The American Sociologist

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 217–258 | Cite as

The Polish Peasant in Oberlin and Chicago

The Intellectual Trajectory of W. I. Thomas
Article

Abstract

This paper examines the historical sources for W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki’s celebrated monograph on The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. It first characterizes the work itself, a monumental interpretive casebook of largely biographical material about individuals and groups. It then seeks the origins of these qualities, looking first at Thomas’s prior work, then at the personal influence of Florian Znaniecki and Robert Park. Since these sources do not sufficiently account for the unique qualities of the work, we then turn to three other important sources: 1) the casebook tradition in the social reform literature and beyond, 2) the psychiatric concept of the life history, and 3) the literary sources that Thomas had taught in his prior career as an English professor. We close by identifying the autobiographical roots of the work in Thomas’s own life history.

Keywords

Chicago School Life History Casebook Literature Psychiatry Personality Social Change W. I. Thomas Adolf Meyer 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Collegium HelveticumZurichSwitzerland

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