Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 1

Context is Everything: The Problem of History in Quantitative Social Science

Tracy Dennison, California Institute of Technology, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, USA,
Suggested Citation
Tracy Dennison (2021), "Context is Everything: The Problem of History in Quantitative Social Science", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 1, pp 105-126.

Publication Date: 10 Jun 2021
© 2021 T. Dennison
Comparative political economy,  Political economy,  Political history
Historyinstitutionslong-run growth


Login to download a free copy
In this article:
Institutions as Interlocking Systems 
Institutions in Historical Context: Three Examples 


Historians and social scientists inhabit increasingly separate academic worlds. At the same time, history is assuming a more prominent role in quantitative social science, especially among researchers interested in economic growth and development over the long run. In this paper I argue that those who employ historical arguments, especially about the role of institutions and their long-term effects, must engage more actively with the findings of historians. Failing to incorporate historical research leads to models that mischaracterize the constraint structure faced by individuals and groups in the societies they seek to explain. Examples from the social science and history literatures are adduced to reinforce this point.



Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 1 Special Issue - Theory and Method in HPE: Articles Overview
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.