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date: 17 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

A focus on the national institutions of the British state and the men who populated them was the first means by which many understood ‘political history’. This ‘high politics’ remains a popular way to understand the subject. Yet, ‘high politics’ has also been criticized by radical advocates of ‘history from below’ for its methodological and political conservatism. This chapter assesses the merits of focusing on Westminster, Whitehall, and its denizens by employing insights from political science, notably the notion of structure and agency as well as the literature associated with new institutionalism. The chapter also assesses the contribution of the ‘Peterhouse School’—one long reviled by many high-political historians as well as by historians of popular social movements—as a way of bridging the gap between the two methods of conceiving the dynamics of Britain’s modern political history.

Keywords: politics, political history, Britain, historiography, governance, Parliament, Maurice Cowling

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