What did we think before that?

In his review of the book in the April 22, 1965 edition of the New York Review of books, Eric Hobsbawm apparently tells us that:
It may seem incredible that nobody tried before to discover what sort of people actually stormed the Bastille, but Rudé is the first to have done so.
On the publisher's web page about the book we read more or less the same thing, though at greater length:
Who took part in the widespread disturbances which periodically shook eighteenth-century London? What really motivated the food rioters who helped to spark off the French Revolution? How did the movement of agricultural labourers destroying new machinery spread from one village to another in the English countryside? How did the sans-culottes organise in revolutionary Paris?

George Rude was the first historian to ask such questions and in doing so he identified ‘the faces in the crowd’ in some of the crucial episodes in modern European history.
A profile on Rude puts the author, and his work, in an interesting historical perspective.

Frankly, from a distance of 40 years, it really does seem rather incredible that he was the first. Though for many years I haven't read many history books, I can't seem to recall when any of those that I last read were "political histories" rather than "social histories".

Go to: Are crowds really that smart?