The following study deals with “the whig interpretation of history” in what I conceive to be the accepted meaning of the phrase. At least it covers all that is. [All footnotes are editorial; relevant online materials: Butterfield Papers at the Cambridge University Library; E. Royle, The “Whig” Interpretation of History and its. His most widely known work is still The Whig Interpretation of History. saw the publication of the book Butterfield is most associated with. Less a book than.

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Man on His Past: But the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws. He needed a new publication, and quickly.

Of course Butterfield would not be the first practising historian to struggle with the world of conceptualising historical practise. The London Gazette Supplement. In its place, Butterfield seeks to establish a view of history which focuses upon how conflict and compromise produced the mediating forces which caused history to develop and move forward, not towards some shining point of enlightenment, but instead to move forward from the trials of the past to build a viable future; Butterfield seeks truth in complexity and survival.

The Whig interpretation of history

John Bird rated it really liked it Oct 18, And he is right to point out that drawing simple, black and white moral judgments about past actions is a risky business. I think he underestimates the inevitability and, indeed, desirability of origins stories.

Over the course of his career, Butterfield turned increasingly to historiography and man’s developing view of the past. Born inButterfield went up to Cambridge in Butterfield’s book is excellent, though. Kate rated it liked it Aug 23, Butterfield served as editor of the Cambridge Historical Journal from to and was knighted in Back to 21 See Kenyon, p.

He looks for agency in history. Butterfield’s book, The Whig Interpretation of Historybecame a classic for history students and is still widely read.


I have read enough about that time in Cambodian history – understanding the time, people, circumstances – but I’m still willing to make a value judgment.

Butterfield thought that individual personalities were more important than great systems of government or economics in historical study. The work, The Historical Novelhas not aged well. This was actually the second time I read this — first was back in ’93 but seemed like a good time to re-read it after finishing volume two of Macaulay’s History of England from the Accession of James the Secondand it’s a quick read.

Jul 05, Miles Smith rated it liked it Shelves: History is not the study of origins; rather it is the analysis of all the mediations by which the past was turned into our present”. It’s a fascinating discussion of how history is written by the winners– the protestant, liberal, democratic winners.

Butterfield was a devout Christian and reflected at length on Christian influences in historical perspectives. Furthermore, in constructing this interpretation historians usually committed anachronisms by seeing the past entirely in terms of the present. I began by thinking I would agree completely with him, in the middle thought I disagreed entirely, and by the end decided he is right about many things but is sti It is easy to see why this little book is such an influential text for historians.

This is not to excuse their actions; indeed, we can say today that that was an evil thing.

interpretatipn The Whig interpretation of history is always “present looking”; in other words, how does history support what the present “good. Many reasons have been put forward as to why he did not finish the Fox biography. In other words she is a harlot and a hireling, and for this reason she best serves those who suspect her most.

Historians have an incredible task set forth for them, one that requires them to look at history and make subjective statements about those events. It is an oversimplification to say that America was built on the framework of either system.


A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts. Use has been made of words like conjuncture and contingency to describe what appear as such to the observer interprrtation to the historian. In The Whig Interpretation oof History, Herbert Butterfield presages the hyper-political and hyper-moralizing nature of modern history and historiography, in which the past is measured by the present and history is shown as a linear evolution towards progress.

Herbert Butterfield – Wikipedia

One of the principal proponents of Whiggish history was Thomas Macaulay author of a celebrated, multivolume, History of England from the Accession of James IIthe first two volumes of which were issued in Carr in What is History? The lectures themselves were a disappointment — audience turnout was small and Butterfield himself was underprepared. Great quote from the book.

His inveterate smoking and unhealthy lifestyle saw the last 20 years of his life plagued by health problems. Butterfield therefore raises some crucial issues with regard to historiography and the study of history.

Christianity, diplomacy and war. In other words she is a harlot and a hireli Everyone interested in history should read this very short interpretatiom. The whig interpretation came at exactly the crucial moment and, butterfleld it may have done to our history, it had a wonderful effect on English politics Fair enough, but I’m willing to step out and make the claim that Pol Pot was a wicked man.

Randy rated it it was amazing May 14, In my view, Buttefield absolutely suggests the past should be valued as an intrinsic end, something which should be valued, understood and explored of its own right, rather than to reassert some pre-existing position.

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