The history of emotions is a field of historical research concerned with human emotion, especially variations among cultures and historical periods in the experience and expression of emotions. Beginning in the 20th century with writers such as Lucien Febvre and Peter Gay, an expanding range of methodological approaches is being applied.
In the last decade, the history of emotions has developed into an increasing productive and intellectually stimulating area of historical research. Although there are precursors of the history of emotions - especially Febvre's Histoire des Sensibilités or Gay's Psychohistory - the field converges methodologically with newer historiographical approaches such as conceptual history, historical constructivism and the history of the body.
Similar to the sociology of emotions or anthropology of emotions, the history of emotions is based on the assumption that not only the expression of feelings, but also the feelings themselves are learned. Culture and history are changing and so are feelings as well as their expression. The social relevance and potency of emotions is historically and culturally variable. In the view of many historians, emotion is, therefore, just as fundamental a category of history, as class, race or gender.
A number of different methodological approaches have been discussed in recent years. Some historians of the emotions limit their research to the historical analysis of emotional norms and rules under the heading of emotionology. Particularly in the recent past, however, the methodological spectrum of the history of emotions has expanded to include performative, constructivist and practice theory approaches. Currently fundamental methodological concepts include: emotives, emotional habitus and emotional practice. Additionally there are several terms that describe the different scope and binding effect of feeling cultures such as emotional community, emotional regime, and emotional style. More recently, the history of emotions has engaged with recent social and cultural turns in the neurosciences, positing the history of emotions as a component part of a broader biocultural historicism.