Book Review: George Fredrickson’s The Comparative Imagination
What I initially liked about George Fredrickson’s The Comparative Imagination (Amazon) is that his opening chapter defined as best he could comparative history, allowing the reader to have a framework from which to interpret the author’s work. I also appreciated that Fredrickson acknowledges that history, specifically comparative, associates itself with and fuels a relationship between itself and the other social and behavioral sciences. Some historians attempt to isolate themselves, thus closing off sources of information that could have been insightful.
Fredrickson’s work offered the first in depth work, that we have observed in this class, in actual comparative studies. Many of Fredrickson’s studies involve race relations. Most of these compare American situations to other situations around the world. In his first chapter, Fredrickson claims “that the usual impulse that has led Americans to do comparative history has not been so much a desire for cosmopolitan detachment or conceptual clarity as the hope that they can learn something new about American history by comparing some aspect of it with an analogous phenomenon in another society.” Yet for all the warning this comment seems to imply, Fredrickson uses similar situations to learn more about American ones.
Another interesting accomplishment of Fredrickson in this compilation is that he not only discusses the theories of comparative history and shows examples of his own studies but he also compares works of comparative histories in “Planters, Junkers, and Pomeschiki.” Fredrickson writes in a fashion that is both interesting and easy to follow. He also seems well accomplished and very knowledgeable about the field that he acknowledges is not quite acknowledged as its own yet.