A Liberal Descent: Victorian historians and the English past by J. W. Burrow

By J. W. Burrow

The belief of a 'Whig interpretation' of English heritage comprises the 2 primary notions of growth and continuity. the previous made it attainable to learn English background as a 'success story', the latter recommended a practical, gradualist political type because the starting place of English freedom. Dr Burrow's ebook discover those principles, and the tensions among them in stories of 4 significant Victorian historians: Macaulay, Stubbs, Freeman and (as anything of an anti sort) Froude. It analyses their works by way of their rhetorical suggestiveness in addition to their specific arguments, and makes an attempt to put them of their cultural and historiographical context. In doing so, the ebook additionally seeks to set up the importance for the Victorians of 3 nice crises of English heritage - the Norman conquest, the reformation and the revolution of the 17th century - and the character and boundaries of the self-confidence they have been in a position to derive from the nationwide prior. The booklet will curiosity scholars and lecturers engaged on nineteenth-century English background, literature or social and political concept, the historical past of principles, and criminal and constitutional background. it is going to even be of worth to the final reader drawn to Victorian literature and cultural historical past.

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Additional resources for A Liberal Descent: Victorian historians and the English past

Sample text

When respect was paid to the past it was done in the eighteenth-century manner, as a kind of profit and loss balance sheet applied to the development of civilisation, not as an appeal to the past as authority. As Millar said, the criterion which had supplanted the authorisation of the past was utility: 'The blind respect and reverence paid to ancient institutions has given place to a desire of examining their uses . . '47 But the English Whig too, though sometimes less obviously, had distanced himself from the older constitutional antiquarianism.

Whether they have imbibed very much of the Scottish bent towards comparison and typology is more questionable. Russell boldly announces at the beginning of his History that there are four stages in the history of 'society',70 but these categories prove to be more narrowly political than this might lead one to expect. Russell's 'sociology' in fact derives much more from the older Machiavellian71 theories of the civic humanist tradition than from the distinctively Scottish notion of social and economic stages, though this is a line of thought also perceptible in Millar.

I. 69 fo^ m I2O-2. A heritage and its history Z 9 to Hume as well as to Smith, they are not Humeans but Whigs; Millar dedicated his History to Fox. Both are in fact critics of Hume; Brodie, indeed, his severest critic. To both of them, it is unmistakably important - to Brodie it is vital - that Hume must be wrong in his views on the state of the constitution in the Tudor and Stuart period. It cannot be allowed to be the case that the constitutional precedents were contradictory, or even on balance favourable to the prerogative.

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