Prompt: What do these more recent fields (women’s/gender, social and cultural, ethnohistory, environmental history) offer to the study of history as a whole? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do you feel about them personally?
The more recent fields of history like gender, social and cultural, ethnohistory, and environmental history offer a greater depth and perspective to our understanding of history through studying a wider variety of elements and players in the past and present.
Gender history allows historians to put a greater focus and understanding on changing gender roles throughout history. This can also include looking at gender identities and which identities are represented and or accepted during various eras and geographic areas. Social and cultural history can provide an in-depth look at the existing and changing structures and traditions in a particular region, nation, etc. Ethnohistory allows for greater focus on the influence on race and ethnicity throughout history and to study groups such as Native Americans that have been too long overlooked and environmental history brings to the foreground the role of nature in history and how often it is overlooked beyond anthropogenic effects on the environment.
Again I think the weaknesses of these fields come in to play overall with how difficult it is to draw the line between some of the fields. Ethnohistory likely often intersects with social, gender, and cultural history and vice versa because all of these elements interact – particularly gender and culture. Cultural and social history likely have some interdisciplinary appeal through anthropology and archaeology just as environmental history does with geography and the natural sciences. This interdisciplinary quality can be a major benefit in terms of expanding perspective and understanding, but it can limit the field through lack of communication and or difficulties in attaining the necessary skills to conduct research across discipline lines such as the ability to understand soil composition studies.
One of the nice things about attending a liberal arts college such as Mary Washington though is that I and other history students are able to get some of that interdisciplinary exploration. I have already taken an anthropology class looking at culture and social structures and I will be taking environmental science in the spring; both of these classes can provide more depth to my understanding when I move forward into looking at classes like Environmental History. I find these fields incredibly fascinating and I would like to explore them in my time here at Mary Washington. Hopefully taking US history and Pop Culture next semester will be a good step into my exploration.