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Vastly increased research and a sounder technique in history in the nineteenth century had two influences on the social sciences. When an enthusiasm for the records of history was combined with the evolutionary perspective, it often resulted in the search for and the imposition of patterns of development on history in general or on the history of particular subject matters such as economics, politics, morals, or religion. Social scientists looked to history for explanations, in the hope of finding inevitable laws, stages of development, or the forces that moved human society. As historians worked out a critical method for their subject matter which more accurately and justly portrayed the complex record of past events, the social scientists were stimulated to adopt the same approach to their own subject matters. They turned to composing histories instead of creating sciences. To many, economics became the history of economic institutions; political science, the history of political institutions; anthropology, the history of civilizations, societies, and cultures. Psychology was relatively immune to this influence and turned toward an experimental method. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XXI: Meaning in the Social Sciences. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.