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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Both politicians and historians have circled nervously around the precise relationship between political ideas and political actions in the past 200 years. This chapter evaluates the different ways in which historians have considered the role of ideas within politics and, in particular, challenges the unhelpful dichotomy of framing politics as either an ‘ideological’ or a ‘pragmatic’ activity. It is concerned, therefore, with the interactions between ideas and action, or theory and practice, and the ways in which political ‘ideas’ may be historicized, reflecting too on the implications of this for framing political action as ‘high’ or ‘low’ (or ‘popular’). Attention is paid to the importance of language in shaping political thought and action.

Keywords: politics, political history, Britain, intellectual history, ideology

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