American political development

American political development (often abbreviated as APD) is a subfield of political science that studies the historical development of politics in the United States. In American political science departments, it is considered a subfield within American politics and is closely linked to historical institutionalism.

Scholarship in American political development focuses on "the causes, nature, and consequences of key transformative periods and central patterns in American political history."[1] Karen Orren and Stephen Skowronek, co-founders of the subfield's flagship journal in 1986, define American political development as the study of "durable shifts in governing authority" in the United States.[2] The subfield emerged within American political science in the 1980s, alongside a general renewal of work in historical institutionalism, as an "insurgent movement" that sought to refocus attention on the study of historical American politics and to use such historical study to recast the study of contemporary political phenomena.[3]

APD shares overlaps with the research agendas of comparative politics (particularly comparative historical analysis), historical sociology, and political history.[4] However, scholarship in APD differs from political history in that the former's "primary concerns are analytical, conceptual, and theoretical rather than historical."[5]

Major journals in the subfield include the flagship journal Studies in American Political Development, founded in 1986, and The Journal of Political History, founded in 1989. As of 2005, the Politics and History section (founded in 1989) of the American Political Science Association was the eighth-largest in membership out of 35 total sections.[1][6]


  1. 1 2 Kersh, Rogan (2005-01-01). "The Growth of American Political Development: The View from the Classroom". Perspectives on Politics. 3 (2): 335–345. doi:10.1017/s1537592705050243. JSTOR 3688034.
  2. The Search for American Political Development. Cambridge University Press. 2004-05-24. ISBN 9780521547642.
  3. Mettler, Suzanne; Valelly, Richard. "Distinctiveness and Necessity of American Political Development". In Richard M. Valelly, Suzanne Mettler, and Robert C. Lieberman. Oxford Handbook of American Political Development. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697915.013.21.
  4. "American Political Development: Department of Political Science - Northwestern University". Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  5. Galvin, Daniel J. (2015-07-09). Qualitative Methods and American Political Development. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697915.013.36.
  6. "MEMBERSHIP > Organized Sections by Title > Politics and History (Section 24)". American Political Science Association. Retrieved 2016-03-09.

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