Relation Between Political Science and History

The relationship between Political Science and History is very close and intimate.

The two are contributory and complementary.

The intimacy between Political Science and History is well-brought-out in the following couplet of Seeley, an eminent English author on History and Political Science.

“History without Political Science has no fruit,

Political Science without history has no root.”


The affinity between History and Political Science is so intimate that Freeman goes to the extent of saying that “history is past politics and politics present history.”

According to Professor Willoughby, “History gives us the third dimension of Political Science.”


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History provides us with the raw-material of Political Science. It serves as a best kind of laboratory to Political Science. “In the treatise of political science”, says Professor Gilchirt, “we must trace the history or various institutions, not for the sake of history but to enable us to form conclusions of our science.


In so much as History not merely records events but analyses causes and points out tendencies. It overlaps Political Science. Political Science, however, goes further. It uses historical facts to discover general laws and principles; it selects analyses and systematizes the facts of history in order to extract the permanent principles of political life. Political Science, further is teleological, that is to say, it deals with the state as it ought to be whereas History deals with what it has been.”

The Political investigator, goes back to past in order to explore the future. “So conceived history,” says Burns, “will be made something more than the luxury of a scholar. It will be the inspiration of honest politician; it will be real basis for criticism of the present and modification of the future. It will be then recognised to be what it really is – the biography of ideals.”

“With its chronological treatment”, says Lipson, “history offers to the student of politics a sense of growth and development and thus affords insight into the process of social changes”. “To fully comprehend Political Science”, says Dr. Garner, “in its fundamental relations, we must study it historically and to interpret history in its true significance, we must study that politically”.

It is true that Seeley and Freeman have described the relationship between history and political science in the most exaggerated terms, yet it cannot be denied – that in order to fully comprehend the origin and development of political institutions, we have to seek the help of history, because the roots of political institutions have gone deep into the soil of history.

For example, if we want to understand the nature of monarchy in Britain and the working of the British Parliament, we shall have to study the history of Britain thoroughly. At first there was absolute monarchy in England but now there is limited monarchy. Now the question arises how all this happened in England.

The answer to this question is written in the pages of British history. The history of Britain shows us that the English people continually protested and struggled against the despotic monarchy of their own rulers. In the end their constant struggle resulted in the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution and after that the people of England could be successful in preventing the tyranny of their rulers.

This is the reason why Jellinck has remarked that “it is almost a commonplace today to affirm the necessity of historical study as a basis for proper understanding of institutions, whether they are political, legal or social.”

Just as political science is dependent on History, so History is dependent on Political Science. As a matter of fact, they are complementary to each other. Professor Seeley has rightly observed that “politics are vulgar when not liberated by history and history fades into mere literature when it loses sight of its relation to Politics.”

Throwing light on the close intimacy between both the sciences, Burgess points out. “Separate them and the one becomes a cripple, if not corpse, the other a will-of-the wisp.” Our study of history is incomplete if we neglect the political events. For example, nineteenth century European history is incomplete without the study of Nationalism, Imperialism, Individualism, Democracy, Socialism and Communism. The French Revolution was a political incident but it influenced the history of France considerably.

In twentieth century, he dawn of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany is of great political significance. These political incidents have considerably influenced not only the history of Italy and Germany but of the whole world. They proved to be so much exciting that the Second World War broke out. Similarly, in India the political movement led by the great revolutionaries of India (Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil, Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose, etc.) have left their impact on Indian history.

Non-co-operation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, Quit India Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, Simla Conference in 1945, Cabinet Mission Plan, Establishment of Interim Government, Partition of India in 1947, Pakistani, Aggression on Kashmir in October, 1947, Chinese aggression on India in 1962, Indo-Pak conflict in 1965 and 1971 and assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi are some of the important political happenings and without the study of which, Indian history remains incomplete, rather meaningless.

All this clearly indicates that there is a close intimacy between history and political science. Lord Acton has rightly commented. The science of Politics is the one science that is deposited by the stream of history like the grains of gold in the sands of a river”. “Political Science stands midway”, says Lord Bryce, “between history and politics, between the past and present. It has drawn its material from the one; it has to apply it to the other.”

In the modern times scholars like Dunning, Adams, Wilson and Sabine who were more conversant with history, have drawn considerably form history. However, it was Charles Merrium who successfully advocated against historical approach.

Historical approach, he pointed out, leads to historicism. However, modern history has also adopted scientific techniques and is using quantitative data and behavioural models. As history can provide a proper knowledge of any crisis, origin of the institutions and background of political parties, pressure groups and legislatures, so Karl Deutsch has rightly remarked. “We need History not as a handmaiden of social sciences, but as full-fledged partner, guide and friend”.

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