What is Political History?

In the continuing series 'What is...history?' eight historians define political history - an area sometimes regarded as 'narrow', 'elitist' or simply 'dull', but now enjoying a recrudescence.

T.P. Wiseman (Professor of Classics at the University of Exeter)

Political history is the history of the polis, the res publica, the citizen body; political events are what was done by it, to it, or in its name. Since a citizen body is made up of individuals, the rules which constitute it are the basis of the subject. The first questions should be: who? how? where? when? We need to know the limits of the franchise, the machinery of citizen assembly, the frequency, physical conditions and rules of order of their meetings, the limits of their decision-making powers. The citizen body usually deputes responsibility to a deliberative or advisory council: how were its members chosen? how long did they serve? where, when and how were their meetings held? It must choose executive officers to carry out its decisions and look after the administration of its business: eligibility? means of election? length of service? extent of powers?

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