What is historical materialism?

What is historical materialism? Here are some definitions.

Noun
  1. A Marxist methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, looking for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans collectively produce the necessities of life.
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Examples
So there we are, Kamm's tortoise is belly up and, for what its worth, only historical materialism can stand it back on its feet.
In that same year Arturo Labriola published his most important work on historical materialism.
This is at heart a study of labor relations in the production of coffee, through the framework of historical materialism.
Interesting, but can Stoppard always have been so ignorant as to have thought that socialism was synonymous with historical materialism?
The working class uprisings against Stalinism did not refute historical materialism.
The idea of a propaganda department is basically against the historical materialism of Karl Marx.

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