Eighty years have passed since a young Cambridge don named Herbert Butterfield published in a slender volume entitled The Whig. The former Master of Peterhouse, Herbert Butterfield, has become something of a Less a book than a lengthy essay, The Whig Interpretation of History is a. Herbert Butterfield (). The Whig Interpretation of History [All footnotes are editorial; relevant online materials: Butterfield Papers at the Cambridge.

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He also yistory about how simple pick-and-choose history misses the point, “Very strange bridges are used to make the passage from one state of things to another; we may lose sight of them in our surveys of general history, but their discovery is the glory of historical research.

Despite his humble origins, receiving his education at the Trade and Grammar School in Keighleyin he won a scholarship to study at Peterhouse, Cambridgegraduating with a BA infollowed by an MA four years later.

Having dished the Whig interpretation less than 15 years earlier, Butterfield now seemed to have performed a volte-face. Influences Harold Temperley [1]. It was honestly eye opening despite being almost a century old, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the study of history – it is an incredibly short read, and though the prose is sometimes complicated, it is for the most part very engaging.

TrevelyanLondon,p. The origins of this book were hardly disinterested academic ones — during the academic session of —4 an unfreezing of positions presented whit opportunity for Butterfield to occupy the Chair of Modern History and become Professor Butterfield.

The Whig Interpretation of History by Herbert Butterfield

He shows great insight in pointing out how the condensation of history leads naturally into generalization, which often tends toward sweeping, tenuous value judgments about history. At the height of the Cold Warhe warned that conflicts between self-righteous value systems could be catastrophic:. Less a book than a lengthy essay, The Whig Interpretation of History is a curious affair.

The examination of these raises problems concerning the relations between historical research and what is known as general history; concerning the nature of a historical transition and of what might be called the historical process; and also concerning the limits of history as a study, and particularly the attempt of the whig writers to gain from it a finality that it cannot give.


Butterfield’s book, The Whig Interpretation of Historybecame a classic for history students and is still widely read. Of course not; there were some very good people who just had wrong ideas. It is possible to use an origins story for aesthetic purposes — and, I would argue, bringing the present into question may be the historian’s most important task.

Back to 7 J. I will re-read sections this weekend. Also inButterfield won the Prince Consort Prize for a work on the problem of peace in Europe between and Beyond this, Butterfield highlights some of the more nuanced habits of the Whig historian: Nevertheless, Butterfield achieved a vaunted double first, and won the Le Bas prize, the winner of which butterfkeld their essay published by the Cambridge University Press.

Many reasons have been put forward as to why he did not finish the Fox biography. This was a good book, attacking some unnecessary assumptions, while encouraging the pursuit of historical questions. The progressive historian makes no attempt to get inside the minds of what a person thought and how he lived in order to understand the facts of history.

Were they all bad people? Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge — Nov 03, Sam rated it it was amazing Recommended to Sam by: No trivia or quizzes yet.

At least it covers all that is ordinarily understood by the words, though possibly it gives them also an extended sense. Back to 5 E. The Englishman and His History. Moral Judgements in History. To me, this was a statement in favor of history’s independence from the dominance References to this book Communication as Culture: Nov 14, Allan Williams rated it really liked it Shelves: The then-Regius professor sent Whiy the Fox papers which had been in his care suggesting that Butterfield might like to write a biography of him — not the sort of invitation one declined.

We, on the other hand, will not dream of wishing it away, but will rejoice in an interpretation of the past which has grown up with us, has grown up with the history herbegt, and has helped to make the history Harry Balden rated it really liked it Dec 15, In some sense the choice of topic was a surprise; many had expected something on Fox; or perhaps the Whig interpretation of history.

But if that is all, historians and students of history alike are bound to end up banging their heads against that prohibitory glass wall. It brings to light overlooked assumptions and buttercield a sharp critique of historians who simplify history and adore it only for what it can give to the present. Aug 28, Vicky P rated it it was amazing Shelves: Retrieved 26 July Carr, What is History London,p.


The Whig Interpretation of History

It is right that knowledge of this relationship should be included in a biography, but aside from telling us the fact interpregation Peace Tactics of Napoleon was completed seven years before it was published, it does not really tell us anything new about Butterfield the historian.

Vickers considers the book a late example of the earliest stage of modern analysis of the history of Renaissance magic in relation to the development of science, when magic was largely dismissed as being “entertaining but irrelevant”.

Of course Butterfield would not be the first whlg historian to struggle with the world of conceptualising historical practise. Feb 07, Aurora Dimitre rated it liked it Shelves: Sir Herbert Butterfield was a British historian and philosopher of history who is remembered chiefly for two books—a short volume early in his career entitled The Whig Interpretation of History and his Origins of Modern Science Kenyon, The History Men 2nd ed.

In other words she is a harlot and a hireling, and for this reason she best serves those who suspect her most.

The Whig Interpretation of History – Herbert Butterfield – Google Books

His alternative is unsatisfying, though, and I think the case can be made for a view of history that acknowledges and displays its complexity—not only of events but thee people and motives—and yet dares to make moral judgments that can, indeed, filter down to change us in the present. Jun 30, Mike Horne rated it it was amazing. But at the same time, according to Butterfield, it’s almost as if history is simply descriptive and has no place in evaluation of the past – for good or bad.

Back to 16 See also Sewell, pp.