Historical approaches to LUC

By Nynke de Vette

Tilly, Steinmo and Bates argue for different methods on how to do history and social science research. The types can be summarized in a quadrant distinguishing between large versus small-scale analysis and a humanistic versus social science approach. The variation in research approaches lead to different kinds of questions. Taking LUC as an institution that Tilly, Steinmo and Bates want to research, what kind of questions would each scholar ask?

Tilly’s approach is the most comprehensive in terms of scale and approach. For example, a large-scale humanistic approach would result in the study of mentalities. I think an interesting study that can result from this would be to investigate the types of people LUC tends to attract in terms of personality and opinion on ‘Global Challenges.’

Bates, through an analytic narrative, could follow up from this research by investigating the effect of the student composition on the rest of the institution. How does it affect classroom discussion? Do people often think the same thing leading to little discussion? How does it affect the campus life? The narrative component would entail identifying patterns of behaviour and interaction through interviews and surveys. I think the use of games is appropriate here, because the observed patterns and generalization can thereby be formalized.  

Steinmo argues for an approach named historical institutionalism, which seeks to explain real-world outcomes by looking at the role of institutions and by using history as an analytical tool. I believe Steinmo would be interested in explaining what careers LUC graduates pursue. He would look at how LUC as an institution prepares students for careers through the content and quality of the academic programme. History plays a major role in this research question as all the evidence is found amongst former LUC students. Thus, Steinmo would investigate the graduating classes as a whole, but also by individual cases. It would require investigating old curriculum documents also.