What is comparative history?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

What is comparitive history?

This may seem like a dumb question, I understand the basic concept, comparing events in two or more places/times, but much of the comparative history I have encountered seems to be more sociology or anthropology than history. I understand that academic history sometimes does this, crosses into other disciplines, but comparative history is confusing to me. I know this is a vague question, but any insight you can offer is appreciated, any clearifications or descriptions of what compartive history is/means. Thanks in advance

Comparative history has nothing to do with “comparing events in two or more places/times”. Comparative history is an attempt to discover the natural laws that govern the course of history in the long-run. Most of professional historians find the idea of natural law being a driving force of history repulsive and thus consider comparative history a waste of time. Arnold Toynbee found out about it the hard way after he wrote “A Study of History“…

The problem with most of comparative history is that scholars who do it are usually educated in the wrong discipline (history) and thus are unable to support their theories with any sort of verifiable formal model. Most of people who produce convincing comparative history are either mathematicians or life scientists (or, in case of Peter Turchin, whose “Historical Dynamics” I highly recommend, both).

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