The Essex County Record Office

Much of the research that has established social history as a serious branch of historical study has been carried out in County Record Offices explains J.A. Sharpe, of which Essex is an outstanding example.

Over the last fifteen years, historical research at Britain's universities has been marked by a new emphasis on the study of social history. Until recently, social history was very much the poor relation of historical studies, relegated to an inferior status, below that of political or economic history. In France, where the journal Annales: Economies, Soci ét és, Civilisations had been redefining the proper limits of historical study since before the Second World War, and, more recently, in the United States, social history has assumed a central importance. Most English historians, however, felt that it was at best an area of secondary interest, worthy of study only on an unsystematic an6 anecdotal basis. This situation has now, .o a large extent, been modified: such scholars as Peter Laslett, Lawrence Stone, Keith Thomas and E. P. Thompson have each, in their rather different ways, helped to establish social history as a serious branch of English historical studies, and a number of younger historians have followed their lead.

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