Journal of Policy History


Diplomatic History and Policy History: Finding Common Ground

Robert J. McMahona1

a1 University of Florida

It is difficult to imagine two fields of scholarly inquiry with so much in common and yet so little interaction as diplomatic and policy history. Policy, policy process, policymakers, policy origins, policy intentions, policy consequences—those terms and ones of a similar stripe roll just as easily off the tongues and word processors of diplomatic historians as of self-described policy historians. Moreover, the questions asked and the methods employed by the two groups of scholars bear a striking resemblance. Both fields focus perforce on the state and state-centered actors, concern themselves with elite-level decision making, interrogate fundamental issues of power within societies, and concentrate overwhelmingly on the twentieth century to the relative neglect of earlier periods. Each field occupies as well an embattled position within the larger historical profession, where social and cultural history have predominated since the 1960s.