What is the relationship between History and Political Science?

Political history demands a great share in the workshop of history, as politics is an important activity which brings about radical, speedy and far-reaching changes. Politics is instrumental in shaping the constitutional, legal, diplomatic, military, economic and even social problems of a country. Politics happened to be such a favourite branch of English historians that they went to the extent of saying that all history is political history, that history is the root and politics is the fruit, and that past politics is present history. At every turn from the earliest times down to the present period, it is the political activity either through monarchy or oligarchy, or aristocracy or democracy or tyranny or dictatorship that has dominated the life of mankind. At all times and in every country, either only one or only a few have ruled the many. Even in democracy, once the elections are over, power rests only in the hands of a few.

As history takes stock of unique events, it is the story of the shepherd that attracts the attention rather than the flock of sheep, whose behaviour is steady. The king has been called the shepherd of his people. The modern Presidents, Prime Ministers, Parliaments, Senates and other political agencies are so much in the news that polities happen to be the mainstream of all history, and demands the lion’s share of a historian’s attention.

Acton says that politics is like the grains of gold deposited by the stream of history in the sands of time. Polybius says that the use of history lies in learning the art of politics. Sir John Seeley says, “Politics are vulgar when they are not liberalised by history, and history fades into mere literature when it loses sight of its relation to practical politics.”

Related to politics is constitutional history which assists in the understanding of the political trend in any period. The development of political institutions, rules, regulations, rights and duties, law and mode of justice, executive, legislative and administrative functions, economic and finan- cial implications, nature of bureaucracy, fundamental principles of State policy are all defined under constitutional history. Certain countries have rigid and written constitutions whereas others have flexible and unwritten constitutions, such as in England. Constitutional history traces the origin, development, nature and functions of political institutions. The evolution of the principle of constitutionalism is impersonal and has a relationship with the history of ideas.

Legal history is also assuming importance these days, particularly in societies where the Rule of Law is the way of life. The laws of Manu, the Code of Hamurabi, The Code of Justinian, the Code of Napoleon, The Indian Penal Code of Macaulay, Holds- worth’s History of English Law, Blackstone’s Commentaries of the Laws of England and PV Kane’s History of the Dharmasastras are all very important works on legal history. Diplomatic history is a specialized branch of political history. It deals with principles of international relations. Ambassadors are the links between nations and they are the custodians and practitioners of diplomacy. Such issues as balance of power, cold war, international peace, disarmament, outlawry of war have assumed great importance in recent times. Again, military history is an important chapter in political history, wherein wars, battles, campaigns and conquests figure very prominently. It deals with the causes of a war, strategy and tactics in the war, war weapons, mode of fighting and similar topics. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, The Great Rebellion by Clarendon, and several histories on the American Civil War, the World Wars, and the Indian Mutiny have all added to historical literature. Since wars are psychological factors in the life of man, and since no age and no country is free from warfare, military history is as prominent in history as political history.

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