Ohio History Journal

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VOLUME 66 ?? NUMBER 3 ?? JULY 1957





Social History:

A Nation Announcing Itself





Twenty-odd years ago, when the series entitled A History of

American Life seemed a shining new constellation in the heavens

of historiography, a caravan of wise men journeyed by day and by

night to Providence, Rhode Island, to stargaze. These priests of Clio,

ministering to a general session of the American Historical Associa-

tion, were carried away with adoration. They cast their eyes upward

to discern a "new" history--a history that was to broaden its base

by including social and cultural data, a history that stressed the

continuity of civilization, a history that extended the time concept

into the remote past, a history that "integrated the movements of

civilization with the problems of today."1

Here, then, was a guiding light--an eternal beacon--which would

christianize the paganism of politics and bring a greater measure of

grace to Clio, for she would wear the mantle of humanism and

concern herself with seeking a better understanding of the relations

of man to man. Omens had long foretold the coming of the new

history. Signs were found in the entrails of Green's Short History


* Philip D. Jordan is professor of history at the University of Minnesota. Him-

self a social historian, he is the author of Ohio Comes of Age, 1873-1900 (which is

Volume V of The History of the State of Ohio, published by the Ohio Historical

Society in the early 1940's) and in the past a frequent contributor to the Quarterly.

This article is a slightly revised version of a paper read at the fiftieth annual

meeting of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association at Lincoln, Nebraska, May 3,


1 William E. Lingelbach, ed., Approaches to American Social History (New York,

1937), 2.