—“How do you feel about just general ‘intellectual history’? Has anyone written useful accounts of the appropriate methodology or does one have to approach it piecemeal?”— A Friend.
1) the lessons of history
2) the story of philosophy
3) the greatest minds and ideas of all time.
Now, Durant is a proper catholic frenchman, and he is clearly a fan of democracy, and so you have to discount his value judgements.
But he is a superb and accessible author, and I have found that for most people, you get a better foundation with his overview – the overview of a historian (empiricist).
Most people who write about philosophy only know philosophy. Durant studied philosophy and came to (the correct) conclusion that there are NO ANSWERS THERE, but that all the answers exist in history. (he is right)..
Philosophy is just literature. You might as well read fantasy stories. Instead, read history, particularly economic history. And science if you can manage it.
Philosophy and literature advocates; history records; and measurement provides information, and as the three converge we find some possiblilty of truth candidate.