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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Man on His Past: Butterfjeld mentioned above, interpretatin post-war period was a productive period for Butterfield. Both historians raise the issue of historical bias, and the inevitable fact that a historian’s personal views and opinions will impact both the subject of their work, and the style. Jul 05, Miles Smith rated it liked it Shelves: Interesting, but majorly repetitive. The historians who look at it from the Protestant, progressive, “19th Century gentleman” viewpoint are defined by Professor Butterfield as “the Whig historians.

Put me down as a whig.

Easily readable in hrbert evening and best consumed whole, Herbert Butterfield’s book is a wonderful indictment of the historical meta-narratives that are typical of ‘Whig’ historians. Could have been half the length. The lectures themselves were a disappointment — audience turnout was small and Butterfield himself was underprepared. Butterfield is a superb writer, and is obviously learned.

Herbert Butterfield

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.

But we can radically depart from truthful history, a history that is a reliable, when we interpret it in relation to the present.

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Fair enough, but I’m willing to step out and make the claim that Pol Pot was a wicked man. Back to 22 September Back to 16 See also Sewell, pp. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Butterfield thought that individual personalities were more important than great systems of government or economics in historical study. Influences Harold Temperley [1]. Obama was reaching for a similar point on Monday, emphasizing as President Obama often does that the strengths of the United States spring in part from its ugly, painful past.

History assembles facts from primary sources and then tells a narrative to help laypeople understand how they fit together. Perhaps Bentley felt that after nearly pages such a tail-end was unnecessary. Like much of Butterfield’s work elegant and teasing – you think its saying something important but you’re not quite sure what it actually is. Diplomatic history was traditionally a fairly dry subject, often consisting of what one clerk said to another.

Butterfield served as editor of the Cambridge Historical Journal from to and was knighted in In some sense the choice of topic was a surprise; many had expected something on Fox; or perhaps the Whig interpretation of history.

Of course Butterfield would not be the first practising historian to struggle with the world of conceptualising historical practise. University of Chicago Press, 2nd ed. Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Carey No preview available – The Whig historian oversimplifies and overdramatizes, trying to draw similarities between the past and tbe that don’t take into effect the complexities of history.

Butterfield was a devout Christian an 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 It is not as easy to understand the past as many who have written it interpreration have us believe. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.


It is easy to see why this little book is such an influential text for historians. Over the course of his career, Butterfield turned increasingly to historiography inyerpretation man’s developing view of the past. Less a book than a lengthy essay, The Whig Interpretation of History is a curious affair.

Eliohs – Butterfield – The Whig Interpretation of History – Contents

What is discussed is the tendency in many historians to write on the side of Protestants and Whigs, to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasize certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present. His most widely known work is still The Whig Interpretation of History.

A quick read, and justifiably a classic. It is the essence of what we mean by the word “unhistorical”. The Peace Tactics of Napoleon, The Whig historian uses history as a cudgel to advance his own interests while beating down his opponents; the Whig seeks truth in simplicity and progress.

Herbert Butterfield – Wikipedia

History is complex and we have a tendency to want to make moral judgements on those in whhig. The whig interpretation came at exactly the crucial moment and, whatever it may have done to our history, it had a wonderful effect on English politics Great food for thought, however much one might like Macaulay’s story-line of progress interpretatioj to the present. However, his extreme aversion to drawing any moral lessons or even allowing any teleological purpose to the study of history seem to me not only questionable practice but impossible to accomplish.