If one compares the literature on American government and politics with that which concerns continental Europe, it is quite evident that the two fields of study in the last decades have proceeded on somewhat different assumptions as to the scope and methods of political science. This divergence is of relatively recent origin. Before World War I a substantial number of leading American students in this field had their training in European centers of learning, and brought back with them the rich tradition of European historical, philosophical, and legal scholarship.
With noteworthy exceptions the study of continental European political institutions still tends to be dominated by this historical, philosophical, and legal emphasis. The continuity of scholarship in the continental European area has been broken by the two world wars, by totalitarian regimes, by enemy occupation, and by the persistence of internal antagonism and cleavages. With the exception of a few years in the 1920's, the entire era since World War I has been one of catastrophe or the atmosphere of catastrophe in which scientific inquiry and the renewal of the scientific cadres could be carried on only for short periods, under the greatest handicaps, and with inadequate resources.