Is Historiography and Sociology Merging? An Example; Paul Revere’s Network.
The primary source for this thesis is Dr. Shin-Kap Han’s article “The Other Ride of Paul Revere: The Brokerage Role in the Making of the American Revolution”.[i] At the time of his article he was a professor at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He felt the role played by Paul Revere through the entire post-revolutionary period was made obscure by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem “The Mid-night ride of Paul Revere,”[ii] written eighty-six-years after the event. Han emphasized that, “this gap in the historical narrative suggest that Revere’s real importance is not to be found in that one spectacular exploit.” We subscribe to his theory. America today has under-valued Paul Revere’s contribution to the nation.
Longfellow wrote the poem in 1861 as a patriotic reminder to the soldiers of the Civil War of their grandparent’s commitment to the first revolution. Longfellow made several historical errors particularly of Revere’s initial location before he rode and his direct involvement in hanging the lanterns. The intent of Han’s article was to show Paul Revere’s more complex role in the “mobilization process” that brought and held together “men of all orders” from the rise up to the Revolution. Han does conclude that Paul Revere was a “bridge” that connected “disparate organizational elements of the movement, thus bringing together men of all orders to forge an emerging movement.”[iii]
Han used a unique sociological formula known as metadata to track Paul Revere’s interaction with various groups. The mid-night ride was one of a dozen or so completed by Revere on behalf of the founding fathers and perhaps none more hazardous. However, Han contended and most historians agreed, Revere’s role in history far exceeded his exploits on horseback.
Han’s method is quite direct. He explained the fragile historical social structure of Colonial Boston. He provided definitions of all sociological concepts for the reader and he released the article to the well informed 99th meeting of the American Sociological Association in 2004.
In part this is a qualitative study as Han assumes the role of historian. He uses the metadata program to support historical assumptions with objective quantitative data. In a positive way he discusses the limits on his research. He refers to his article as an intersection between historiography and social networks. In the end he concluded his metadata concepts allowed for “a systematic analytical tools to be used, in drawing from literature the historical social networks.”[iv]
It is easy to agree with all of his assumptions and conclusions with one inversion, Samuel Adams was the “mobilizer” and Paul Revere was the “bridge” to the social network of Colonial Boston.
Further research is definitely needed. Han used 137 men in his scatter diagram to determine Paul Revere’s social network. A scatter diagram is a graph plotting the relationship between two or more variables on a horizontal and vertical axis. Han used very similar membership lists of Colonial Boston to plot the attendees at six different organizations or specific gatherings.
The Massachusetts Historical Society has a list of 315 possible associates of Paul Revere all in one room on the same evening, at a Dorchester Inn. A previous graduate student doing research at the Society found the list in their archives. In a recent visit by me a reference librarian remembered this list. It did not show in the Library's online database. This might suggest that Han did not know of its existence. Had he been aware of the list most likely it would have been incorporated in his analysis. Or he may have discounted the list due to its size and since each name is written in the same hand in the guestbook of that night. Consequently, the probability of names being spelled wrong would be a concern. Then again, wouldn’t the Sons of Liberty have been more secretive? There are seven or more other lists that need to be added to Han’s metadata.
Han has taken metadata further than any other sociologist studying Colonial America. He energized his article with an accurate historical background of some of the events, social clubs, political issues and economic crisis that enveloped Colonial Boston. This effort was not required to prove his metadata theory or to impress his superiors, but it certainly created more empathy and distinguished him.
If Han incorporated the British enemies list, the south and west caucuses, the Dorchester guest list and the three Free Mason chapters in Boston, his survey would have been broader. If the additional lists were incorporated a more complex social network with Samuel Adams at the hub and Paul Revere as the trusted messenger may well have been the conclusion.
We look forward to further integration of sociology and historiography at the department level among all universities and colleges.
 For a view of Han’s protected metadata diagram see page 155 Figure 4 and table 1, page 156 of his thesis.
[i] Han, Shin-Kap. "THE OTHER RIDE OF PAUL REVERE: THE BROKERAGE ROLE IN THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION."" Mobilization: An International Quarterly.
[ii] This poem is in the public domain
[iii] Han, Shin-Kap. "THE OTHER RIDE OF PAUL REVERE: THE BROKERAGE ROLE IN THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION."" Mobilization: An International Quarterly. P.143.
[iv] IBID Han paraphrased page 144, first paragraph.
Han, Shin-Kap. "THE OTHER RIDE OF PAUL REVERE: THE BROKERAGE ROLE IN THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION."" Mobilization: An International Quarterly.