> Publications > China Social Science Review > 2021 > no.2(June 2021)

Challenges and Opportunities in Quantitative Research on Socioeconomic History

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China Social Science Review

No.2, 2021


Challenges and Opportunities in Quantitative Research on Socioeconomic History (Abstract)

Chi Xiang 

In recent years, with the boom in digital technologies in the humanities, the value of quantitative analysis to the discipline of history has once again sparked academic discussion. As a branch of the digital humanities, cliometrics has undergone a long period of development, during which the association of history with quantitative methods aroused vehement opposition or tacit acquiescence. From the ’40s and ’50s on, a multitude of debates have arisen over the use quantitative methods in historiography. In this paper, we try to explore “data” and “quantification” over the course of successive historiographical paradigm shifts and knowledge transformations, sorting through the awareness and use of quantitative methods in social history, cultural history and the “digital humanities,” to achieve a better understanding of and outlook on the challenges and opportunities for historiography brought by “digital calculation” and the “digital humanities.” Accompanying historiography’s many changes of direction and the constant adjustment of quantitative instruments, historians have moved from their earlier belief in hard data and the macro-social structure to reconstruction of the micro-world of social networks, rational choice, etc. Influenced by both the Chinese and the Western historical tradition, cliometrics in China is exhibiting more possibilities and richer aspects. Quantitative research using digital humanities technology has become a new growth point for Chinese socioeconomic history.