Social Scientist. v 17, no. 190-91 (March 1989) p. 13.

Graphics file for this page

Some Issues In Historiography in BemaVs "Science & History"

What kind of history is, history of science ? BemaFs four volumes in the Pelican (published in 1969) are entitled. Science in History and the concluding part of these, has one chapter (14), named "Science and History". Why has Bernal prefered these ways of describing his works ?

To avoid being bogged down by details, I shall merely make illustrative remarks in answering these questions. To the question, what kind of history, there is no univocal-single answer. There are different kinds of histories of science :(a) a chronological description of successes of this or that science; or, (b) the development of science in terms of the contributions of individual scientists in a biographical context; or, (c) works tracing development of ideas and problems in the various fields of knowledge; or, (d) a history of scientific ideas in the context of the overall progress of civilisation, development of culture, and society's political and intellectual life.1

Since the Second International Congress of History of Science held in London in 1931, there were further developments in historiography of science, especially influenced by the Marxist views, namely, the widening of the concept of history of science in terms of analyzing the development ot science and technology in the context of socio-economic conditions. The tone and the pace was set by BernaFs The Social Function of Science published in 1939. The task of this kind of history of science is to analyse the inter-action between scientific, technical and economic development, and more broadly to set the story of science in the broader socio-cultural history of civilization. In the early discussion on historiography of science, this approach was designated as the externalist approach as opposed to the internalist approach. The standpoint of these two approaches can be summarised thus: "The history of pure science can be written apart altogether from the external reasons for its coming into existence.... A true understanding of the social relations of science can be obtained only by writing first the history of science in itself, and then, as a separate investigation, considering why its successive steps occurred, when where and how they did."2 (emphasis added).

I shall not go into the controversy between the internalist and externalist approaches, but shall rest content by pointing out that this dichotomy between internalist and externalist is disputed. To illustrate : it

* Hon. Director, Karnataka Centre for Social Sciences, Dharwad.

Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page