I am looking for a textbook or a book covering the history of political thought in Europe up to the current times. Could you recommend one that is readable for a lay person and offers a good walkthrough and systematization of political ideas and ideologies? E.g. how did conservatism, liberalism, socialism etc. came about in the centuries past, how did they relate to earlier ideas between the antics and then, how did the ideas relate to each other (perhaps emerging as reactions to each other and to certain historical events); what newer ideas followed these; and what surrounds us in the 21st century?

(My motivation is that I wish to better understand the context of today's politics, primarily in Europe, and to choose my own political actions more consciously. In this questions I am focusing on the level of ideas and ideologies rather than personalities, parties or organizations, or other facets of politics.)

  • @JJJ, that is unfortunate. I am an active user at Statistics SE, Economics SE and Quantitative Finance SE where reference requests of this kind would be on topic, but Politics SE may be different; I am new here. Jul 27 at 17:22
  • @JJJ, would it then be OK if I posted this question on Meta? Jul 27 at 18:12
  • @JJJ, thank you, you have been kind and helpful! Jul 27 at 18:15
  • I've migrated it there based on this answer. If other users disagree then they can vote to close, so we'll see how the community thinks about it. :)
    – JJJ Mod
    Jul 27 at 18:16
  • I voted to close because I’m fairly sure this is off topic here. Maybe try on history (if this gets closed)? (If you’re not sure, you could ask in their chat to check) Jul 28 at 0:31
  • I’m voting to close this question because the meta consensus (per the negative score on this answer) is that these requests should not be asked on meta either.
    – JJJ Mod
    Oct 1 at 21:34

I suggest two sources: (1) history of philosophy, and (2) political economy (not to be confused with economics).


Sabine & Thorson "A History of Political Theory" is a comprehensive textbook covering the period from Ancient Greece to 1930s. Anecdotal evidence suggests the book is quite objective in presenting the different ideas.

The period beyond 1930s is not covered, so you will have to supplement the book with another ane covering the postmodern times and what came after that.

  • ‘anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s quite objective’ is an interesting statement. Aug 8 at 6:49
  • I intended this as a neutral way of saying that a friend of mine who is a specialist in the field told me the book is quite objective. Not being a native speaker, I might have said something stupid :) Aug 8 at 6:54
  • oh, no, I’m not saying that either the statement or how you said it was stupid, your english is great, I just thought it was funny because of the juxtaposition between ‘objective’ and ‘anecdotal’ :D Aug 8 at 7:37

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