February 23, 2021

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

Return to Book Page. Harry Balden rated it really liked it Dec 15, The present study does not concern itself with the philosophical description or analysis of these.

The Whig Interpretation of History

However, from a historical point of view, history again is simply a recollection of facts put into a story. Gamble’s Philosophy of History. In other words she is a harlot and a hireli Everyone interested in history should read this very short book. John Bird rated it really liked it Oct 18, Great food for thought, however much one might like Macaulay’s story-line of progress down to the present. This has deeply impacted my trust in historical accounts.

History is complex and we have a tendency to want to make moral judgements on those in history. Historians have an incredible task set forth for them, one that requires them to look at history and make subjective statements jistory those events.

Christianity in European History. Man on His Past: Back to 22 September Views Read Edit View history. Furthermore, in constructing this interpretation historians usually committed anachronisms by seeing the past entirely in terms of the present.

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Eliohs – Butterfield – The Whig Interpretation of History – Preface

Butterfield thought that individual personalities were more important than great systems of government or economics in historical study. 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. Paperbackpages. 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”.

The ideas discussed within this essay are at times very similar perhaps not as a coincidence to those discussed in Evans’ ‘In Defence of History’, although the two essays were written roughly 60 years apart.

One of his most perceptive statements on historiography came in response to some of the jabs aimed at him by E.

Christianity, diplomacy and war. I think he underestimates the inevitability and, indeed, desirability of origins stories. Less a book than a lengthy bhtterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History is a curious affair.

Butterfield found the Whig interpretation of history objectionable, because it warps the past to see it in terms of interrpretation issues of the present and attempts to squeeze the contending forces of the past into a form that reminds us of ourselves.

The “whig interpretation,” as Butterf A quick read, and justifiably a classic. Two articles — one on the origins of the Seven Years War and one on Lord Acton and the Massacre of Bartholomew — acted as a prelude to his Wiles lectures, published in as Man on his Past.

Selected pages Title Page. Could have been half the length. Butterfield thought individual personalities more important than whkg systems of government or economics butterfiedl historical study. 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.


Butterfield examines how this view of history not only does a great disservice to the advancement of human knowledge but serves only to bolster the self-important delusions of the modern age.

Back to 21 See Kenyon, p. What a beautiful little book!! The former Master of Peterhouse, Herbert Butterfield, has become something of a cottage industry over the past ten years or so, with a number of monographs resurrecting a career that had previously fallen into neglect.

Influences Harold Temperley [1].

Herbert Butterfield

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 Wiles lectures, after a stuttering start, quickly got into their stride. An interesting read, Butterfield eloquently sets out an evaluation of the Whig school of thought, and deals successfully with the major faults of the tradition its failure to appreciate the past for the past’s sake, rather than as a means to an end, and its proclivity to view the past as an all-encompassing noun, rather than in specific detail.

Trivia About The Whig Interpre Oct 14, Brenton rated it really liked it. 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.