History is the past Sociology and Sociology is the current History. Being back in school is a privilege, and I am fascinated by the information being offered to me. One of the things I find most interesting is how the different subjects and sciences intertwine and overlap. When I read the above statement, which was said to have been a remark by a former president of the American Sociological Association Professor G.E. Howard, I thought to myself “Wow, how can it be explained any better?” Well, I’m going to try.
So much happened in America between the end of the Civil War and 1914, and most, if not all, of it was based on people’s social needs and wants. in 1865 the western region of America was just land. It held no value to the average man. The West was not a part of American society. The west expansion and industrialization was simply to prevent the Confederacy from expanding. So you are telling me that us Americans took over half this country just so other people couldn’t get to it first? Yes, just like my four year old nephew will run
SUPER fast so that none of the bigger kids can beat him up the stairs and “win” the imaginary unspoken prize. We see this everyday, people are consumed with “getting ahead” of the imaginary finish lines society has placed on us, that will do stuff to other people to reduce their chances of winning, BUT THEY AREN’T IN COMPETITION WITH US!
Freed slaves were promised 40 acres per family, the African American Registry goes into more detail, but to make it short, Andrew Johnson redistributed the land back to the former slave owners. It was not because the southerners who believed people were property were his best friends and he cared about their best interests. It was because 1. They met his demands be swearing allegiance to the union and 2. He just happened to dislike blacks more than he disliked The Confederates. Hhmmm Politics and the (subjective) lesser of two evils. Its almost hard for me to NOT say something sarcastic. Instead, I will ask a question. Can you think of at least one instance where people make political decisions based on what/who they believe to be the lesser of two evils? Such a huge historical and legal decision was left up to a man and his opinion of two broad groups of people. A historical and legal decision was left up to how this specific man was influenced by his personal interactions, or lack thereof, with two broad groups of people.
The railways were one of the biggest changes of American history, PERIOD. The railways changed everything about being in this country. Travel, time, trade, industrialization, farming, food production, media, clothing production. Everything and everybody could move across and throughout the country at a speed previously unheard of. Railways were not essential to survival, but were created with the understanding they were going to change life as we knew it. Much like these little devices everybody carries around in their pockets and purses. Cell phones are not, contrary to popular belief, necessary for survival, but they changed life as we knew it. My cell phone is my watch, my datebook, I can use it to find a nearby Uber, order food, keep up with local, national, and international news. The trains in the late nineteenth century are our twenty first century cell phones. They are such a big part of society we think of them as a natural part of history.
And the oh so controversial voting rights, of blacks, women, and even immigrants. Why did people have a problem with blacks and/or women voting? Was it because black men were so biologically contrast from white men that they would run the country down into the ground? NO, it was because SOCIETY had bred the ideas of how uncivilized and educated black men were. Yes people genuinely believed black men had the potential to destroy the honor of America, but this was a social issue. Same with Women’s Suffrage. The idea that politics was a dirty, dishonest, unfair game that women needed to be protected from. Why would women need to be protected from politics you ask. Well because women were clean, gentle, stable, happy people that kept perfect home environments and kept their men and children happy. THAT’S IT! That is all they were capable of. Again, a social reality of the late 1800s and early 1900s, not biological one.
In closing, everything (perhaps I am exaggerating a tad bit) Americans did that went down as History were based around social issues, creating by humans and institutions, not by natural biology.