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Comparative Historical Analysis

Course Dates and Times

Monday 7 ꟷ Friday 11 February 2022
Minimum of 2 hours llive teaching per day
09:00 ꟷ 12:00 CET

VIR: This is a virtual course

Markus Kreuzer

This  online course provides a highly interactive teaching and learning environment, using state of the art online pedagogical tools. It is designed for a demanding audience (researchers, professional analysts, advanced students) and capped at a maximum of 12 participants so that the Instructor can cater to the specific needs of each individual.

Purpose of the course

This course aims to give you an advanced understanding of the core elements of comparative historical analysis (CHA). It will guide you in exploring four methodological implications of studying macro-historical questions:

  • Look for patterns to help identify relevant research questions
  • Expand your temporal vocabulary
  • Learn the different strands of CHA and the particular tools they use to explore patterns
  • Learn techniques used to make sound causal inferences when explaining causally complex macro-historical phenomena.
ECTS Credits

3 credits Engage fully with class activities
4 credits Complete a post-class assignment

Instructor Bio

Markus Kreuzer is Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. He has worked on the origins of European and post-communist party systems, qualitative methodology and comparative historical analysis.

He teaches a module on comparative historical analysis at the yearly Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research hosted by Syracuse University. Markus is the author of various articles, and the following books:

These are tumultuous times, yet again. A failed insurrection in the world's oldest democracy, a pandemic disrupting global supply chains, ascending China altering global geopolitical dynamics, and global warming challenging everything.

What makes our present so challenging is its transformative and hence historical nature. Whatever historical engine propels the world forward and sideways also transforms research agendas.

Scholars consequently ignore history at their peril and those who do only get results without ever producing genuine answers. This course provides guidance to scholars looking to CHA for methodological advice.

CHA is an umbrella term for a wide range of tools and techniques that scholars have long used to explore a wide range of macro-historical phenomena. Analysing such phenomena poses a distinct set of challenges for standard, more variance-based methodologies, which assume a static and ahistorical world. Those assumptions make it difficult to analyse phenomena like revolutions, waves of democratisation or democratic backsliding, economic crisis, wars, collapse of empires, or, more recently, pandemics.

Analysing such phenomena requires placing time at the centre of analysis to properly understand the temporal dynamics of such changes as well as the qualitative / historical changes they produce. Consequently, this course aims to cover four distinct elements of CHA:

  • Historical Thinking – Defined by an ontological self-awareness that can unfreeze both history and geography to look for patterns that static and placeless theories miss. It is crucial to explore the world as it exists, outside of existing theories. 
  • Temporal Literacy – Using a refined vocabulary is essential for effective historical thinking. It differentiates between contextual, historical time and context-independent physical time.
  • Methodological Bricolage – Placing questions before methods and building a methodological framework is a key part of CHA. It requires craft-like bricolage skills that in turn draw on the tools of three distinct strands: eventful, longue durée and macro-causal analysis.
  • Abductive Inferences – Explanations for macro-historical questions are often too complex to fit the standard, variance-based causal inference strategies. CHA prefers more abductive modes of causal explanations that go back and forth between testing theoretical propositions and updating in the light of new inductive insights. It relies particularly on historical explanations and process tracing to make valid causal inferences.

How the course will work online

The course employs a flipped classroom pedagogy. Each of the five daily modules will involve four to five 10-minute pre-recorded lectures (e.g. for a daily total of no more than 60 minutes) as well as a set of readings. The lectures and readings will provide background information for the two daily hour-long discussion-based, synchronous seminars.

The recorded lectures and seminars will be linked together by:

  • brief diagnostic quizzes for each lecture so the Instructor can assess your mastery of the material
  • a discussion board for you to raise questions about lectures and readings
  • individual or group exercises applying the lecture and reading content to actual research problems.

These exercises will be carried out during seminar sessions, when we will also discuss the readings and the lecture material.

If you are already doing (at least) dissertation level research on macro-historical questions, you will be able to use your own projects in lieu of the in-class exercises.

No formal prerequisites. You are unlikely to have had any formal training in CHA because its methodological tools are generally used in an implicit manner.

You will benefit most from this course if you have an interest in history, social or political change, or broad curiosity around the forces transforming our societies. Or, you might be familiar with one or more of the following literatures:

  • comparative political economy
  • economic sociology / history
  • democratisation
  • development of the state
  • regime changes
  • origins of the welfare state
  • social movement
  • historical sociology
  • postcolonialism
  • global migration
  • gender / race studies
  • international political economy
  • security studies
  • global history

Each course includes pre-course assignments, including readings and pre-recorded videos, as well as daily live lectures totalling at least two hours. The instructor will conduct live Q&A sessions and offer designated office hours for one-to-one consultations.

Please check your course format before registering.

Online courses

Live classes will be held daily for two hours on a video meeting platform, allowing you to interact with both the instructor and other participants in real-time. To avoid online fatigue, the course employs a pedagogy that includes small-group work, short and focused tasks, as well as troubleshooting exercises that utilise a variety of online applications to facilitate collaboration and engagement with the course content.

In-person courses

In-person courses will consist of daily three-hour classroom sessions, featuring a range of interactive in-class activities including short lectures, peer feedback, group exercises, and presentations.


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc.). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.