What are the purposes and uses of comparison for the historian? What is the heuristic value of comparing countries, cultures, and societies in the past? And how and why did historical actors deploy comparison in practice? The chapter focuses on two archetypal contemporary and neighbouring societies, France and Britain in the eighteenth century. Instead of the classic comparisons made by philosophers or travel writers, it is the comparisons formulated in situ by a much broader variety of actors that will provide the case studies. Prisoners of war who were complaining about their jailors or criminals who requested asylum resorted to a rich stock of arguments, highlighting the universality of moral norms and legal values that transcended national state borders or the superiority of one national model over another. Ultimately the chapter emphasizes the necessity for historians to engage in a reflexive analysis of what they compare and why.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.