Comparative Historical Analysis and Case Study Methods

Professor: Paul
Units: 1.0
Elective Course
Concentration: Social Science

How do we learn the lessons of history? Usually, by some form of comparison or analogy. Sometimes we try to learn from a single case, assuming that it is comparable to the current situation, or that the lessons it implies are universal and can be abstracted to any roughly similar situation. Sometimes we use several cases and hope to compare their similarities and differences, matching historical characteristics with contemporary characteristics. Sometimes we use many cases and look for patterns that consistently lead to certain outcomes in the hopes of generalizing them to current contexts.

This course will introduce comparative historical analysis and methods. The course will cover a number of topics, including: different ways to define and uses case studies; case selection, representativeness, and generalizability; Mills' methods of similarity and difference; Ragin's qualitative comparative analysis; methods for collecting and compiling case study data including use of primary and secondary sources.