Definitions of Lenses
Social Lens: This lens focuses on people and their interactions with others. It explores areas of ethnicity, class, and gender. Examining the actions and behaviors of how different groups of people interact with each other—and within their own group—provides historians with a great deal of insight into the past.
Political Lens: Not focusing solely on politicians and governments, the political lens looks at the relationship of those who have power and those who do not. Historians using a “political lens” seek answers about the ways in which legislation and law influence the lives of individuals. How do individuals (and groups of individuals) react and respond to these? What methods do they employ to create and/or change the “rules” under which they live?
Economic Lens: This lens focuses on the local, national, or international economy, all of which are central to the lives of every living person. While it conjures images of corporations and economic systems, the economic lens also focuses on government regulation of businesses, the relationships between capital and labor, business strategies such as marketing or horizontal integration, and the relationships between business and consumers.
Other Lenses: Falling somewhere in between these three broad categories, or perhaps overlapping one or more of them, are other lenses available to historians. Each of these lenses helps clarify a specific area of the human past: the environment, the military, science and technology, and so forth.