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The study of British politics has become markedly more professionalised in recent decades, representing a wide range of intellectual interests and methodological approaches. At the same time a sense of managerialism has overtaken what had been a self-regulated discipline. This article makes two claims. First, it is increasingly difficult to speak of a ‘British tradition’ of political studies, as distinct from an American one. The sense that British academia is ‘different’ and needs to hold American influence at bay is misguided. The second is that in the field of British–EU studies it is time to move beyond the idea that British history and tradition are the best explanations for 50 years of awkwardness. Academics have been prone to taking politicians’ claims a little too seriously, and this has retarded careful evaluation of competing explanations.