Recent claims about the convergence in methodology between ‘high politics’ and the ‘new political history’ remain unclear. The first part of this review examines two deeply entrenched misunderstandings of key works of high politics from the 1960s and 1970s, namely that they proposed elitist arguments about the ‘closed’ nature of the political world, and reductive arguments about the irrelevance of ‘ideas’ to political behaviour. The second part traces the intellectual ancestry of Maurice Cowling's thinking about politics, and places it within an interpretative tradition of social science. The formative influences of R. G. Collingwood and Michael Oakeshott are examined, and Mark Bevir's Logic of the history of ideas is used to highlight how Cowling's approach can be aligned with ‘new political history’.
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