• Course description

      Time: Monday, Friday 15:20-16:20

      Place: QS C210

      Zoom: If some or all of us need to connect online, please use this link.

      "In an inquiry concerning the improvement of society," wrote Thomas Malthus in his much-expanded Essay on the Principle of Population, "the mode of conducting the subject which naturally presents itself, is, 1. To investigate the causes that have hitherto impeded the progress of mankind towards happiness; and, 2. To examine the probability of the total or partial removal of these causes in future." The key term here is not "happiness," but "probability," for to understand the legacy of Malthus and other major figures in the rise of the social sciences, we need to look at the myriad ways that counting, measuring, and calculating became central to academic scholarship as a public good in the nineteenth century. Our historical tasks are intellectual and cultural more than technical, yet we cannot properly appreciate the present role of the quantitative social sciences without investigating how statistics, mensuration, regulation, and accounting acquired their status against a broader background of contested scientific rationalism and uneven technological development. 

      This is not a historical tour of the social sciences so much as it is an investigation of how the many modes of counting have been elevated to scholarly virtues and state-driven practices, as well as how historical contexts have shaped the scope and claims of the social sciences. This will be a Eurocentric course, but not one whose center of gravity lies somewhere in the English Channel. We will try to strike a balance between an introduction to comparatively canonical Anglophone topics and the exploration of broader connections throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Once the regional language skills of the students enrolled have been established, we will attempt to adjust the readings and discussions to better reflect regional concerns.


      Spontaneous 10-minute quizzes (two): 5% + 5%  (This is a low-key exercise that is solely intended to motivate accountability with the readings. It will consist of several brief responses to questions raised in recent sessions.)

      Midterm exam (in class): 25% (See session 12 for description.)

      Presentation: 15% (Developed in consultation with the instructor, this will give students a chance to tie one of the course topics more closely to their own research interests. In-class time: 15 minutes.)

      Participation: 15%  (Warm bodies who stay awake in class.)

      Review essay (2000-2500 words): 35%  (The topic may, but need not, grow out of the presentation exercise. Based on modest additional reading of secondary literature, students will survey a related topic and write a synthetic historiographical essay.) Due date: April 8.