The relationship between Political Science and History is very close and intimate. John Seeley expressed this relationship in the following couplet—
“History without Political Science has no fruit,
Political Science without History has no root.”
Seeley’s emphasis seems to be rather exaggerated, yet no one can discount the dependence of the two disciplines on one another. The State and its political institutions grow instead of being made.
They are the product of history and in order to understand them fully one must necessarily know the process of their evolution: how they have become what they are, and to what extent they have responded to their original purposes. All our political institutions have a historical basis as they depict the wisdom of generations.
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History furnishes sufficient material for comparison and induction, enabling us to build an ideal political structure of our aspirations. In the absence of historical data, the study of Political Science is sure to become entirely speculative or a priori.
And a priori Political Science, as Laski observes, “Is bound to break down simply because we never start with the clean slate.”
The writings of historians, in brief, form a vast reservoir of material which a student of Political Science can analyse into meaningful patterns and guide him in understanding the present and outlining the future. Moreover, with its chronological treatment, history offers a sense of growth and development thereby providing a base or an insight into the social changes.
Robson is of the opinion that some knowledge of History is clearly indispensable for Political Science and cites the explanation offered by Professor R. Solatu at the Cambridge Conference (from 6 to 10 April, 1952).
Professor Solatu said, “that he had been baffled all through his teaching career, especially during the 20 years he had spent in the Middle East, about how to teach the history of political philosophy to students whose historical background is usually inadequate, and often limited to purely political theory since the French Revolution.”
Where Political Science is not approached through History, he remarked, “The student may easily get a confused outline, in which most historical allusions are lost on him, supplemented by a slight acquaintance with a few classical texts of political philosophy, the background of which he scarcely understands.” Moreover, knowledge of History is particularly necessary in the sphere of Comparative Government.
History, in its turn, has much to borrow from Political Science. Our knowledge of history is meaningless, if the political bearings of events and movements are not adequate evaluated.
The history of the nineteenth-century Europe, for example, is an incompletely narration of facts unless full significance of the movements, like nationalism, imperialism individualism, socialism, etc., are brought out.
Both Political Science and History are contributory and complementary. So intimate is the affinity between the two that Seeley maintained: “Politics is vulgar when not liberalised by History, and History fades into mere literature when it loses sight of its relation to Politics.” Separate them, says Burgess, and the one becomes a cripple, if not a corpse, the other a will-o’-the-wisp.