The professionalization of the study of history in the second half of the nineteenth century, including history's transformation from a literary genre to a scientific discipline, had important consequences not only for historians' perceptions of women but also for women as historians. The disappearance of women as objects of historical studies during this period has elements of irony to it. On the one hand, in writing about women, earlier historians had relied not on firsthand sources but rather on secondary sources; the shift to more rigorous research methods required that secondary sources be disregarded. On the other hand, the development of archival research and the critical editing of collections of documents began to reveal significant new historical evidence concerning women, yet this evidence was perceived as substantially irrelevant: historians saw political history as the general framework for historical writing. Because women were seen as belonging to the private rather than to the public sphere, the discovery of documents about them, or by them, did not, by itself, produce history acknowledging the contributions of women. In addition, genres such as biography and memoir, those forms of "particular history" that women had traditionally authored, fell into disrepute. The dividing line between "particular history" and general history was redefined in stronger terms, widening the gulf between amateur and professional practices of historical research.
The passage is primarily concerned with
describing some effects of the professionalization of the study of history on the writing of women's history
explaining some reasons for the professionalization of the writing of history
discussing the kinds of historical writing traditionally practiced by women
contrasting the approach to the writing of history taken by women with the approach taken by men
criticizing certain changes that occurred in the writing of history during the second half of the nineteenth century