Political history

Political history

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Political history is the narrative and analysis of political events, ideas, movements, and leaders. It is distinct from, but related to, other fields of history such as Diplomatic history
Diplomatic history
Diplomatic history deals with the history of international relations between states. Diplomatic history can be different from international relations in that the former can concern itself with the foreign policy of one state while the latter deals with relations between two or more states...

, social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

, economic history
Economic history
Economic history is the study of economies or economic phenomena in the past. Analysis in economic history is undertaken using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and by applying economic theory to historical situations and institutions...

, and military history
Military history
Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, their cultures, economies and changing intra and international relationships....

, as well as constitutional history and public history.

Generally, political history focuses on events relating to nation-state
Nation-state
The nation state is a state that self-identifies as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign entity for a nation as a sovereign territorial unit. The state is a political and geopolitical entity; the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity...

s and the formal political process. According to Hegel, Political History "is an idea of the state with a moral and spiritual force beyond the material interests of its subjects: it followed that the state was the main agent of historical change" This contrasts with one, for instance, social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

, which focuses predominantly on the actions and lifestyles of ordinary people, or people's history
People's history
A people's history or history from below is a type of historical narrative which attempts to account for historical events from the perspective of common people rather than political and other leaders.-Description:...

, which is historical work from the perspective of common people.

In two decades from 1975 to 1995, the proportion of professors of history in American universities identifying with social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 rose from 31% to 41%, while the proportion of political historians fell from 40% to 30%. In the history departments of British universities in 2007, of the 5723 faculty members, 1644 (29%) identified themselves with social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 while political history came next with 1425 (25%).

Political world history


The political history of the world
Political history of the world
The political history of the world is the history of the various political entities created by the human race throughout their existence and the way these states define their borders...

 is the history of the various political entities created by the Human race throughout their existence on Earth and the way these states define their borders. The history of political thinking
History of political thinking
The history of political thought goes back to antiquity. The political history of the world, and thus the history of political thinking by man, stretches up though the Medieval period and the Renaissance...

 goes back to antiquity. Political history, and thus the history of political thinking throughout human existence stretches though up to Medieval period and the Renaissance. In the Age of Enlightenment, political entities expanded from basic systems of self-governance and monarchy to the complex democratic and communist systems that exist of the Industrialied and the Modern Era, in parallel, political systems have expanded from vaguely defined frontier-type boundaries, to the definite boundaries existing today.

Aspects of political history


The first "scientific" political history was written by Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke
Leopold von Ranke was a German historian, considered one of the founders of modern source-based history. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources , an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics .-...

 in Germany in the 19th century. His methodologies profoundly affected the way historians critically examine sources; see historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 for a more complete analysis of the methodology of various approaches to history. An important aspect of political history is the study of ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 as a force for historical change. One author asserts that "political history as a whole cannot exist without the study of ideological differences and their implications." Studies of political history typically centre around a single nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

 and its political change and development. Some historians identify the growing trend towards narrow specialization in political history during recent decades: "while a college professor in the 1940s sought to identify himself as a "historian", by the 1950s "American historian" was the designation."

From the 1970s onwards, new movements sought to challenge traditional approaches to political history. The development of social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 and women's history
Women's history
Women's history is the study of the role that women have played in history, together with the methods needed to study women. It includes the study of the history of the growth of woman's rights throughout recorded history, the examination of individual women of historical significance, and the...

 shifted the emphasis away from the study of leaders and national decisions, and towards the role of ordinary citizens; "...by the 1970s "the new social history" began replacing the older style. Emphasis shifted to a broader spectrum of American life, including such topics as the history of urban life, public health, ethnicity, the media, and poverty." As such, political history is sometimes seen as the more 'traditional' kind of history, in contrast with the more 'modern' approaches of other fields of history.

Britain


Readman (2009) discusses the historiography of British political history in the 20th century. It describes how British political scholarship mostly ignored 20th century history due to temporal proximity to the recent past, the unavailability of primary sources, and the potential for bias. The article explores how transitions in scholarship have allowed for greater interest in 20th century history among scholars, which include less reliance on archival sources, methodological changes in historiography, and the flourishing of new forms of history such as oral history.

Germany


In the course of the 1960s, however, some German historians (notably Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler
Hans-Ulrich Wehler is a German historian known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School", and for his critical studies of 19th century Germany.-Career:...

 and his cohort) began to rebel against this idea, instead suggesting a "Primacy of Domestic Politics" (Primat der Innenpolitik), in which the insecurities of (in this case German) domestic policy drove the creation of foreign policy. This led to a considerable body of work interpreting the domestic policies of various states and the ways this influenced their conduct of foreign policy.

France


The French Annales School
Annales School
The Annales School is a group of historians associated with a style of historiography developed by French historians in the 20th century. It is named after its scholarly journal Annales d'histoire économique et sociale, which remains the main source of scholarship, along with many books and...

had already put an emphasis on the role of geography and economics on history, and of the importance of broad, slow cycles rather than the constant apparent movement of the "history of events" of high politics. It downplayed politics and diplomacy. The most important work of the Annales school, Fernand Braudel
Fernand Braudel
Fernand Braudel was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects, each representing several decades of intense study: The Mediterranean , Civilization and Capitalism , and the unfinished Identity of France...

's The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, contains a traditional Rankean diplomatic history of Philip II's Mediterranean policy, but only as the third and shortest section of a work largely focusing on the broad cycles of history in the longue durée ("long term"). The Annales were broadly influential, leading to a turning away from political history towards an emphasis on broader trends of economic and environmental change.

Social history


In the 1960s and 1970s, an increasing emphasis on giving a voice to the voiceless and writing the history of the underclasses, whether by using the quantitative statistical methods of social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 or the more qualitative assessments of cultural history
Cultural history
The term cultural history refers both to an academic discipline and to its subject matter.Cultural history, as a discipline, at least in its common definition since the 1970s, often combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at popular cultural traditions and cultural...

, also undermined the centrality of diplomatic history to the historical discipline.

See also

  • International history
  • Historiography
    Historiography
    Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

  • Diplomatic history
    Diplomatic history
    Diplomatic history deals with the history of international relations between states. Diplomatic history can be different from international relations in that the former can concern itself with the foreign policy of one state while the latter deals with relations between two or more states...

  • Social history
    Social history
    Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...


Further reading

  • Elman, C., & Elman, M. F. (2001). Bridges and boundaries: historians, political scientists, and the study of international relations. BCSIA studies in international security. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Elton, G. R. The practice of history (1968), British emphasis.
  • French, John D.. "Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico: The Emergence of a New Feminist Political History," Latin American Politics and Society, Summer 2008, Vol. 50 Issue 2, pp 175-184
  • Huret, Romain, “All in the Family Again? Political Historians and the Challenge of Social History,” Journal of Policy History, 21 (no. 3, 2009), 239–63.
  • Pasquino, Gianfranco. "Political History in Italy," Journal of Policy History July 2009, Vol. 21 Issue 3, pp 282-297; discusses political historians such as Silvio Lanaro, Aurelio Lepre, and Nicola Tranfaglia, and studies of Fascism, the Italian Communist party, the role of the Christian Democrats in Italian society, and the development of the Italian parliamentary Republic.
  • Readman, Paul. "The State of Twentieth-Century British Political History," Journal of Policy History, July 2009, Vol. 21 Issue 3, pp 219-238
  • Sreedharan, E. (2007). A manual of historical research methodology. Trivandrum, Centre for South Indian Studies.
  • Sreedharan, E. (2004). A textbook of historiography: 500 BC to AD 2000. New Delhi: Orient Longman.

External links