American Behavioral History: An Introduction

American Behavioral History: An Introduction

by Peter N. Stearns (Editor)


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From his founding of The Journal of Social History to his groundbreaking work on the history of emotions, weight, and parenting, Peter N. Stearns has pushed the boundaries of social history to new levels, presenting new insights into how people have lived and thought through the ages. Having established the history of emotions as a major subfield of social history, Stearns and his collaborators are poised to do the same thing with the study of human behavior. This is their manifesto.

American Behavioral History deals with specific uses of historical data and analysis to illuminate American behavior patterns, ranging from car buying rituals to sexuality, and from funeral practices to contemporary grandparenting. The anthology illustrates the advantages and parameters of analyzing the ways in which people behave, and adds significantly to our social understanding while developing innovative methods for historical teaching and research.

At its core, the collection demonstrates how the study of the past can be directly used to understand current behaviors in the United States. Throughout, contributors discuss not only specific behavioral patterns but, importantly, how to consider and interpret them as vital historical sources.

Contributors include Gary Cross, Paula Fass, Linda Rosenzweig, Susan Matt, Steven M. Gelber, Peter N. Stearns, Suzanne Smith, Mark M. Smith, Kevin White.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814798447
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2005
Pages: 259
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)

About the Author

Peter N. Stearns is Provost and University Professor at George Mason University. Since 1967, he has served as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Social History. His numerous books include World History in Documents ; American Behavioral History ; and Anxious Parents.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
Peter N. Stearns
Part I: Family and Childhood
2 The Cute Child and Modern American Parenting
Gary Cross
3 Abduction Stories That Changed Our Lives: From Charley Ross to Modern Behavior
Paula S. Fass
4 “If They Have Any Orders, I Am Theirs to Command”: Indulgent Middle-Class Grandparents in American Society
Linda W. Rosenzweig
Part II: Emotions and Consumer Behavior
5 There’s No Place Like Home: Homesickness and Homemaking in America
Susan J. Matt
6 Horseless Horses: Car Dealing and the Survival of Retail Bargaining
Steven M. Gelber
Part III: Death and Mourning
7 American Death
Peter N. Stearns
8 Laid Out in “Big Mama’s Kitchen”: African Americans and the Personalized Theme Funeral
Suzanne Smith
Part IV: Perception of the Senses
9 Making Scents Make Sense: White Noses, Black Smells, and Desegregation
Mark M. Smith
Part V: Sexuality
10 Tainted Love: The Transformation of Oral-Genital Behavior in the United States,1970–2000
Kevin White
About the Contributors

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A masterful introduction to a new kind of history, one that looks to the past to illuminate the most basic aspects of contemporary behavior, from parenting practices and consumer behavior to the rise of the hospice and the growing acceptance of oral sex. This is one of those seminal books that radically transforms the way we look at the present and the past.”
-Steven Mintz,author of Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood

“Contextually rich, in-depth and well argued.”
-Journal of Social History


“As always, Peter Stearns stimulates our thinking about history and human experience in important ways. American Behavioral History is unconventional, provocative, and compelling. This collection gives new vigor to the study of social history.”
-Joan Jacobs Brumberg,author of The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls

“Peter Stearns and his intrepid co-conspirators do not, like other seekers of truth in history, try to understand the past in its own terms. Instead, they try to learn from the past to touch the present and affect the future. One after another, their extraordinary essays suggest that their audacious ambition may be attainable.”
-Michael Zuckerman,author of Almost Chosen People: Oblique Biographies in the American Grain

“Stearns and his colleagues leave us with a compelling sense that we need history to understand ourselves. Without an engaged historical perspective on today's behaviors, prescriptions for social change will not only fail, but leave us vulnerable to quick fixes and moral zealotry, sparking social behaviors—;incidentally, with a rich American past—;whose history might assist us in our efforts to understand today's cultural and political climate, and, perhaps, begin to change it.”
-Journal of American History

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