The subject matter of local history is said to be local communities. Several characteristics are often mentioned - shared resource base, stability, common history and traditions, shared culture, belonging and group identification, a certain autonomy, internal interaction and a certain isolation. When these variables are systematized, the traditional concept may be pinned down to internal cohesion, external borders, residential stability and territoriality. However, the American social scientist Charles Tilly has claimed that this notion refers to a fictitious unity. Several criticisms have been directed at the concept, such as drawing borders too strictly, underestimating mobility and migration beyond the local community and stressing internal homogeneity too much. Yet, sociology and local history have clung to the notion, due to a need for constructing cohesion while the world of the 19th and 20th centuries experienced huge transformations. As an alternative to the territorially bound concept, a relational approach is suggested. This opens for thinking beyond the either-or logic. People may participate in more than one community, for example digital communities. Finally, some suggested solutions are addressed, such as John Barnes' network analysis. Yet there is need for further thinking, Otherwise, local history may find itself without a scientifically defined subject matter.
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