others. They would like to see psychoanalysis inform history as it has informed their own understanding of human nature and behavior—as it has, for many, intimately affected their own lives. But even these historians, who come to it with the best of will and the highest hopes, harbor grave doubts. They may question whether a method devised for a patient on the couch—and which requires, even in that situation, great subtlety and skill to elicit truths—can be applied to someone not personally available for analysis. The difficulty is obviously compounded when it is not a single person but an entire group or even society that is being analyzed. And it is compounded still more as the psycho-historian attempts to go further back in time, as he reaches a period when his knowledge of the simplest objective facts becomes sparse, let alone of the feelings, emotions, sentiments, and beliefs which are at the same time most obscure and most essential to his case. At some point the conventional historian is moved to wonder whether it is more presumptuous to profess to understand the most intimate secrets of the dead, or to profess to understand—and reveal—the most intimate secrets of the living.

Short of these ultimate questions, the ordinary historian is apt to become querulous when confronted with the typical products of psycho-history. Why, he asks, cannot psycho-history observe the rules of the historical craft? If the psycho-historian wants to analyze a politician (Nixon, in a recent instance5) on the basis of his writings and speeches, why does he not perform the preliminary chores the rest of us do: determine the authorship of the relevant passages and cite them accordingly (was it the politician or his ghost-writer who wrote them?), take account of the occasion for which they were intended (was the politician saying what he thought his audience wanted to hear?), establish the reliability of the secondary sources in which they appear, find out whether other politicians do not on similar occasions express similar sentiments, and so on? It seems little enough to ask of a scholar who is advancing a theory of some consequence.

That psycho-historians—and not only the worst but also the best of them—repeatedly fail to observe these elementary rules of evidence should give the sympathetic reader pause. If an intelligent scholar flouts these conventions, it can only be because he is operating on a level that makes such mundane procedures irrelevant. The sociologist will recognize the phenomenon of the ideologue whose ideology is so total and compelling that it imposes itself on the most recalcitrant data. The theologian might see a resemblance to the gnostic in possession of truths not accessible to the ordinary man and not amenable to the ordinary canons of evidence. The conventional historian will simply conclude that the psycho-historian, however brilliant as a psychoanalyst, cannot be held responsible as a historian because he has transcended the realm of history.


Quanto-history is the other “new method” that is enjoying a great vogue. And it is often praised, although not necessarily practiced, by the same people who are most enamored of psycho-history. The method may be illustrated by a recent article in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History.6 The subject of the article is the “salient question,” as the author rightly describes it, of the literacy of the English people in the period of their greatest political upheaval, the Cromwellian revolution. By the end of the first paragraph, that salient question is reduced to “the capacity to sign names”—for the simple reason that this is “nearly all we now know or indeed are ever likely to know in the future.” A source of evidence is then selected which required signatures, the hearth-tax returns. After several pages of statistical analysis, the author arrives at one deduction which is as unexceptionable as it is predictable: that “ability to sign was positively correlated with wealth”; and with another which is seriously questionable: that “many ordinary workers and artisans must have had an ability to read fluently and write.” It is not clear how the evidence of signatures can warrant any assertions about reading fluency. Nor is it clear how the author arrives at his final comment about the “submerged one-third” who probably could not read or write: “Perhaps it is no wonder that this latter group took so little interest in the fortunes of the Civil War.” Even the most “impressionistic” historian (so the quanto-historian is apt to characterize his more conventional colleagues) might be moved to wonder whether the French and Russian peasants, who took a more lively interest in their respective civil wars, had a higher literacy rate.

Again, however, one should consider not only the typical example of this method but one of the best examples. For all the controversy it has provoked, Time on the Cross, by Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, is a serious and ambitious attempt to apply the quantitative method to one of the most important problems in American history, the problem of slavery.7 The subtitle, The Economics of American Negro Slavery, suggests a more limited subject than is evident in the work itself, which is concerned as much with the social and psychological as with the economic character of slavery. And by relegating most of the supporting data to a separate volume, the authors avoid the conspicuous, visual evidence of their method. Yet that method is the basis for generalizations of the largest import about the quality of life as well as the material conditions that prevailed in the South. From data on the number of slaves bought and sold in the slave market, the number of families broken up by such sales, the average age of black women at the birth of their first child, and the like, the authors arrive at conclusions about such matters as the prevailing sexual mores of both blacks and whites, the stability of the black family, the dominance of the male within the black family, and the social ties between the races—to say nothing of the economic issues of the profitability of slavery and its viability as an economic system.

Time on the Cross has been criticized by some historians for being insufficiently rigorous in its use of quantitative data, by others for ignoring the literary evidence that might have made for a less agreeable picture of slavery. But most of the critics, one suspects, were provoked less by methodological scruples than by the authors' conclusions: that slavery was an economically viable system, that the material and moral conditions of the slaves were far better than has been thought, and that many of the more shocking abuses attributed to slavery (the “stud farms,” for example, in which slaves were supposedly bred for the market) were myths. Yet the real problem posed by the book lies in its method. And not in the particular lapses that critics have fastened upon—imprecise and insufficient data, lack of analytic rigor—but in the assumption that quantitative data, however adequate and however skillfully used, can ever supply the answers to the larger questions raised. Had the authors confined themselves to the subject described in their subtitle, the economics of slavery, that assumption might have been justified. But the vital, and vulnerable, point of the book is contained in the title. Time on the cross has a religious, at the very least a moral, dimension that defies measurement, however subtle or sophisticated the tools of measurement. It is not a question, as some critics have suggested, of the authors' failure to pass judgment on slavery, their deficiency in moral fervor; Fogel and Engerman are as implacably opposed to slavery, as morally outraged by it, as any of their critics. What is at issue, and what is conveyed by the title, is the impact of slavery upon the slaves themselves and upon the entire society. Here no amount of statistical ingenuity will suffice. Here the historian must call upon every resource available to him, whether or not it can be fed into a computer.

Confronted with the quantifiers of his own day, Thomas Carlyle once pointed out that it was not enough to inquire into the “condition” of the working classes; it was even more necessary to inquire into their “disposition”—their thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, their sense of what was right and what was wrong. “It is not what a man outwardly has or wants that constitutes the happiness or misery of him. Nakedness, hunger, distress of all kinds, death itself would have been cheerfully suffered, when the heart was right. It is the feeling of injustice that is insupportable to all men.” If Carlyle is correct, the historian is obliged to read books about ideas as well as books of accounts, to take as his data the perceptions and conceptions of contemporaries as well as statistics about production and consumption. How people think and feel is as much part of the reality as any measurable, quantifiable facts.


To barzun quanto-history is as insidious as psycho-history—and for much the same reason. He finds it to be deterministic and mechanistic, seeing only one dimension of reality and reducing all reality to that level. One may agree with him that this is a very real tendency in quanto-history, and yet question whether it is an irresistible tendency, whether it is as inherent in the method as it is, Barzun would also say, in psycho-history. The latter posits a theory of human nature which determines the fundamental structure of events and which makes of history a matter of “epiphenomena,” the superficial expression or manifestation of reality. (The parallel to Marxism, with its “infrastructure” and “superstructure,” is striking.) But quanto-history need not be—although it often is—deterministic in the same way. Quantitative evidence can be used selectively, eclectically, to illuminate only one part of the historical reality. Barzun might retort that just as psycho-history is not merely the occasional psychologizing about history, so quanto-history, in any serious sense, is not merely the occasional use of figures; it is the systematic, comprehensive use of figures in such a way as to exclude or belittle all other kinds of data. The point may be semantical. But it is important to notice that there are self-styled quantitative historians who do not make an ideology of the method. They use figures, charts, and models far more extensively and systematically than the conventional historian, but they also draw upon whatever other sources are available, including literary sources. And the best of them—Lawrence Stone, most notably—are themselves fine writers as well as sound craftsmen. Barzun might say that such historians are not, properly speaking, quantitative historians, that they are social historians, or perhaps historians tout court. But in these cases it would be more fruitful to distinguish between the good and the bad practitioners of the method, between those for whom it is a method and those for whom it is an ideology—an exclusive principle and a total explanation.

Another distinction may help clarify the status of quanto-history, and that is the distinction between a monograph and history proper. In an age when history, like everything else, has been democratized, this distinction may seem invidious. But if we can restore to the monograph the respect it once enjoyed, we might find that many works of quanto-history fall into this category. They are concerned not with the whole of a historical situation but with a part of it, a particular aspect or problem. Eventually they can expect to be assimilated into history proper, their quantitative findings absorbed into a larger context in which they can be seen in proper proportion and perspective. It is significant that some extremely valuable studies in quanto-history are entirely negative in their implications: they have the effect of disproving received opinion rather than advancing a new theory.8 This is no mean accomplishment since they may bring about major reinterpretations of crucial events. But however consequential, they are essentially monographic in character. Regarded in this light, they can be accommodated in conventional history, subjected to the ordinary rules of evidence, made part of a larger historical enterprise.


So far there has been little attempt at accommodation or moderation. The new methods have all the appeal, and much of the arrogance, of youth. And ours is a culture, as has often been observed, that has a high regard for youth. Some traditional historians take comfort in the thought that fashions come and go and that these too will pass. Our experience with previous historical fashions suggests that this may be too sanguine a view. We have never fully recovered from Beard's economic interpretation of history, however much his particular findings on the American Constitution have been discredited. And the Marxist theory has so deeply seared itself into our consciousness that it is only by the greatest effort of mind and will that we can resist it.

The current fashions appeal to equally strong impulses in ourselves and in our culture. They seem to carry with them all the conviction and authority of science—quanto-history with its precise numbers and charts, psycho-history with its fixed categories and concepts.9 And they profess to give direct and unambiguous answers to important questions. Conventional history, by contrast, seems unscientific and imprecise, diffident and oblique. If it does finally answer the “whys” of history, it does so only by way of a circuitous route that takes it through interminable detours into the “hows” of history, And the “why” answers it does finally emerge with are so complicated and tentative that they are difficult to formulate for oneself, let alone to communicate to others. As Nathan Glazer has recently observed, in another connection, one tends to remember the questions and forget the answers.

In the meantime, the new fashions are taking their human as well as their intellectual toll. In some circles they have generated an unfortunate cynicism, a transparent desire to cash in on a good thing. But even more distressing is the behavior of some of the true believers. I do not know which is more disturbing: the sight of young people callowly psychoanalyzing great thinkers and leaders, or the sight of mature scholars “retooling” themselves (so one put it to me) to avoid obsolescence. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with taking courses in “computer science” any more than there is anything wrong with studying Greek or any other subject in which one feels deficient. But I do think there is something terribly amiss when a serious historian feels that he can no longer do the kind of work he has done so admirably—and that is still eminently worth doing.

I also find it ironic that many historians should be redefining their traditionally humanistic discipline in “scientific” terms just when many young sociologists, disillusioned with “social science,” are demanding that sociology assume a more humanistic aspect. It may turn out that the latest innovations in historical methods are already an anachronism.



1 University of Chicago Press, 173 pp., $7.95.

2 In a footnote on Macaulay, Barzun illustrates what he takes to be the proper relationship of the narrative and analytic components in history. He commends Macaulay for the famous third chapter of the History of England, the chapter describing the social condition of England in 1685. What he especially likes is the fact that Macaulay deliberately placed it not at the opening of his work (where any modern historian would have put it) but after two chapters of “rapid storytelling.” Those narrative chapters, Barzun says, built up the momentum and suspense that carried the work safely past the “necessarily static” third chapter.

3 Rudolph Binion, “Hitler's Concept of Lebensraum: The Psychological Basis,” History of Childhood Quarterly, I (1973), pp. 187-215. Of the several comments appended to this article, the only one seriously critical of the method is that by George Mosse.

4 Rudoph Binion, replying to the comments on his article on Hitler, suggests an additional test of validity—“subjective assent” or “empathy”: “We cannot empathize with prices in 16th-century Europe to feel whether the influx of bullion from America really did cause their rise; we can empathize with Hitler to feel whether Dr. Bloch really was ‘the Jew’ for him. A right reading in psycho-history is like a dead language deciphered or a code broken: it not only checks, but you know it is right.”

I do not know whether other psycho-historians subscribe to Binion's “test of truth,” or even whether cryptographers and paleographers do. But certainly other historians do not “know”—empathetically or otherwise—what Binion so confidently knows.

5 Bruce Mazlish, “Toward a Psychohistorical Inquiry: The ‘Real’ Richard Nixon,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, I (1970), pp. 49-105; Mazlish, In Search of Nixon: A Psychohistorical Inquiry, Basic Books (1972).

6 Richard T. Vann, “Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: Some Hearth-Tax Evidence.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, V (1974), pp. 287-93.

7 Time on the cross Little, Blown, Volume I: the Economics of American Negro Slavery, 286 pp., 58.95; Volume II: Evidence and Methods—A Supplement, 267 pp., $12.50. [Reviewed by Nathan Glazer in the August 1974 COMMENTARY.—Ed.]

8 Examples of these are the work of William Aydelotte, correlating the economic interests and voting patterns of Members of Parliament in mid-19th-century England.

9 See, for example, Bruce Mazlish: “Nevertheless, while sharing many of the characteristics of history, psychoanalysis differs from history in one fundamental way. It claims to have a scientific system of concepts, based on clinical data. This claim I accept” (In Search of Nixon, p. 154).


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