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Title: The Role of Theory and Methodology in Australian Economic History
Contributor(s): Butterfield, Rodney Noel (author); Lloyd, Christopher  (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 2012
Copyright Date: 2012
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: Works in Australian Economic History can be seen to exhibit great variety in both methodology and content. The main discerning feature of this variety is the use and non-use of explicit theory as an analytical structure; specifically, the use of Economics theory. Currently, the New Economic History has cemented this approach but in Australia it has not been a slow evolution towards this state of affairs. From the time of T.A. Coghlan to N.G. Butlin there have been significant works that have used theory as a methodology for analysis alongside other works that have used traditional narrative approaches. Similarly, the content of the works is even more varied. Some authors gladly admit that their works are contributions to other areas of study. An explanation for this situation could be the combination of the English narrative tradition in Economic History as well as more practical attitude towards developing an individual approach more suited to countries of recent settlement. The need for a theoretical structure to guide historical analysis is provided by Economics theory as the most logical and relevant means of explaining the history. As a discipline, Economic History must have a defining methodology and an area of content to maintain a separate identity. Kuhn and Lakatos are cited in support because of their highlighting of a community of scholars who accept certain 'rules of the game' (a "disciplinary matrix") as a defining characteristic and a guarantee of progress and continuing "puzzle solving" success. The major theme is the importance of methodology, the use of theory and the adequacy of explanation. Structured analysis with a definable theoretical base provides the best platform for analysis and adequate explanation. In practical terms there is a need for theory. The use of explicit theory to provide an analytical structure can be seen as a methodology. Narrative as a methodology is seen to be found wanting in terms of explanatory value. The Australian experience provides an inconsistent tradition of analytical Economic History, traditional narrative and works with content that may be more suitable in other disciplines. To some extent, the methodology chosen can be seen to determine not only how the work is presented but, also, what parts of the content will be focused on. Because of this tradition N.G. Butlin is seen more as a synthesiser than a revolutionary. He, in fact, praises some of his predecessors. Several further issues are seen to subsume this work. Definitional guidelines that outline the disciplinary boundaries are seen as essential; continuity and change in this context can be seen to revolve around the fact that N.G. Butlin was not the first Australian to write analytical Economic History with the use of an explicit theoretical structure; but as with many powerful syntheses, significant change can be seen to follow. Finally, the issue of progress is considered in terms of the improvement in explanatory value from the contribution of an analytical structure and the issue of whether or not an academic discipline can progress to a higher form of effectiveness.
Publication Type: Thesis Masters Research
Field of Research (FoR) 2008: 140203 Economic History
Field of Research (FoR) 2020: 380103 Economic history
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 850799 Energy Conservation and Efficiency not elsewhere classified
Rights Statement: Copyright 2012 - Rodney Noel Butterfield
HERDC Category Description: T1 Thesis - Masters Degree by Research
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