Intellectual history, though closely related to the history of philosophy and the history of ideas, seeks to contextualise those ideas and to study them in terms of the debates to which they were a contribution. If individuals and “influences” are important, the main focus here is on the ways in which the work of various intellectuals was applied, and how it subsequently affected or modified the political and cultural development of the society in which that work was produced. The main argument, then, underpinning the series is that ideas should not be divorced from the people and the society who create and use, or abuse, them. It is important to understand how ideas were applied both within the elite power groups, but also among “minor” figures/groups who—paradoxically—can often be better guides as to how any particular line of thought is being adopted or rejected. The “reception” of ideas, of course, is difficult to characterise or to measure. But attempts have already been made, and the series will be doing a particularly useful job if it can help to develop a methodology which furthers that aim. The objective is to concentrate attention, whenever possible, on the points of “transmission”, the places (institutions, organisations, societies, clubs, associations, exhibitions...) where ideas are clearly being promoted/promulgated. Rather than identifying which are the “important” ideas (since an idea may be important and yet not be taken up), it is a question of identifying those ideas that are being frequently discussed: in the elite groups (correspondence, speeches, articles, books...) and major institutions (Parliament, Cabinet, local government...), but also in the mass of other social and political institutions, as well as periodicals, newspapers and—closer to us—the audio-visual media.The series aims quite deliberately to be wide-ranging. Areas which prospective contributors to the series might address include: religion, political thought, economic thought, the natural and social sciences, aesthetic theory and the visual arts, music, law and constitutional history.Prospective contributors should provide a concise account (one A4 page) of their research to date, a detailed plan (3 or 4 pages) of the proposed book, together with—wherever possible—a sample chapter, and some information on how the proposed book relates to existing publications in the relevant area.
Trevor Harris is Professor of British Studies at the Université François Rabelais, Tours, France. His research concerns British society and political culture, especially in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.