Methodology Discussion

I will admit that despite studying history as an undergraduate and now a graduate student, I am still not entirely sure what “methodology” is. I believe it is one of those concepts within the field of history that many pretend to understand but when it gets down to brass tacks, there is still a great deal of confusion. Nevertheless, I will take a stab at it for this week’s methodology/theory discussion.

The article I chose to analyze for methodology and/or theory is Erica Fudge’s “Milking Other Men’s Beasts,” published in an issue of History and Theory in 2013. In this particular essay, Fudge, a preeminent scholar in the field of animal agency, argues for animal agency by illustrating animals as historical actors instead of passive objects. Fudge recognizes that her article sits at the intersection of various fields of study: anthropology, social history, animal history, sensory history, and even animal science. Thus, Fudge utilizes arguments from a variety of fields in order to craft her own argument concerning animal agency.

Indeed, Fudge begins her article by explaining the title of her work is pulled from a “a single-line entry in a seventeenth-century Essex Sessions Roll,” a seemingly obscure source but a source that allows her to begin her discussion concerning animal agents (13). She then goes on to cite historians focusing on the senses, Temple Grandin, the famous animal scientist, and animal historians such as Virginia DeJohn Anderson. What results is fascinating insight into animal agency and a much more impressive argument due to its reaches into various fields. She ends by arguing: “And if we take seriously that there are other human ways of being in the world, as Grandin does, and if we acknowledge that that thing called being human itself might also contain multiple others, and that we—the readers of History and Theory—are just one manifestation of that, what we are opening up are new ways of addressing and assessing the world. And they, I am sure, knew this back in the seventeenth century too” (28).

Reading this article by Fudge and others like it (she has cropped up a few times in my research), I am left wondering: is it necessary for historians to merge various fields together when arguing something as complex as agency? I have debated including science or psychology in my own research project but I fear the scope of my paper is simply not great enough. Nevertheless, it is useful to see how a historian can successfully integrate various fields of thought in order to create a more robust argument.