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Politics and history are closely intertwined and historians play a vital role in British public life. Yet, British political history, which has a critical contribution to make for understanding British politics today, faces two urgent challenges. First, academic history has retreated from subjects that remain hugely popular in media and trade publishing and of interest to social scientists, such as the histories of political institutions and formal power structures. Second, political history is disconnected from innovative trends in the wider historiography of modern Britain. Combined, these issues leave political historians in an ambiguous position in relation to the wider field, to other academic disciplines and to contemporary political debates. After discussing these challenges, this introduction surveys this special issue, which reflects on what (if anything) is distinctive about political history as practised today, and what its contribution to historiography, social science and public life should be. It ends by posing key questions for historians of all methodological stripes who investigate Britain's political past.