What is Political History Now?



Of all forms of historical writing, political history is surely the one that needs no justification. Since it treats questions of power and resistance, authority and legitimacy, order and obedience, not only professional historians but everyone hoping to live out their days in a modicum of peace and prosperity has a stake in such scholarship. Questions of the ways in which political systems evolve and gain legitimacy, the character and actions of their leaders, and the conditions and consequences of their breakdown are likely to remain absorbing. Debates over the character of the Nazi state or the causes of the French Revolution will never be declared decisively ‘over’, nor will such subjects cease to form the backbone of our undergraduate teaching syllabus anytime soon.


Party Politics Political Culture Literary Critic Political Affiliation Political History 
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Notes and references

  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
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    For one important statement of this thesis, see Eugenio Biagini and Alastair Reid, ‘Currents of radicalism, 1850–1914’, introduction to their Currents of Radicalism: Popular Radicalism, Organised Labour and Party Politics in Britain, 1850–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    The landmark work being Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Anna Clark and Sonya Rose both extended this approach, more or less uncritically, to the working class:Google Scholar
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    This historiography is far too extensive to summarize here. One particularly fine early study of women’s involvement in radical politics is Barbara Taylor, Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983)Google Scholar
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  33. Pat Thane, ‘Government and Society in England and Wales, 1750–1914’, in F.M.L. Thompson (ed.) The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750–1950, vol. 1, Social Agencies and Institutions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 1–61.Google Scholar
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    Max Weber, ‘Politics as a Vocation’, in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), pp. 77–9.Google Scholar
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  48. 31.
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  49. 32.
    Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Consumption and Controls, 1939–1955 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  50. 33.
    See, especially, R.J. Overy, War and Economy in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), particularly chapter 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 34.
    C.A. Bayly, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830 (London: Longman, 1989)Google Scholar
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  54. 35.
    Mrinalini Sinha, ‘Britishness, Clubbability, and the Colonial Public Sphere: The Genealogy of an Imperial Institution in Colonial India’, Journal of British Studies, vol. 40 (October 2001), especially pp. 491, 521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2002

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