An interesting-if sometimes tedious and provoking-book from Dr Macfarlane, and an immensely important and stimulating book from Mr Thomas! Both raise questions of historiographical method. Macfarlane’s study is subtitled ‘an essay in historical anthropology’. Thomas published an important article in Past and Present in 1963, on ‘History and anthropology’,1 followed (in 1964) by a study of ‘Work and leisure in preindustrial society’,2 which located further problems in this area. In 1966 he published a credo in The Times Literary Supplement, in which he called for ‘a more systematic indoctrination’ of historians ‘in the social sciences’, which sciences were defined as including not only anthropology and demography, but also social psychology and sociology:
If the analysis of the past is to be rigorous, then the construction of an historical typology, a means of classifying and comparing, is an urgent desideratum. It cannot come from sociology alone, but an education in the concepts of sociology seems the quickest way of attaining it. (Thomas, 1966, pp. 275-6)3
How far do these books signal the arrival of a new history, with distinctively new methods? Macfarlane (in this sense) offers most, but his accomplishment is modest. He submits Ralph Josselin’s diaries to patient and intensive scrutiny, supplementing their evidence where possible from other sources, and the questions which he puts to this source material are prompted by his anthropological training. The originality of this method-and, in particular, the systematic examination of a single source-has perhaps led some readers to overestimate its productiveness, and to underestimate several of the difficulties inherent in the method.