The purpose of this essay is to discuss the relationship of history and political science within the broader fields of the humanities and the social sciences. It will also discuss the nature of the humanities and of the social sciences.
The study of the humanities goes back to the foundation of the European universities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The discipline, growing essentially out of the revival of classical studies that set off the Renaissance in Italy, was called the humanities because it dealt primarily with human values, rather than primarily with theology, and hoped to elucidate human nature rather than the nature of the divine. Human values and human nature were understood largely in religious terms in that period, of course, but given the Renaissance interest in re-appropriating and revaluing the classical world, the scope of the humanities included more than the strict Christianity of the early Middle Ages.
From that origin, the humanities have retained their earmark characteristic of being primarily concerned with the study and understanding of human values, however these might be expressed in a specific field. It is understood that a value is not a fact, but always something more like an a priori assumption. It is a given, not a conclusion, and cannot be objectively observed. It does not exist independently of the humans beings who hold it.
The social sciences are all of far more recent origin. Modeled at first on the physical sciences, which had already been a discrete field of study for centuries, they began to evolve as separate disciplines, spinning off from the general field of philosophy, in the nineteenth century. The basic concept in all social sciences is that it is possible to study human behavior objectively, and to create descriptions of behavior that all objective observers can agree upon. The holding of values is one observable form of human behavior, and as such can be desc...