ⓘ Change and continuity

Change and continuity

ⓘ Change and continuity

Change and continuity is a classic dichotomy within the fields of history, historical sociology, and the social sciences more broadly. The dichotomy is used to discuss and evaluate the extent to which a historical development or event represents a decisive historical change or whether a situation remains largely unchanged. The question of change and continuity is considered a classic discussion in the study of historical developments. A good example of this discussion is the question of how much the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 represents an important change in European history. In a similar vein, historian Richard Kirkendall questioned whether FDRs New Deal represented "a radical innovation or a continuation of earlier themes in American life?" and posed the question of whether "historical interpretations of the New Deal stress change or emphasize continuity?"

The dichotomy lends itself to constructing and evaluating historical periodizations. In terms of creating and discussing periodizations e.g. the Enlightenment or the Victorian Era, the dichotomy can be used to assess when a period can be said to start and end, thus making the dichotomy important in relation to understanding historical chronology.

Economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron argues that continuity "appears to mean no more than absence of change, i.e. stability." German historian Reinhart Koselleck, however, has been said to challenge this dichotomy.

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