Historical Eras Matrix

Directions: Use the matrix below to familiarize yourself with the different historical schools of thought. Research various aspects of each school of thought as listed in the columns Provide brief responses for each section.

School of ThoughtDefinitionMajor/Key Thinker/Theorists/ScholarsStrengths and WeaknessesExample of Method (Book, Article, etc.)
ModernismThis school of thought holds the position that human beings have the capabilities to create, improve, deconstruct, and alter their environment by relying on scientific knowledge, technology, and practical experimentation.  Sigmund Freud, F. H. Bradley, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx  A major strength for this school of thought was that it was clear that science and technology were radically changing the means of production. A weakness in this school of thought is that it is considered to be reductionist in nature and, therefore, unable to view systemic and emergent effects.Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection 
Post-ModernismThis school of thought holds the idea that truth is relative and that knowledge can always be made or invented but never to be discovered.Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, Richard Rorty    A strength of postmodernism is that it goes beyond any form of naïve realism, and takes the position of the existence of an objective natural reality that is logically independent of human beings.   A weakness of this theory is that it does not make a contribution to analytical or empirical knowledge.Discursive regime by Michael Foucalt
MarxismThis school of thought considers the effects of capitalism on labor, productivity, and economic development. Marxists view capitalism from the perspective of exploitation, analyzes class relations and social conflict through the use of materialist interpretation of historical development.Karl Marx and Friedrich EngelsA key strength of Marxism school of thought is that it seeks to develop a system of true equality. Marxism offers to benefit society. Some weaknesses of this school of thought are that it attempts to abolish religion, and negatively affects the educational system. 
ClassicalThis refers to a school of thought that holds the view that markets work best when the government does not interfere.Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Thomas Robert Malthus, and John Stuart Mill.A key strength of this school of thought is that it suggests that the economy always adjusts itself and returns to full-employment. A weakness of this school of thought is on its tough and stiff construction. 
Social HistoryThis school of thought uses a general approach to history and puts emphasis on the society at large.EP Thompson.The school of thought has a strength in that it seeks to uncover the relationships between economic, demographic, and social processes, as well as, structures and the impact on political institutions, distribution of resources, and other forms of public and private actions. 
  1. How do historians apply different methods of analysis? Provide an example that shows how a historian used a particular method, to defend your claims.

Among the methods historians use for analysis is source criticism also referred as information evaluation. This refers to the process of evaluating the qualities of an information source. This method seeks to establish the validity, reliability, and relevance of the subject under investigation. Garraghan categorizes the source criticism into six inquiries that look into the date, localization, authorship, analysis, integrity, and credibility. This historic method on source criticism has been expanded to provide procedures for contradictory sources (Milligan, 1979). This saw the development of a seven-step procedure for source criticism in history. The first step indicates that if all sources agree about an issue or event, then historians can take the position that the event is proven. The second step indicates that in a scenario where the majority fails to rule, despite most sources relating events in a certain way, the version proposed will not hold unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis. The third step indicates that a source whose account can be confirmed through the reference to external authorities in partiality can be considered reliable in full where it is impossible to ascertain the whole text. The fourth step indicates that in a scenario where two sources disagree on a certain point, the historian will select the source deemed to have the highest authority by either an expert or an eyewitness. The next step considers that eyewitnesses are preferred in cases where a regular observer could have accurately provided details on what had taken place. The next step indicated that where two independently developed sources concur on an issue, the reliability of each is measurably enhanced. The final step in this method indicates that in a situation where two sources fail to agree and there exist no alternative means of evaluation, then historians need to consider the source that seems to appeal best with common sense.

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Another method of analysis used by historians for analysis is on synthesis or historical reasoning. This takes place after the individual pieces of information have been assessed in context, and hypotheses can be derived to facilitate the process of historical reasoning.

  • Which methods do you or would you employ in your historical analysis?

While it is certain that we live in a capitalist world, I would apply Marxism to carry out historical analysis. A review of the performance of the capitalist world system reveals worrying trends coupled with economic depressions and meltdown. It is clear that the capitalist system has within itself seeds of self-destruction. The capitalist nature of the system can be considered an anarchic and chaotic system that is comprised of periodic crises that cause unemployment, as well as, social and political instability. Marxism may be an ideal method of analyzing economic crises such as the 2008 financial crisis. The crisis of euro highlights that the capitalist system has no definite solution to issues facing Greece, Spain, and Italy, which posed threats to the European common currency. Marxism had made a prediction of a crisis of overproduction, which has been responsible for the economic crash in 1929 and 2008/09. Marxism makes a prediction on the inherent conflict between capital and labor where it is indicated that as organizations seek to maximize profits and productivity, they naturally end up requiring less and fewer workers thereby, leading to an industrial pool of unemployed individuals (Ormerod, 2008). The action of the society to accumulate wealth at one end causes accumulation of misery. The situation described by Marx is still evident in the developed world. This is evident among the companies in the U.S. that make moves to reduce costs and minimize hiring thereby increasing their corporate profits as a share of total economic output. This method is effective in analyzing the situation in America where the unemployment rate is still high while the real wages have stagnated. Marxism is, therefore, an appropriate approach to understand why economies keep tripping over themselves to an extent of self-destruction. In light of this, this implies that Marxism is an ideal method to analyze economic set-up.

  • Select a historical event and three methods, how would these methods analyze your selected event?

A major historical event that I would look at is the Great Depression of 1929. I would analyze this event using the methods from Marxism, classical, and social history. The Great Depression is regarded as the greatest financial catastrophe in the 20th Century. The Great Depression was fueled by a number of factors including the stock market crash, income inequality, Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, and the effect of federal reserve decisions. Under the Marxism school of thought, the Great Depression is a highlight of the capitalist’s crises. Under Marxism, the crises result from overproduction where too many products are produced than they can be profitably sold. It also indicates situations where too much capital has been invested in an industry in an attempt to acquire a share of industry profits. Marxism considers that capitalism causes the crises of overproduction due to its set up where it is comprised of separate and independent ownership. The classical economic theory, observes that in the end, the forces that influence and produce growth in an economy are flexible wages and prices, which are noted to maintain the economy at or near its natural level of employment (Rittenberg & Tregarthen, 2011). It is for this reason that the classical theory proposes the non-interference by the government. In the 1929 Great Depression, there was government interference and this fueled the crisis. Under the social history method, it considers the social effects of the Great Depression, which include the social consequences of prolonged economic stagnation. There was a dramatic change in different beliefs, customs, practices, behaviors, and lifestyles. During the period of the 1920s, America had experienced a great period of prosperity that was characterized by new inventions and dynamic lifestyles (Fiorillo, 2018). There were experienced and distinct class separation between the poor, middle class, and the wealthy. The class separation alienated people as per different neighborhoods, which fostered additional resentment and increased discontent.

  • Does the method used change the final analysis of a historical event?

From the analysis, one thing that came clear is that Marxism principles, which had been ignored for long were essential in understanding the vicious cycles of economic crises that characterized the capitalism economic setup. The Marxist school of thought applies historical materialism as a functioning approach. Through this approach, it was possible to understand the phenomena in material conditions and understand the influence it exerts to the social organization. Marxist ideologies are still evident as portrayed by an open class war, which continues to exist as class struggle. The economy has witnessed the disappearance of factories and the outsourcing of industrial production to countries where the labor is less expensive. This is the exact phenomenon that the U.S. companies are exploiting by relocating their production facilities in Asia where there are less tight labor laws and low wages. The Marxism points out that the major cause of crises exists in the gap between the use and exchange value characterized with a logic of exchange-value that adheres to its own path without paying regard to the real needs of the society. The method under Marxism provides a different angle into reviewing the reasons for the occurrence of the event. A review of the Marxist method indicates that it had in 1847 offered an explanation on the development of global market lenders that limit national individualism where every country despite its size is submissive to the whole world economy. A review of the situation in most countries reveals the same situation that Marxism had described, countries with big monopolies, closely tied to banking and intertwined with bourgeois state, and together they dominate the life of the society. The schism between the classes is still prevalent and continues to deepen. A review of the U.S. economy reveals that about 400 families in the U.S. control wealth as the bottom 50% of the population (Woods, 2013). The poorest half of the U.S. population has control of about 2.5% of the country’s resources.


Fiorillo, S. (2018). Great Depression: Causes, Effects, and Timeline. Retrieved from https://www.thestreet.com/politics/great-depression-causes-14663720

Milligan, J. D. (1979). The treatment of a historical source. History and Theory18(2), 177-196.

Ormerod, R. J. (2008). The history and ideas of Marxism: The relevance for OR. Journal of the Operational Research Society59(12), 1573-1590.

Rittenberg, L., & Tregarthen, T. (2011). Principles of economics. The Saylor Foundation.

Woods, A. (2013). The Ideas of Karl Marx. Retrieved from https://www.marxist.com/karl-Marx-130-years.htm

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