What is Intellectual History?
Distilled 'spirit of the age' or a branch of sociology? Great men and their thoughts - with a lucky dip for culture vultures - or elite ideas whose time had come? Five historians discuss ground rules for the study of intellectual history.
Single-sentence answers to such definitional questions rarely get us very far. The labels of all the various branches of history are flags of convenience not names of essences, and the real question concerns the distinctiveness and validity of their claims to occupy a separate room in Clio's spacious house. For intellectual history most certainly is a part of history, part of the attempt to understand past human experience.