A "big data" project for its day, the SSRC's The American Soldier series was deeply influential in shaping the social science of military organization and in developing new research methods. On the occasion of its four volumes and the underlying trove of data becoming openly accessible, Items republishes several archival essays on The American Soldier. Here, Rodrigo Ugarte provides an overview of the project's origins and impact.
From Our Archives
In this piece from the Items archive, Carl I. Hovland, Arthur A. Lumsdaine, and Fred D. Sheffield encapsulate the work of volume III of The American Soldier series, Experiments on Mass Communication, which analyzed efforts at indoctrination and instruction conducted on soldiers during World War II. In particular, they highlight the controlled experiment comparisons on responses to the US Army’s “Why We Fight” film series, as well as the limitations of conducting research on the effectiveness of various media of communication.
Studies in Social Psychology in World War II: The Work of the War Department’s Research Branch, Information and Education Divisionby Items Editors
Almost 70 years ago, the SSRC organized and assembled the publication of a four-volume series titled Social Psychology in World War II, now commonly referred to as The American Soldier. This 1949 piece from the Items archive introduces the series, summarizing each volume’s contents, and focuses on the first two volumes, which aimed to heighten social scientists’ theoretical and empirical knowledge of social behavior through the research conducted on World War II soldiers during the war.
Forty years after the publication of the first volume of The American Soldier, John Clausen, one of the series’ contributors, reflected on the project’s history and the volumes’ impact in this 1989 Items archive piece. Clausen explains how the four-volume series anthologized the research conducted by the War Department Research Branch during World War II, which studied soldiers’ attitudes on a wide range of issues, from the war effort to unit desegregation, and utilized various methodologies. In particular, he highlights the role the SSRC and its associates played in developing the Research Branch and the volumes.
We continue republishing Items archival essays from a 1999 special issue on the 2000 census with this contribution on how technical questions of measurement are intertwined with political interests. Margo Anderson and Stephen Fienberg analyze how, given the stakes of reapportionment that census results determine, the statistical methods to compensate for census undercounts are politicized. Especially opposed by the Republican Party in the run-up to the 2000 census were attempts to use sampling techniques to more accurately count poor and minority populations.
The Census of 2000: Our Source of Information about Who We Are, How We Got Here and Where We Are Going in the Next Centuryby Items Editors
Ahead of the 2000 census, Reynolds Farley, in this 1999 piece from the Items archive, delves into the importance of the decennial census for the United States. Highlighting contemporary shifts in the social and economic status of Americans, he stresses the role of the census in understanding these changes at a deeper level, both for policymakers and social scientists, with the economic, racial and ethnic, geographic, and family data it provides. Readers will observe a range of issues relevant to current debates regarding the 2020 census.
At a moment in which the Council was exploring the privatization of risk at the beginning of the twenty-first century, former SSRC program director Yasmine Ergas explored the SSRC’s important role in the development of the social security system during the Great Depression. For almost a decade, the Council convened social scientists and policymakers, issuing studies and reports related to the construction of social insurance for those suffering the greatest effects of the crash. The SSRC’s Committee on Social Security contributed to the knowledge base upon which one of the New Deal’s most important interventions was based.
In this 1957 piece from the Items archives, Donald Marquis (then an SSRC board member) reports on how the social sciences figured into UNESCO’s General Conference held the previous year in New Delhi. The author discusses the Council’s role in shaping the US delegation’s contribution to the conference, and concludes with thoughts on how the SSRC might nurture international social science collaboration. Among the key issues for social science at the New Delhi event was the social implications of technological change. Le plus ça change…!
Alongside Deborah Coen’s essay on the history of climatology, we republish an article from the Items archive from 1956 on what was then a still emergent field of the history and sociology of science. Written by Richard Shryock, the chair of a joint committee of the SSRC and the National Research Council on the History of Science, the essay explores historical connections between the development of the medical and social sciences. The Committee’s work culminated in the volume Critical Problems in the History of Science, edited by Marshall Clagett.