Theme: Political Ideas | Content Type: Journal article

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Towards the Vernacular, Away from Politics? Political History after the ‘New Political History’

Rebecca Goldsmith



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This article considers how modern British political history has changed since the ‘new political history’ of the 1990s. It focusses on the ‘vernacular’ histories which have emerged in the last decade or so. The vernacular ‘turn’ is frequently framed by its proponents in opposition to the new political history, with its focus on the rhetoric of politicians and subsequent tendency to reproduce the perspectives of political elites. This article, however, identifies continuities between these approaches, noting their shared interest in advancing a more complex understanding of the relationship between politics and people in the past. It argues that the real challenge posed by the vernacular lies in the necessary reckoning with the ‘apartness’ of politics from the perspective of ordinary people. Yet here too, this piece suggests, the vernacular turn can be seen as the latest stage in a continual rethinking of the relationship between political, social and cultural history.

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    Rebecca Goldsmith

    Rebecca Goldsmith is a PhD student, researching ‘The making of “Labour's working class” 1931–1951’ at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP.

    Articles by Rebecca Goldsmith