Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael R. 2003. “Methods and Techniques for Studying the History of Sociology in America.” Invited paper presented November 19, 2003, to the Second Meeting on the History of Sociology, Dipartimento de Sociologia e Scienza della Politica, Università degli Studi de Salerno (Fisciano, Italy). Co-sponsored by the United States Consulate (Naples).


Copyright 2003 Michael R. Hill


E’ un grande privilegio parlare con voi oggi nel vostro bel paese dei metodi di ricerca per lo studio e la documentazione della storia della sociologia. La storia disciplinare e’ importante per me. L’anno scorso ho concluso il mio incarico a capo della Sezione sulla Storia della Sociologia nell’ Associazione di Sociologia Americana, quindi so bene che la storia e’ importante anche per molti dei miei colleghi. Nel 2005, l’Associazione Americana di Sociologia festeggera’ il suo contenario: di consequenza, sempre piu’ sociologi americani cominciano a porsi questioni storiche riguardo alla disciplina della sociologia. Nel presentare queste osservazioni, spero di attirare l’attenzione sugli specifici aspetti methodologici della scrittura e della ricerca della storia disciplinare in America. Consentitemi di dire che mi dispiace moltissimo di non poter parle con voi in Italiano oggi visto che las mia conoscenza della lingua e’ nulla. Percio’, il resto della mia presentazione sara’ in inglese.

Let me begin with a fundamental problem: How is it possible for scholars to know, discover, and document the structure, patterns, history, and accomplishments of academic and scientific disciplines? This is a complex and difficult intellectual and methodological problem. This is a problem requiring patience, reflexivity, critique, and much hard work. It is a problem addressed by sociological specialists in the fields of “sociology of knowledge” and “sociology of science.” It is also a problem with which all sociologists must be concerned. The methods and presuppositions that we use to discover disciplinary history necessarily shape our “findings” in a variety of ways. The problematic nature of this situation is greatly exacerbated when scholars in one country attempt to learn the disciplinary history of scholars who live and write in other countries. My understanding of sociology in Italy, for example, is limited largely to passing familiarity with the works of Niccolò Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, and Cesare Lombroso. Of course, as I hope you will cordially instruct me after the seminar, there is much much more to learn about Italian sociology. But for now, let me reverse the situation and pose the question this way: How can scholars in Italy, like yourselves, proceed methodologically to understand and learn about the robust and many-faceted history of American sociology? The examples I use here are drawn from the United States, but similar procedures apply, more or less, to other English-speaking countries.