For political scientists, the international relations of the 1930s represent not only a horrifying episode in history, but a case that exemplifies and tests alternative theories of international politics.1 Although international historians and political scientists share a common subject, they approach it quite differently.2 Most historians would shudder to consider the immediate origins of the Second World War as a ‘case’ of something rather than historical phenomena to be understood in their own right; for political scientists, they can only be understood as a case because the very notions of explanation, understanding, and cause-and-effect relations involve comparisons to other situations. The relationships between the case and broader theories flow in both directions. That is, we both use our theories to help understand the case and we use the case as evidence for the validity of the theories, with the danger of circularity being overcome by looking at many aspects and instances.
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