Tag Archives: Raffaela Baritono

Political History Today – Introduction

By Raffaela Baritono (Università di Bologna)

This issue to mark the 30th anniversary of «Ricerche di storia politica» aims to open discussion on the state of political history today: what shape it is in, what challenges are being presented by new trends in history writing. «Ricerche di storia politica» was born in 1986 thanks to the commitment of a handful of then youthful scholars grouped around Paolo Pombeni. Their ambition was to inject new life into political history which, at the time, was being overshadowed in Italy, the United States and various other European history milieus by social history, history of everyday life and bottom-up history. Political history had a reputation for being elitist and traditionalist; in the United States it was disparagingly referred to as «presidential synthesis». The very year our journal was founded, William E. Leuchtenberg wrote an article which, while actually stressing the importance of not sliding over themes of history-writing such as power, the State and institutions, made the comment that anyone presuming to argue that political history was the new historiographic frontier would be laughed out of court. One is reminded of the heroine of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey who famously admitted her lack of interest in a history comprised of «quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all»: funnily enough, whenever the health of political history comes up on the menu, that (or something like it) is still the constant refrain.
Ever since the 1960s (and even much earlier in Paolo Pombeni’s reconstruction, included in this issue), that is to say since the «Annales» challenge and the rise first of social, then cultural, history in a variety of successive «turns», historians have periodically argued over the alleged decline and consequent renaissance of political history, or rather a constantly recurring «new political history». Only last year Fredrik Logevall and Kenneth Osgood deplored the skimpy marginal position this discipline has been relegated to in US university departments. Download the full text at Mulino.it